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Northern Michigan in Focus: StorySong Creations

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Music is truly a universal language.

A familiar tune can take you back to a place and time in an instant.

That’s why one man’s dream may be so successful today, helping children learn through song.

9&10’s Michelle Dunaway and chief photojournalist Corey Adkins show us how the program works in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

When Dan Hall enters a school, song follows.

But this isn’t a simple music class, these students are writing original pieces, learning and working together as a team.

"I come into a school Monday and I don’t even know what the songs are going to be about. The students and teachers pick topics based on what the kids are learning," explains Dan.

takes him to dozens of schools across the state, working with thousands of students.

This week it was K-6 at Charlevoix Elementary. The sixth graders were taking on science through song.

"We listed words, atoms, molecules, water, liquid, gas all that kind of stuff. What we need is that very first line, so I say, ‘What happens when those atoms come together?"

Dan tries to work with students to craft one line an hour per class, so every class gets their say and, in the end, the grade has their own song.

Patrick, a student at the school, added his two cents, "Fast precipitation, slow evaporation."

Bit by bit things come together.

"Scientific terms combined with real world situations helps them to apply it, and using that creative part lets them take that curriculum knowledge and really put it to work for them," says Dan.

Dan started this venture in 1989 after spending a day with his own boys.

"It was raining outside and they wanted to write a song, and it was ‘Ruff, ruff, ruff, it’s rough being a dog.’ I thought, man, this is cool. I like the way their minds think. Kids’ minds are pure and they function in a way we sometimes forget as adults, and so I thought could I pull this off with a whole school of kids," says Dan.

Yes, he can!

"I’ve written and recorded more than 500 songs with over 250,000 kids."

Schools have come to embrace him.

"It’s been fun to have him in the building. He brings a smile to everyone’s face. He sings himself through the building, through the halls, he’s contagious. We had our entire staff singing this morning, which was a really fun way to start the day."

This is the last day of his visit, when the students actually record the songs they’ve written.

"It’s nice to watch them transition from I don’t know what’s going on here to I’m trying to write a song and now they’re recording artists. By the time we get to the concert, they will be smug and want their own touring bus, who knows?" explains Dan.

Helping students make melodies and memories; it’s a job that’s never really a job for this music man.

"I want to do this for as long as I’m on this Earth."