The Journey of "Sick Beats to Dope Tracks: Creating an Album"

By Meghan Benson | Arts, J-Term, Upper School

In the realm of education, the unique class “Sick Beats to Dope Tracks: Creating an Album,” led by Jamie Breiwick, Instrumental Music Teacher, stands out as an exemplary fusion of creativity, technology, and education. Breiwick, a professional jazz musician and passionate advocate for music creation, conceived the class with the intention of connecting with students outside traditional teaching realms while introducing them to the world of album creation.

The course was an integral part of Prairie’s first-ever, wildly successful J-Term, a distinctive two-week program nestled between semesters that provided students with the rare opportunity to delve into subjects beyond the conventional curriculum.

“I chose this course because I thought it would be a great opportunity to better myself as an artist and student,” expressed Billy Smith ’25, who joined the class with the hope of gaining insights into the production side of the business.

The inspiration behind the class, as explained by Breiwick, was rooted in a desire to make music creation practical and fun. It took students on a hands-on journey from the initial spark of an idea to the production of a tangible vinyl record. Despite the significant challenge of a two-week timeline and students with varying skill levels, Breiwick emphasized that the positive energy from each participant fueled the class.

Each day included a 45-minute session devoted to listening to various genres, encouraging students to draw from diverse influences and incorporate them into their projects. “The class didn’t limit itself to a specific kind of music, but embraced diversity,” remarked Breiwick. The emphasis fostered an environment where students could express creativity without limitations.

The course became a dynamic and creative laboratory where each student explored their potential. Breiwick’s approach included teaching the basics of digital audio workstations like GarageBand, guiding students on playing chords and scales, recording instruments, and creating a collaborative and supportive environment – all without leaving the classroom. With access to a fully equipped recording studio on Prairie’s campus, students were empowered to transform their aspirations into a tangible, professional-quality record.

With one whole day dedicated to outside-the-classroom research and field trips, the group visited Hamtone Studio, a recording studio in downtown Milwaukee, and 88.9 Radio Milwaukee to maximize their experience. These visits provided hands-on exposure to instruments and recording equipment and offered deeper insight into the industry, broadening students’ perspectives on the production landscape.

“The course aimed to impart not only musical skills but also essential knowledge about the business side of the industry,” explained Breiwick. Guest speakers shed light on marketing, licensing, and potential career paths. 

“I gained an unfathomable amount of knowledge from these two weeks – everything from how the music business works from the artists’ perspectives to the fine details of what goes into writing a song,” explained Smith. 

“Sick Beats to Dope Tracks: Creating an Album” stands out as a memorable and wide-ranging exploration of the music industry. Breiwick’s vision and the students’ enthusiasm transformed a two-week class into an exemplary fusion of creativity, technology, and education. 

Listen to the finished album, titled Everything Under the Sun, here.