February 13, 2017

A drumbeat of change has swept over Kealing Middle School in the past year, ever since DPR teamed up with Spotify and Rebuilding Together to deliver a brand-new sound studio project to the magnet school located in an economically disadvantaged area of Austin, Texas.

In the wake of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival held last spring, Spotify wanted to make a lasting, positive impact on the Austin community, and decided to donate the extensive sound equipment, furniture and art from its popular SXSW “Spotify House” to a local school’s music program. Spotify reached out to Rebuilding Together to help find the right school and team to deliver its vision.


DPR teamed up with Spotify and Rebuilding together to create a brand-new sound studio at Kealing Middle School. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)

Longtime partners, Rebuilding Together brought DPR on board to help design and build three brand new recording lab studios that would house the Spotify-donated equipment. Kealing Middle School, a magnet school and comprehensive academy in a diverse, under-resourced neighborhood, was the perfect fit. It already had a modern, organized music program in place and a strong vision for how it could grow.

Last March, DPR project manager Angie Weyant called the project a “major undertaking” involving DPR’s donation of approximately $25,000 in materials and labor to build the new sound studio over the school’s spring break.

“The best part was being able to use our core skills doing what we do every day to help youth in our local community,” she said. “That was pretty awesome.”


Kealing Middle School students are now able to create and record their own music. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)

Less than a year later, the project has already had a profound impact on the students and the programs offered at the school, according to Kealing Middle School Principal Kenisha Coburn. In addition to increasing the number of students who could be accommodated in existing music classes, the new sound studio space spurred the start of new after-school clubs for students who want to create and record music.

A new robotics program added this year is also tying into the production studio capabilities in an innovative way, with students able to program robots to perform pieces that they’ve created on their music production systems.

The school has seen some financial savings resulting from the project as well; students in the music production program now DJ school dances that they once hired an outside DJ to do. The enhanced collaboration by students in different classes, working together on diverse projects, has been another major, positive impact–enhancing the learning experience of all.


The studio space has created collaboration between music, video production and graphic design students. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)

“We are using the studio space to embed more of the work that happens on our campus into collaborative projects,” said Coburn. “A lot of groups are coming in from outside of the music production program, and they go in and collaborate with the music production students in a way that they couldn’t do here before. So, for example our news team that is charged with creating a weekly news story for campus is able to use studio space and work with music production students to record audio that is part of the weekly news now. And our music production students are learning to work with our graphic design students so they can provide soundtracks to some of the pieces they make in video production, which is a big undertaking.”

Overall, she adds, “the impact has been big. To be able to get studio-grade space that not only allows the students to grow inside of music production, but also allows them to bring in other groups and collaborate with them, has been pretty special.”