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SouthTech Academy in Boynton Beach is making a difference and creating opportunities and a path for students to reach their career goals. The SouthTech Music & Sound Production Academy has made an impact on students as they have learned a variety of instruments and genres of music while also receiving exposure to perform on stage in front of live audiences in the community.
The program started in 2013 and was created to be different from typical classical music education programs that featured school marching bands.
Sandi Hagood serves as the SouthTech Academy Music & Sound Production instructor and is the lead facilitator for the Rock & Roll Academy. She has a background teaching band, choir and orchestra at local schools. She considered stepping away as an instructor before joining SouthTech Academy. She has since been inspired to continue teaching after implementing the Rock & Roll Academy. She works with about 85 students and has seen the students grow in a disciplined program and learn elements of current music and all genres. The program allows students to begin the process in middle school.
Hagood partnered with Colorado’s Rock and Roll Academy to implement the concept to the public school environment in Boynton Beach. The program started as a music elective at SouthTech before they created the music academy.
“We wanted to build the first one in a public school in this area,” she said. “These kids are super talented and want to be in the music industry. The students are excited to be making beats and recording and writing music and performing gigs in the local community.”
The SouthTech Music Academy has also provided a newer spacious facility to allow students to learn a variety of musical instruments, including electric and acoustic guitars, drums, piano, keyboard and bass. The students are exposed to recording studios, vocal equipment and musical computer labs for production and editing. The school facility has a stage for concert performances and provides equipment. The academy also accepts donations.
“It makes me excited,” Hagood said. “We are supported by an intelligent administration that can see what is needed. I want to keep moving with the times and keep it growing every year. It’s been the most rewarding experience for my career personally.”
The academy also holds genre of the week, which gives students an opportunity to perform music they may not be familiar or accustomed to in the past.
“The idea is for the students to be open-minded, and it’s wild to see them grow and succeed in that way,” Hagood said. “The kids are mortified to step on that stage and not look good in front of their friends. Everyone is so supportive and they are feeling the love and they want to keep trying to get better. The personalities of the kids have blossomed in ways that you can never imagine. They are fighting through the fear because they have their friends in class supporting each other. It’s wonderful.”
Hagood said she is able to select students to perform at several community events in front of live audiences, including at the South Florida Fair and Boynton Beach Pirate Fest as well as other venues.
“We are changing every year and so is the music industry,” she said. “I keep getting trained on what is currently going on and my favorite part is learning and being able to share it with our students so they can be successful. It’s ideal preparation for the real world in the music industry.”
William Gregor is a senior at SouthTech Academy. He is the lead vocalist of Exit 52 and is joined by band members David Garcia, Bryan Astacio, Tommy Lundi and Samuel Pierre-Louis, who all attend the academy. The group of friends came up with the band name after spending their childhood growing up in the same area off the Atlantic Avenue exit in Delray Beach. Exit 52 finished second place at Boca’s Got Talent last August.
“I have become a better musician on stage. I have been able to record music and my overall knowledge has grown in the last four years,” Gregor said. “I have learned how to play every instrument possible. I have been able to express myself and learn how to be a great performer. It’s a great program for anyone that’s musically oriented and who wants to come out of their shell. The instructor is my mentor. I have been able to build relationships and connections in the academy.”
Gregor, who learned different musical influences from his father, has aspirations to be a solo recording artist and has displayed his ability in the rap genre as well on stage. He has performed at the Old School Square Pavilion and Tin Roof in Delray Beach, Crazy Uncle Mike’s in Boca Raton, and at nightclubs and parties.
Gregor has previously received offers for record label contracts but has elected to continue to pursue other opportunities. He is also interested in music production and is considering programs at Full Sail and Florida Atlantic universities.
Alejandra Gama and Stephanie Golden are both seniors at SouthTech Academy. They formed an all-female band and performed together at several events, including the South Florida Fair, Boynton Beach Pirate Fest and the Boynton Beach Town Square tree lighting.
Gama and Golden are known to be more reserved in the classroom. Gama said the bandmates enjoy releasing the emotions they have while on stage when they have opportunities to show their passion and display their talent while performing louder rock music.
Gama, who has been recognized by the school administration for her academic achievements, has several years of experience performing as a vocalist while playing the guitar.
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“The program has given us the tools that I had never had before coming here,” she said. “I have been able to record and produce music and be in the studio. I am now interested in jobs as an audio technician. We have learned a lot of music genres.”
Golden, who also has been recognized for her academic success, said she has interest in learning more about the music business. She has continued to excel on stage as a vocalist while playing the guitar and enjoys working on her craft as a bass player. She has learned under the direction of Hagood.
“She takes the time and is patient,” Golden said. “I am less shy and a lot more energetic. We have more opportunities and her support is everything.”
SouthTech Academy is a premier career and technical high school at 6161 W. Woolbright Road in Boynton Beach. Visit southtechschools.org.