Every morning, at 9 a.m., ABC-Stewart School students in J. D. Maulin’s morning class sit in a circle and sing.
These daily musical collaborations form the backbone of “Bum Ditty Bum,” the singer-songwriter turned language arts teacher’s latest recording project.
The recording, set for release in early April, features kids from Maulin’s school on 12 out of 16 tracks.
The first voice on the first track of the CD belongs to fourth-grader Iris Crough. While warming up for the recording session, Maulin led the kids in a rooster crowing contest.
Crough didn’t know that the microphones in the studio were already recording when she won the competition or that her poultry impression would be the opening refrain of the CD.
She responded to the surprise news with a laugh and an impromptu rendition of “Bum Ditty Bum,” the title track from the CD.
While she seemed to enjoy her newfound fame, full-time singing might not be the career for her.
“I never really sang that much,” Crough said. “I don’t like singing in front of people, but I liked this.”
Classmate and fellow recording artist Stella Brumett disagreed. All of the performers were drawn from the school’s burgeoning drama club — ideal performers for the CD, in her opinion.
“We’re all sooo dramatic,” Brumett said.
Although, Brumett’s fondest memories of the recording session tended towards the more technical side of the recording arts.
“There was this guy in there (the control room), and he showed us all the buttons. Then he play back the songs really slow,” Brumett said.
This collaboration with the students runs deeper than merely adding voices to Maulin’s songs.
“They aren’t just singers on the CD,” Maulin said. Over the years, the continual exchange of ideas between student and teacher molded and shaped the lyrics and structure of each song on the CD, he said.
One morning, while Maulin was out directing school traffic along State Road 46, he decided he was in a pretty good mood.
While standing among the zooming cars and yelling kids, he thought up lyrics for a tune called “It’s a Pretty Good Morning.”
It’s a cheerful, upbeat song about a happy guy greeting all the different things he encounters during his morning stroll, Maulin said.
When he introduced the song to the kids at music circle, everyone was grumpy, Maulin said. Nobody wanted to sing about happy animals in the early morning.
So to match the mood, he slowed things down and asked the kids to help him with some grumpier lyrics.
The result was an entirely different song called, “It’s Another Morning.” This song, which appears on the newest CD, shows just how big an influence children had on the basic DNA of the recording, Maulin said.
In order to capture the carefree spirit of the music circles in a studio setting, Maulin isolated the kids into one studio while guitarist and mandolin player Bill Berg listened through headphones in a separate studio, simultaneously recording the instrumental portions of the song onto the same track. Later, other musicians recorded the final instrumental parts, which were eventually merged to form the final recording.
“I wanted the energy and fun of interacting with kids to come through,” Maulin said. “We left in the sound of all the kids talking between songs, almost like it is a live concert.”
The entire recording was completed around Thanksgiving in a single day at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Maulin said. While all of the students involved in the project attend ABC Stewart, the recording is not directly associated with the school.
All of the recording and production costs, totaling about $2,000, were paid directly out of Maulin’s pocket. Maulin is also donating all proceeds from sales at the release party at YES Cinema in April to ABC-Stewart School.
J.D. Maulin has been a teacher at ABC-Stewart School for 25 years. For all of that time, he has also been a singer, songwriter and musician.
During his career as a musician, Maulin’s has been involved in the production of several CDs with both solo and with bands the Clodhoppers and the Stone Cold Dogs.
Maulin’s passion for music recently led him to convert an old barn on Columbus’s east side into a part time music venue called The Barn Loft, 1906.
“Bum Ditty Bum” is Maulin’s first foray into children’s music.
What: “Bum Ditty Bum” CD release concert and fundraiser
When: 4 p.m. April 17
Where: YES Cinema, 328 Jackson St.
Price: $5 for children, $8 for adults. CD will be available for $15 at the performance. The recording will also be available online from retailers like Amazon.com and iTunes for an as yet undisclosed price.
Tickets to the event and copies of “Bum Ditty Bum” will also be available from Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St., starting March 1.