Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Didn’t Get a Slushy in the Face, but I Did Hear a Great Band

Believe it or not, science fiction and reality aren’t the only TV programs I enjoy. I also have a TiVo Season Pass to the hit series Glee. And while I don’t consider myself a “Gleek”, I did break down and buy an episode (or three) from Amazon that I missed when the hazy over-the-air radio waves that carry Fox 29 Philadelphia failed to reach my rooftop aerial.

So I like Glee, and I imagine quite a few musicians probably dig the show as well. Especially since I know at least one who does, Marty O’Kane, guitarist for April Smith and the Great Picture Show (maybe you've caught this song during promos for one of my other favorite TV shows, Weeds). A few weeks ago, Marty tweeted this while watching Glee.

What school do these #glee kids go to where the arts programs are so ridiculously well-funded? Bizarro-world High? Oppositeville Prep?

The same thought had crossed my mind, but I decided to roll with it and suspend my disbelief for 44 minutes a week. I mean, music education at the majority of public schools probably consists of an atonal choir and an out-of-step marching band, right?

Of course not. We showcase great music programs on Classroom Close-up, NJ all the time, and my trip to Frank R. Conwell Middle School #4 in Jersey City last week was no exception.

The crew and I were there to film a story about the KYBD Band, a student rock group led by music teacher, Carl Botti. This nine-member ensemble writes and performs original material, not only at school functions, but at off-campus events as well. Their recent gigs include shows for the Special Olympics of New Jersey and a fundraiser for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation where they opened for Grammy Award-winner, Colbie Caillat.

In addition to interviewing the band members, I also had a chance to sit down and speak with Paul Cothran, Executive Director of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Paul’s organization recently awarded the school a grant which included a music lab consisting of 16 keyboards and other equipment. We also talked about the importance of music education and the research-backed positive effects it has on student performance.

So while I didn’t witness a waterfall behind stage and a Broadway-caliber mashup of Umbrella and Singing in the Rain led by Gwyneth Paltrow, I did see a pretty amazing group of student performers from a public school that's finding ways to fund a top-notch music program.

The Classroom Close-up, NJ episode with the KYBD Band story will air Monday at 7 pm and on Saturday at 9 am on Feb 28, Mar 5, Apr 4, and Apr 9 on NJN or you can watch online.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creativity and Possibilities at the 2010 NJEA Convention

Last week I found myself in Atlantic City surrounded by tens of thousands of teachers at the 2010 New Jersey Education Association Convention. Considered the largest educational gathering of its kind anywhere in the world, the convention provides teachers and educational support professionals the chance to participate in two days of professional development workshops, seminars, and programs. I was there to tape interviews for Classroom Close-up, NJ with the event’s keynote speakers, Sir Ken Robinson and Soledad O’Brien.

One of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and innovation, Robinson spoke about “transforming” education (vs “reforming”) while covering many of the themes from his New York Times best-seller, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I found his ideas on creativity, defining intelligence, and finding the point where natural talent meets personal passion so thought-provoking, I’ve told everyone I’ve spoken with in the last week to go out and read this book.

CNN Anchor and Special Correspondent O'Brien focused on the importance of mentors and the opportunities that teachers have to play this role with students. Drawing on examples from her new book, The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities, as well her CNN documentaries, she offered encouragement to teachers who feel under attack in today’s political climate. Soledad also squeezed in a little mentoring herself by taking the time to sit down for an interview with a group of student reporters from Absegami High School.

Getting to watch the students from Gammi TV at work turned out to be the surprise highlight of the two days in AC. After they did a killer interview, the crew ventured out on the floor to get the scoop on the convention. A really sharp bunch of students who made full use of a great opportunity arranged by a passionate teacher.

The Classroom Close-up, NJ episode about the 2010 NJEA Convention is scheduled to air for the first time on February 7. And you're looking for some inspiration, I highly recommend The Element and The Next Big Story, both were amazing reads.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Making Sense of the Census [Video]

SIAM just released the videos from this year's Moody's Mega Math Challenge that I mentioned in my last post. They're not available on SIAM's site yet, just YouTube. Here's the five minute mini-documentary.

In total, we produced 10 videos about this year's contest including a 90 second version of the documentary, highlight reels for each of the six finalists, and a recap of the award ceremony. A new segment we did this year was a short bit where the winning team gives some tips to future teams who plan to compete in the challenge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Math, Math, and More Math

It's turning out to be a mathy year at BMG.

In April, I was back in NYC to cover the finals of the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge. This year, the six finalists (including Princeton High School) battled it out over the best way to conduct the U.S. Census. If you’re dying to know who won, you can check out the final standings, but since the videos are set to be released any day now, I’m not going to give any spoilers here.

