Muscle Shoals Swampers, Jimmy Hall appear in Bayside Academy music showcase

Bayside Academy got a visit from a group Alabama's most established music legends.

Bayside Academy's student body is getting up close to Alabama history, instead of just studying it this week. The college prepatory school is hosting The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Jimmy Hall for their first High Tide Music Showcase.

The showcase is a two-day event that began Thursday morning with a series of panels that allowed Bayside students to interact directly with the Alabama music legends.

The cast for the panels included David Hood, Spooner Oldham and Jimmy Johnson of the storied Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound studios, who are affectionately known as the "Muscle Shoals Swampers" by fellow musicians and fans. Along with them was Dick Cooper, an acclaimed journalist and former curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and the Mobile-based frontman of Wet Willie, Jimmy Hall.

"If it is good music, it will find a way to be heard," Hall told Bayside senior, Madison Grace after the second of three info sessions on Thursday.

Grace, 17, is gearing up for the release of her first album, which she wrote and recorded on her own. She says she hopes to have it ready for Spotify and other streaming services in the coming months.

She asked Hall if he had any pointers on grabbing the attention of the masses with her first big project.

Alabama music legends (L-R) Dick Cooper, Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood and Jimmy Hall appear at a panel moderated by Daron K. Harris for High Tide Music Showcase at Bayside Academy in Daphne, AL, on March 9, 2017.Jared Boyd/ 

"It's really cool to see how something so close to us could be so big," Grace said, noting her shock that Alabama's music history changed the globe. "It's an honor to get to meet all these people who made something from nothing in music."

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One of her colleagues took the time to bend Hall's ear in between sessions, as well.

"He mentioned that when he was in the studio, many times what you didn't put on a track was more important than the things that you did put in," Bayside student, Jack Hearin, 17, said of his one-on-one chat with Hall. "The decision of what not to include can sometimes be just as important."

After a full day of discussions with students Thursday, Cooper unveiled an exhibition of photos from recording sessions in Muscle Shoals throughout several decades. At the conclusion of the night, Bayside students, friends and family were treated to an opportunity to watch the 2013 documentary about the North Alabama sound, titled simply "Muscle Shoals".

The music showcase is a project of Bayside Academy's "Understanding the Southern Mystique" class. The course, which began this year, is a history-based elective that observes Southern identity in units that deal with economics, music, race, film and psychology.

The class in led by a team of instructors who say they've seen a great deal of enthusiasm from students who take their course load outside of the classroom.

"Most of our students started this course with no idea who the Swampers are," instructor Wade Long said, "We showed the film and it just blew up. They had no idea that all this essential American music had been produced here in Alabama. They took off with it."

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Bayside students also played an instrumental role in the logistics that went into planning for the High Tide event and getting the Swampers to come, Long said. 

"They worked on promotional materials, garnered a social media presence, and designed everything from tickets, a billboard, logos and t-shirts. Every bit of this was student-driven."

The Alabama music legends expressed that they gained a lot out of the students' hard work and enthusiasm, too.

"The students displayed that they are getting some great inspiration and instruction (here at Bayside)," Hall said, after spending the first day of the showcase meeting students. "I met a girl that wants to be a drummer. I was inspired to tell her not to give it up. The world needs more women on the drum set. I was telling a saxophone player about my experiences. I love to pass on what I've gotten, through the years. But, I learn from them, too."

A student-designed promotional graphic for the High Tide Music Showcase, held at Bayside Academy on March 9 and 10, 2017 in Daphne, AL.Bayside Academy 

"I'm amazed that there is interest in us," guitar player and engineer, Jimmy Johnson says. "I'm impressed very much. I thought all the questions they asked were very educated. They needed to be answered. That's what's fun about these questions: the people who ask them."

The High Tide Music Festival continues at Bayside Friday night at 7 p.m. with a concert featuring the Swampers and Jimmy Hall. Due to the threat of inclement weather, faculty moved the concert from an outdoor location into a school auditorium. The change led faculty to cap off any additional ticket sales for the performance. For more information on the now-sold out show, please visit Bayside Academy's website.


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