GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — It might be the most visible classroom at Ottawa Hills High School — and it looks, sounds, and feels nothing like any classroom in the area.

This week Grand Rapids Public Schools is unveiling the Music Production and Entrepreneurship Studio, a part of the Academy of Media Production at Ottawa Hills High School.

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The studio project is years in the making and marks a major investment at Ottawa Hills High School. The new space is filled with top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art equipment designed to prepare OHHS scholars for what it’s like in the professional world of music production.

“I don’t believe there’s another school in the state of Michigan that has a recording studio anywhere near the quality of this facility,” said Mr. Erik Love, who teaches the Music Production and Entrepreneurship class. “It’s professional grade.”

The program is inspired, designed, and curated by a 1997 OHHS graduate who has made it big in the world of music production. Lucius B. Hoskins is a songwriter and music producer who has worked with A-list artists including Jill Scott, Tank, Tamar Braxron and Marvin Sapp. He’s earned a collection of awards including five ASCAP Rhythym and Soul Awards,10 BMI Awards, three Stellar Awards, one Dove Award, and a Billboard award nomination. He has also worked on several Grammy Award winning albums. Hoskins is CEO of Ladall Enterprises, the company behind the Music Production and Entrepreneurship program.

“I’ve been doing this across the country, but to be able to come back home and do it — it really means a lot,” Mr. Hoskins said. “I believe that this program has the ability to be able to help transform this school.”

OHHS has experienced challenges over the years with declining enrollment and struggles with engagement. School and district leaders have committed to investing at Ottawa Hills — work that’s become known as an effort to “Restore the rOHr”. Part of that restoration comes from the creation of programming that is unique and entices scholars to want to be a part of something special.

“Our priority is in creating a learning environment where our scholars feel that they belong — that they feel is designed for them and made for their success,” OHHS Principal Dr. Tim Mabin said. “This is just one of the many ways we are doing that here at Ottawa Hills High School and there is more to come.”

“The investment in this program reflects our commitment to optimizing and valuing all school options, one of the themes in our Strategic Plan,” GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby said. “We want each of our scholars, no matter the school they attend, to feel that they are a part of something special. It’s our job as educators to meet them where they are, find ways to build better connections with them, and ensure they have a memorable, meaningful, and inspiring educational experience.”

“I hope that this program leads the way and paves the way for a revitalization of Ottawa Hills,” Mr. Hoskins said. “We’re seeing the kids run with this…I’m blown away and I’m loving what I’m seeing.”

The new studio is situated off the school’s mall space — a gathering point inside the school where scholars come together for lunch and spend time together. The studio has a window so that those walking by can observe the work being done inside the studio.

“It gives the scholars some inspiration,” Mr. Hoskins said. “They can look in the window and see their peers working and creating and it gives them some inspiration like ‘Oh my god, I want to do that!’.”

Scholars participating in the inaugural year of the studio say they are enjoying the experience.

“You get to show your creativity and have fun too while making music,” said Brayam Zuniga, an OHHS freshman. “I’ve always been interested in making music.”

“I like listening to music, so I thought it’d be fun to make it too and learn about what goes into making it,” said Raquelle Williams, an OHHS freshman. “I’m happy that we have this program.”

Senior Mia Villa is a member of the Ottawa Hills Choir. She sees the Music Production and Entrepreneurship program as a way to take her love of music to the next level.

“I wanted to learn how to create it — more than just sing it,” Mia said during an interview inside one of the studio’s recording booths. “My favorite part is getting in the actual booth — like this one, and actually recording the music.”

Mia says the program is the talk of the school with interest growing among the student body. 

“It’s cool to show off all this nice stuff,” Mia said. “It makes me feel special. Especially - like coming from our type of school.”

Mr. Love, the teacher leading the program, says that pride is part of the program’s design.

“We’re making sure that Ottawa’s leading the way on this. And that this is unique,” he said. “Building this studio and putting this program in place here is going to lead to so many opportunities for our students.”

Ottawa Hills has graduated scholars who’ve gone on to reach celebrity status. Grammy-nominated gospel star Marvin Sapp graduated from OHHS in 1985, members of the R & B Funk group known as “Switch” attended the school in the 70s, singer Adina Howard spent her freshman year at Ottawa, and the musically talented and nationally renowned DeBarge family graced the halls of the legacy learning institution on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

Some of the stars shared messages at a Tuesday evening ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the new studio. And perhaps, within this program, there’s a chance to grow the list of stars.

“Right out of high school, they can walk into any studio in L.A., Atlanta… and be familiar with the actual equipment,” Hoskins said with a smile.

Scholars began using the studio this semester as work on the space wrapped up. Hoskins regularly visits the classes to assist in implementing the program and ensure scholars are succeeding.

“All the students are engaged, they are learning, and they’re growing through this program,” Mr. Hoskins said. “I’m overwhelmed by how the kids are gravitating to this program.”

“I think that this is a moment for us to build a whole musician out of these children and have them grow into their musicianship totally and bring them in and have that space for them to shine and have that talent recognized in a place that hasn’t been in a lot of our schools previously,” Mr. Love said. “I think that’s really important. I think it is a reason to come to Ottawa.”