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Sonoma Valley High unveils podcasting studio in media arts lab

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Modern Media, a simple primer

Social Media: Online communication sites dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content sharing, and collaboration. The user can direct the experience and share information with others. The information can be text, video, photos, or music. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Redditt, YouTube, Wikipedia, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Snapchat are examples of popular social media sites.

Podcast: Essentially a radio program. A podcast can be heard live or accessed later on a website.

Blog: Short for “web log." A written story or opinion piece accessed on the internet on a site dedicated to such. Can also be used as a verb.

Vlog: A video version of a podcast, wherein the speakers are usually seated and talking with each other. There is no attempt to address the camera(s). Often seen on YouTube.

GIF: A short video shared and seen on social media.

Last month, teacher Peter Hansen christened a brand new broadcast studio inside the Media Arts building at Sonoma Valley High School. The students in his advanced classes are the lucky ones, as they get to participate in the wave of the future right here and now. They are learning how to produce live podcasts.

Podcasts are a sensation – with 67 million Americans listening to a podcast at least monthly. 112 million Americans have listened to a podcast at least once, a figure that is up 11 percent since last year.

In a recent visit to the SVHS studios, four students were producing a podcast. They were seated at a large table and in front of them were four microphones mounted on matte-black boom stands. Each student was wearing a set of professional-grade headphones. In the background was a mixing board and a $15,000 “magic box” containing audio processors and compressors. The students were excitedly talking about the recent Homecoming festivities. The visitors were able to listen in with similar headphones.

Interested listeners can listen to the podcasts by visiting the program’s website, svhsmedia.com.

Hansen divides his students in his advanced class into teams to tackle various projects. The members of the team split up the various roles needed for podcast or movie production: anchors, writers and engineers. The team will swap roles for the next project.

Another recent podcast, led by senior Andrew Powers, was about politics. All of the topics are chosen and decided upon by the student teams. The topics can vary according to the current events of the day. The team members produce the podcast, manipulating the dials, knobs and buttons.

Hansen has assembled a first-class media arts program at Sonoma High. Rita Amador, a 2013 SVHS graduate, said that it was inside Hansen’s media arts program that she first saw potential in herself to be a filmmaker.

“To find themselves, isn’t that why we are here?” said Hansen, of his role as a teacher.

Amador is a 2017 graduate of New York University with a degree in film and TV production. She is now successfully employed in the film industry. Her appreciation for Hansen’s program has been echoed by dozens of SVHS graduates.

Teaching media arts full time, Hansen has about 170 students on his roster. About 75 percent of the students are enrolled in the beginning classes and are involved with story writing and movie making. The rest are advanced students using all the tools Hansen has provided.

Sixteen years ago, he launched his first filmmaking class at SVHS, studying all aspects of filmmaking and producing short movies. Right off the bat, students were excited about the program. He uses a cross-curricular approach to his teaching, encouraging students to incorporate various academic subjects into their filmmaking. Students have made short films about calculus, history and science. (www.svhsvideo.com)

The school district has been unable to offer any general fund assistance toward equipment and operational expenses, through the program has received grant monies for Career Technical Education, including most recently $7,000 for some equipment upgrades.

Hansen says schools with such an extensive course of media study are rare. “Most public schools can’t afford it,” he said.

Of building his program, he said, “It was a leap of faith and a lot of hard work. I knew the community would support it,”

Modern Media, a simple primer

Social Media: Online communication sites dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content sharing, and collaboration. The user can direct the experience and share information with others. The information can be text, video, photos, or music. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Redditt, YouTube, Wikipedia, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Snapchat are examples of popular social media sites.

Podcast: Essentially a radio program. A podcast can be heard live or accessed later on a website.

Blog: Short for “web log." A written story or opinion piece accessed on the internet on a site dedicated to such. Can also be used as a verb.

Vlog: A video version of a podcast, wherein the speakers are usually seated and talking with each other. There is no attempt to address the camera(s). Often seen on YouTube.

GIF: A short video shared and seen on social media.

Hansen developed a relationship with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and it has lent some welcomed financial support.

The primary financial angel for the Media Arts Program has been the Sonoma International Film Festival. Hansen estimates that it has donated “$600,000 or more since its inception in 2002.”

Kevin McNeely, executive director of the Sonoma International Film Festival, is unabashed in his praise of Hansen and the media program at SVHS. He has overseen the fundraising efforts and donations to the program over the last few years.

Additionally, SIFF has been offering scholarships to graduating seniors who are entering film programs in college. They can range from $500 to $2,500, depending on need.

McNeely said, “Peter provides excellent A-Z instruction in film production on a daily basis. With the new podcast studio, Peter has exposed his students to a new, rapidly growing story-telling medium.”

As McNeely says, “Kids are learning a craft that can be used later in life.”

George Stewart, 18, is senior at SVHS, and in his fourth year in the media program. As a freshman, his main focus was making films, but he has since moved into directing the graphics, or pre-produced media.

“Every day, I love going to my media class,” Stewart said. “It is an escape from reality and gives me time to be creative. That’s why I have taken the class all four years.”

Senior Siobhan Hernandez is also in Hansen’s advanced class. She has particularly enjoyed his lessons on advertising and product design.

“I really enjoyed the process of designing a logo and bringing the idea to life,” she said. “The project really opened my eyes to media and logo design, and now I want to pursue a career in that field.”

Like Hansen says: Isn’t that why we are here, to help them find themselves? May the magic continue.

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