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Making a Tunesmith's Day

Comcast's Tucson, Ariz.-area system put an extra twang in its community outreach recently as the pilot system for a student songwriting contest provided by the cable network Great American Country.

Scott Durand, vice president of marketing for the Scripps-owned country-music channel, said that based on the way the program was embraced by students, educators and the local media, the GAC Songwriting Challenge will be offered across the country via the Internet later this fall.

CREATIVE BOOST

“We thought this would be a real cool way to get kids involved in creative writing. Teachers have been telling us it's becoming a lost art,” said Durand of the program.

The network went to an outside vendor to design a program that would fit into the high school English curriculum, designed to guide students through the lyric composing process.

Comcast's Tucson-area system provided the local partner: Marana High School in Marana, Ariz.

Comcast had a relationship with the school, promoting use of the Cable in the Classroom curriculum, but had never hosted a big event there, said corporate-affairs manager Kelle Maslyn.

The promotion was an opportunity to raise Comcast's visibility as a member of the community, not just as a service provider, Maslyn said.

She added the school is divided into four specialized academies, and educators in the fine arts division were delighted with a program that provided real-life applications to English skills.

Through the program, students used the educational tools for guidance in writing the lyrics to a song.

The teachers reviewed the submissions and selected 10 finalists to pass along to the network.

In Nashville, professionals and GAC executives vetted the songs.

The winning entry was put to music, creating a “demo tape,” Durand said.

The channel arranged a school visit by Columbia Nashville recording artist Keith Anderson on Dec. 3. He talked to students about his career, then performed in a school-wide assembly where the contest winner was introduced.

SURPRISE PLAY

The contest winner, Stephanie Koeppen, only learned she won when she heard her “demo” played for the whole school.

“I didn't know who the winner was … watching her face as she recognized her song, it was pretty cool,” Comcast's Maslyn said. “Having 2,000 peers hearing something you produced, that's got to be so exciting.”

Anderson also gave the student a guitar he'd autographed, and GAC also made a donation to the school to help purchase computers.

GAC intends to execute the promotion in nine more markets; and later this year, the curriculum will be made available for download on the Internet for teachers who want to utilize the curriculum.

GAC will advertise its availability through on-air spots, and during co-promotions with local radio stations.