By Sam Stearns
You’re walking into Beacon. It’s a pretty idyllic building, even from the outside. But on the inside, it’s a modern masterpiece, complete with huge columns, calming green walls, and a huge, bright cafeteria. A lot about Beacon is only absorbed at first glance: its consortium identification and lack of Regents, its creative English and History classes, and its spacious seven-floor setup. But a lot of what makes Beacon such a unique school is hiding beyond the surface, even to kids who’ve spent upwards of three years in its hallowed halls. The basement is no exception.
At most schools, the basement is glorified storage space. Sometimes there’s a spare math classroom, but it’s mostly reserved for janitor’s closets and administrative offices. Beacon’s basement has that, of course – but it also has so much more. That’s where the music program comes in.
Beacon Music is an incredibly expansive environment. It’s by far the largest art department in the school, taking up nearly the entire floor and over a dozen rooms. It’s also probably the most well-funded. From beautiful Yamaha pianos in the halls to top-quality microphones and mixing boards to guitars, basses, drum kits, and so much more, Beacon Music has everything an aspiring high school musician needs, and it’s all right within arms’ reach.
First, a bit of history. With Beacon’s move to a new building in 2015, all the floors were quickly filled up – except the basement. Resident music teacher and program leader Brian Letiecq quickly lobbied to move his program there, and his request was accepted. Letiecq quickly took control of the basement. He personally designed the entire floor’s layout, envisioning 9 practice rooms, three recording studios, a shed for instruments, and a performance space called the Live Hall. Every part of the basement was architecturally designed with music in mind. With the help of his students and his assistants, he populated the floor with top-tier recording equipment, a surplus of instruments, and, perhaps most noticeable, several quickly growing walls of photos commemorating various moments from Beacon Music’s past and present.
A quick tour of the basement can provide varying results, depending on when you go. Come in the early morning and you’ll see one of Beacon Music’s classes – maybe Music Production, where students learn the basics of production software Logic and mix their own original songs – or maybe Band and Songwriting, where students learn instruments and form cover bands. You’ll probably see Letiecq (or one of his assistants, Declan or Hamed) buzzing around the rooms, helping students, arranging instruments, or just talking to other teachers in the hallway.
But come after school, and you’ll see the true magic of Beacon Music: its bands. Beacon’s multitude of bands spans genres, ages and sizes, and provide a surefire way for new students to interact with Beacon Music and discover new sides of themselves. Bands practice in small rooms, recording studios, instrument sheds – or, if they’re lucky, the infamous Live Hall, a performance space complete with disco ball, on-site sound mixer, and full elevated stage, sporting the best in drum equipment, keyboards, guitar amplifiers, and colorful lights. In fact, if you happen to come to the basement during one of Beacon Music’s bimonthly shows, you’ll see the Live Hall in action: chock full of dancing students and parents, with the disco ball spinning and the lights flashing and a band tearing up the stage.
The problem with the Beacon basement is that most of the time, it goes completely unnoticed. Other than the students who are musical fanatics, or just friends with band members, the basement can seem a little daunting, as not much exists down there besides the music department, Mr. Thorp’s software engineering room, and the senior lounge. For many Beacon students, if you don’t have any classes on a specific floor, there’s no reason to go – especially for those with packed schedules. But Beacon’s basement is a worthwhile trip. At its quietest, the basement is a nice place to just sit and listen to ambient music while you do your homework. But at its loudest, it’s a well-oiled machine, with everybody working together to create a unique, mostly student-run musical experience that rivals programs at any other high school in the city.