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Tour bus gives Winona students a crack at fame
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Winona Senior High School student Peter Boysen wrote the song he and his classmates recorded on the bus. (MPR Photo/Erin Galbally)
A state-of-the-art recording studio rolled into the parking lot of Winona Senior High School this week. It's known as the John Lennon Song Writing Contest Educational Tour Bus. It's designed to give young musicians the chance to record original work. In Winona eight high schoolers crammed into the back of the bus to record a song written by one of their own.

Winona, Minn. — Early in the school day students clad in jeans and khakis sit inside the turquoise bus. They pull their instruments from their carrying cases. And begin warming up.

The drummer is wedged in one corner. The violinists and the horn section stand in the middle. The bassist and the lead guitar lean against the bus' carpet-covered wall.

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Image The violinists

These are some of Winona Senior High School's most promising musicians. All were selected to participate by the school faculty.

"I'm in the orchestra here and an orchestra in one of the colleges in town and also in a fiddle group in the community," says senior Sarah Merchlewitz, who has a 100-year-old violin.

The group has decided to record City Streets, a song written by Peter Boysen, today's guitarist and lead singer. The song is about five minutes long, but it will take hours to record. It's split into different tracks and each must be recorded individually.

First up are guitar, bass and the drums. It's an especially challenging track to record.

Drummer Lenny Wolner says he feels the pressure. "When it's in a recording studio I'm a little more on the spot, because I need to set the standards for what everyone else needs to play off."

As Wolner and the two guitarists play, the studio engineer records the sound digitally into a computer. Then it's on to the violins, the saxophone and the trumpet.

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Image The drummer

The musicians listen to the first track playing back over their headphones. For those watching, it's periods of silence, followed by frenetic musical explosions.

Then the sound engineer says it's time for the vocals. Lead singer Peter Boysen stands in front of a microphone. He pushes his hair out of his eyes and taps his feet to the rhythm.

Finally the backup singer records her tracks. Over the course of several hours the students are on their way to a finished product. The recording process took more than six hours. Still this would take many professional musicians months of daily studio work to do as much.

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Image The bus

Sound engineer Herminio Quiroz listens sits in front of the recording equipment. This is his third year traveling around the country on the bus. He's in the midst of an 18-city high school tour. He says he's really impressed with the Winona students.

"We heard about their music program coming in today and they stepped up to it and proved they're a very talented group," Quiroz says.

It's up to the students to decide what to do with the finished product. They're given CDs, which they can share with their friends or send to local radio stations. By the end of the day the John Lennon Song Writing Contest Education Tour Bus was back on the road headed to another state and another school.

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