But the math doesn’t stop there. Last week, I was invited to Pittsburgh to cover the 2010 SIAM Annual Meeting.

According to their website: SIAM’s Annual Meeting provides a broad view of the state of the art in applied mathematics, computational science, and their applications through invited presentation, prize lectures, minisymposia, and contributed papers and posters.

Translation: More than 1,200 brilliant people get together to share brilliant ideas and talk about how everything is math and math is everything.

Being a non-mathematician, I have to admit that most of the time I didn’t understand much of what was being discussed, but it was still enlightening to see the many applications of math including neuroscience, green building design, and the creation of virtual patient populations. One of the best attended and most entertaining sessions was Dmitri Tymoczko’s community lecture, The Geometry of Music where the Princeton professor, composer, and author showed the audience how music theory relates to geometry. Orbifolds, 3D graphics, music. Neat stuff.

While we were only at the week-long meeting for a little over a day, we managed to cover a lot of ground, shooting about 7 hours of footage and conducting about 30 interviews. The material will be used to create a series of short films for SIAM’s website.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rogers’ Rescues: Until There Are None... Online World Premiere [Video]

By now, regular readers of my blog are very familiar with this project, since I've been chronicling its production since 2007. If you're not, you can catch up by reading a few past posts here, here, here, and here.

While I'm still not quite ready to say the film is finished, I've decided to share it with the world in its current form. Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Meet Your New Autonomous Soccer-Playing Robot Overlords

Robots are awesome. Just ask my son, Nate, he'll tell you all about them.

Believe it or not, we're already taping segments for the 2010-11 season of Classroom Close-up, NJ. Which is why I was at North Brunswick Township High School on Monday afternoon getting interviews and B-roll for a package that won't air until September.

And since my attempt to Ustream behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot was pretty much a wash, that means you're going to have to wait until fall to see these:

robot army

and this:

2010-02-22 14.39.27

The story is about the incredible success, tradition, and legacy of Raider Robotix, the school's robotics team, that has been expanding interest in science and kicking butt in national robotics competitions for the last decade. They're like the New York Yankees of competitive high school robotics. Robotics is so popular at NBTHS that they had to put together a JV robotics team to accommodate the number of interested students. The JV team makes smaller robots like these:

2010-02-22 13.20.45 2010-02-22 13.43.15

While it might sound like your run-of-the-mill "schools focusing on science and technology" package, there's more to it than the obvious angle. A common thread among all the interviews was that the students' love and appreciation for the team has a lot more to do with one another than it has to do with robots. It's really a story about a group of students, teachers, coaches, alumni, and parents who are more like a family than a team.

So it's going to be a story about awesome people... and awesome robots.

(I did mention the awesome robots didn't I?)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rogers’ Rescues Documentary Preview Clip #2 [Video]

Since the last clip I posted was on the brighter side I thought I should share a little drama this time. The woman I'm talking to is Deana Wehr, the rescue/transport coordinator at the Bowling Green Warren County Humane Society, which was the last shelter we visited.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Critics say ‘More compelling than football...’

Time for an update on the still-in-production Rogers' Rescues Documentary. My co-producer, Marianne, forwarded me this email earlier this week.*

Hi Adam. Feedback from the woman who threw the football party! :-) MA

------ Forwarded Message
From: *************
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2010 19:59:17 +0000 (UTC)
To: Marianne Ahern
Subject: Re: Your football party

Hi MA,

We got the DVD Saturday - perfect timing for the party! We did show the entire DVD at half time (actually more compelling than the game) and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house..... maybe the guys held out. Thanks very much for the effort - it's a great documentary.

THANKS again -

You read that right. The "entire" DVD. There's a whole film now. A complete cut. It was even color corrected and scored (roughly). Here's the Avid timeline as evidence:

Marianne showed it at a football fundraiser for the rescue this past weekend. An advance screening sorta thing. Except in a house, on a TV, and no one bought tickets. They did donate stuff for the rescue, which is cool.

The final cut is coming soon. Real soon. It's all just polish at this point. I'll get a new teaser clip up in the next day or so.

*email edited for length

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Embedded e-Patients [Video]

This isn't an actual post. I just wanted to see what a DailyMotion video looked like when it's embedded in a blog. But in case you're curious, this is a clip from the e-Patient Connections Conference where I did a bunch of interviews back in October. Currently working on a mini-documentary about the conference and editing a bunch of these presentations. Been using DailyMotion to host them since they're over the 10 minute YouTube restriction (though I'm still putting them on YT in multiple parts).