Spotify partners with Kealing Middle School to further music education for Austin students

Chris Duncan

The Spotify House has been a staple at South By Southwest since 2012, building stages for hundreds of performers and breaking them down just as quickly as they put them up. But this time around, Spotify is leaving behind something more permanent.

Partnering with Kealing Middle School, which is known for its magnet and academy programs, Spotify will fund the construction of three professional recording studios for students to craft original compositions and donate equipment from The Spotify House itself.

Kealing principal Kenisha Coburn said the hands-on education her students will experience with the studios creates a sense of accomplishment that traditional teaching methods don’t offer.

“All of the hands-on work really creates a more lasting connection to the content they learn and create here,” Coburn said. “People ask all the time for me to come hear or see whatever they just created, and that kind of activity is much more engaging and lasting than pencil and paper.”

The professionally soundproofed studios will be built within Kealing’s music production classroom. DPR Construction is fast-tracking the project, aiming to complete the task in the nine days Kealing students are on spring break.

Music production teacher Aragorn Eissler said the studios will allow his students to record, mix and polish their music using professional equipment. He said the studios provide students with an opportunity to see their artistic potential.

“A lot of times, we don’t ask kids to make their own music, so this is a really great opportunity for them to make something of their own,” Eissler said.

Kerry Steib, Spotify’s director of social impact, said the company fell in love with Kealing’s use of music to bring
together students of diverse racial and economic backgrounds and master their craft on a professional level.

“We really love the spirit of how the faculty at Kealing has approached using music not just for the sake of art, but for bringing students across lines,” Steib said. 

After waiting so long to announce the news, Coburn said she is excited for the opportunity the studios will provide students.

“Our program at Kealing allows the kids who might not play instruments or sing well to get involved with creating music as well,” Coburn said. “It’s great for kids to learn that the people they listen to like Diplo use the same stuff they use to create music.”

Eissler said that while many schools don’t have access to this kind of program, he is hopeful for the future.

“We’re really able to reach [students] with this type of program,” said Eissler. “And this is the only program of its kind with things like Ableton push controllers. I think when people see that kids can make really good professional music with a low barrier to entry, no experience required, it’ll catch on.”