It’s the stuff that music dreams are made of. A state-of-the-art recording studio where students who are barely old enough to drive can come in to record and produce music that not only speaks to them, but also inspires them and everyone else around them.
TABC’s Studio 1600 is run by Jacob Spadaro, a music industry professional and former member of Six13, who has cultivated a master music program incorporating the most sophisticated technology and equipment, while simultaneously ensuring that there is always a place for anyone who wishes to participate.
In only its second year, the program has already transformed the school into a veritable musical culture, where students come together to create, record and produce their original content in a state-of-the-art facility.
Open to students in all grades, the TABC music program, which boasts over 80 kids, is both an elective and a track, geared towards music production and composition, with the goal of helping students build music production skills over the course of their high school career.
“The beauty of the class is the confluence of students who don’t know [as much about music] with the students who do know music,” said Spadaro. He described how “awesome it was to see so many kids who had little to do with music before they stepped into that music room, only to open up and find they had a passion for it.”
Students Benny Baitner, Micah Cyrulnik, Rafi Suss and Daniel Zupnik all had major roles in the album that was just put out. “They all came to me with some kind of idea, and we developed it and we got to see it come to life in this room.”
Suss, a senior, always liked music and was excited to learn that TABC was establishing the program. A triple threat who plays piano and guitar and sings, he loves how the room “is like a real professional studio. People who want to record music can’t get into studios like this; we’re just students in a school and we are working in a legit, real studio.”
Suss recalled how last year, Spadaro encouraged a freshman, who didn’t seem so engaged in the class, to go into the recording booth to add some vocals to a song. “He had the best voice in the song,” said Suss, and the whole class became more involved because of this one kid who discovered something within himself. The song ended up on the album.
Zupnik, a senior, always loved to sing. “I love music but I never ever imagined I’d be doing this in high school, let alone in my whole life.” He remembers having this “crazy” idea to write “L’Cha Dodi.” “They made a little demo on it and then in literally two to three days we had a whole different track going with different chords, and it sounded awesome,” he said. “It’s something I would never, ever imagined in my life would ever have happened to me.”
Baitner, also a senior, sings and produces, and has been making music since he was a freshman. “I’ve never really had a place to showcase all the things that I produced and here it’s really easy. I just show Mr. Spadaro my stuff and he can easily put it on here, build it up, and then we put it out on this album that everybody is listening to.”
He admitted that he used to shy away from singing. In the midst of producing the song “L’Cha Dodi,” some of the students realized they needed additional vocals on the track. Baitner was sitting in the back of the room at the time, headphones on, working on the production end of the music. Knowing that he could sing, the boys got him into the booth and according to Baitner, he never looked back.
“And he ended up singing higher than everybody else,” Spadaro recalled with a smile.
Cyrulnik, a junior who has been playing piano since elementary school, never thought of himself as a singer, let alone one who would be making original music. “I saw what other kids were doing and thought how cool it was.” Inspired, he joined the music track.
“The studio and the setup is an opportunity for a creative process that you won’t get in other places,” he added. “It’s a unique experience, and the fact that you can make something new and it evolves into something else and you are constantly creating is its own feeling.”
TABC Head of School Rav Shlomo Stochel observed: “It is a great source of pride for us at TABC. Studio 1600 under Mr. Spadaro’s creative genius and talent has propelled our vision of fostering individual self-expression while collaborating with other students and faculty members on musical projects that our entire community can enjoy.
“When on Chol Hamoed Sukkot we took a group of juniors and seniors to Borough Park to participate in the variety of simchat beit hashoeva, our students listened to the album on the ride to Brooklyn as inspiration to absorb and prepare for the spirituality of the night ahead.”
With a new album coming out this year the biggest dilemma Spadaro and his students are facing is choosing what material to go on it. “Thank God we have a lot of talented students and a lot of music coming down the pike and we hope to build a legacy off of that.”
Spadaro added that because there are so many different kinds of students, listeners can expect to experience all different kinds of music. “When a student comes to me with a song I try to work with them to pull out what kind of style he is leaning into, and that’s what I try to match.
“I have never taken on a task like I did this past year,” he continued. “Between the project that we worked on in class and the album itself I think I have produced or mixed close to 50 songs. It was a crazy year … and just like that helped me grow as a musician, I think the students also grew from that process.”
Cyrulnik went on to say: “It’s not standard at all for a school to be able to put out original content for the whole world to hear and then have people from other schools come up to me and say, ‘I heard the TABC album and I heard your song on the album’… that’s incredible. … Other kids are watching our school and seeing what we’re doing … we’re leading, putting out original content. … It’s surreal.”
The TABC Open House will take place on Sunday, November 13 at 9:30 a.m. For more information email or call Maya Engler, director of admissions, at [email protected] or 201-837-7696, ext. 600. To learn more about TABC and its music program visit https://www.tabc.org/ or call 201-837-7696