Grammy nominated songwriter gives back to his hometown high school.

Published: Jan. 8, 2019 at 7:19 PM EST
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Bringing the music home. Grammy-nominated songwriter Ross Copperman is doing just that.

The Roanoke County native has written multiple country music hits. Now he's using his Nashville success to give back to his hometown by bringing a recording studio to his alma mater, Glenvar High School, in Roanoke County.

"They can write a song and they can make a track and they can put a song out and it could chart on a Spotify viral playlist," Copperman said.

I'm really excited to learn how to create a song professionally, said sophomore Mark Linkous. "It's going to be cool."

The seed was planted last year when Glenvar High School Theatre Director Steve Franco brought a group of students to visit Copperman's Nashville studio.

"The process seemed so foreign to everyone because not everyone gets to go behind the curtain and see how this works," said Copperman. "And I thought gosh I would have given anything to have access to a studio when I was in high school."

"The kids were like 'Man this is amazing. I wish we could do this,'" said F. Reid Shippen, Grammy-winning producer and sound engineer. "Ross said 'You can.'"

Copperman took the idea to the Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives Board. "I said I know this is a crazy idea but I want to build a studio in my high school," Copperman said.

Glenvar Theatre Director Steve Franco applied for an ACM Lifting Lives Grant and he got it- $10,000 to build a recording studio at the school.

But that was just the beginning. Since then the donations have been pouring in, according to Franco. They include three guitars donated by country music star Keith Urban and high tech audio equipment given to Glenvar High School by Universal Audio.

Grand Home Furnishings donated furniture and Lowes of Salem and Northwest Ace Hardware donated construction materials, Franco said. Even lunch during the work days was donated by the local Chik Fil A restaurant.

"What grade are you guys in?" Copperman, the 2001 Glenvar High School Graduate, asked a group of student volunteers who willingly came in during their holiday break to help build the recording studio. "You take theatre with Mr. Franco?" Copperman asked another student. "That's awesome."

The students were led by Franco and Copperman who came in from Nashville to work for three days building the studio. Copperman is nominated for co-writing Blake Shelton's "I Lived It." Also leading the way, multiple Grammy-winning producer and mixing engineer F. Reid Shippen and his assistant sound engineer Michael Mechling who are both based in Nashville.

"With the tech we have nowadays these kids, honestly, they're going to have a better studio than Ross has where he works on his records," Shippen said.

"This is really top of the line stuff we were donated," Mechling said. "This is better than most people have access to in a professional world."

Copperman envisions a space where students can create music.

The students are thrilled to learn. "The recording studio I just think it's awesome. I'm just excited," said sophomore Becky Linkous.

Her twin brother agrees. "I think there are going to be a lot of demo tapes and stuff like that," Mark Linkous said. "I know there are a lot of people who like to sing in the school. It's going to open up more doors for people."

Students will be able to work on writing and tracking songs. Teachers can record podcasts. Microphones are wired into the band room that will allow recordings of a larger group. "The marching band will be able to record themselves," Copperman said. "If they do a Christmas program they can record it and put it out or they can record it and listen back and work on how to improve."

"If you dream it you'll be able to do it in there," Copperman said.

The recording studio is a dream realized for Copperman. "That's what it's all about for me is being able to use what I know to pass it down," said Copperman.

It's a dream that could help students reach theirs.

"Pretty much the only limit is their willingness to work and their creativity," said Shippen.

The team has now formed a nonprofit organization called Song Farm Studio. The hope is that this will be the first of many recording studios in schools nationwide helping to grow the next generation of songwriters.

The official ribbon cutting for the new studio will be later this month at Glenvar High School.

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