Two recent graduates of Portland High School were recognized on the Country Music Hall of Fame’s 41st Annual Words & Music program. Samantha Alda-Katherine and Addison Doris were featured in the program for the song they wrote in their high school honors English class taught by Charlie McCoin.
The song they wrote, “Before You Fall,” was one of 10 songs selected from many local elementary through high school students who participated in the educational program sponsored by the CMHF during the school year.
Raquel Cole sang the song the girls wrote on the virtual program this year because of COVID-19. Cole is a multi-instrumentalist from British Columbia who won the Canadian Country Music Association’s Discovery Award in 2016.
Each year McCoin chooses something different for a final project for the students enrolled in his honors class. His class begins each year with a philosophical foundation by asking his students to look at the human condition to gain a better understanding of humanity. This year he chose the CMHF’s educational program, Words & Music: Teach Language Arts Through Lyric Writing.
McCoin said, “The world is filled with old dilemmas, but we are just new people dealing with old problems. My question to them is how do we figure that out, if we even can. We all can look back and think of songs that defined certain moments of our lives. Those songs provided just the right words for what we are experiencing. My task for my students was to create a theme from everything we read to a certain point. I wanted them to see a connecting thread that ran through all the works.”
After his students arrived at that theme, they were asked to discover how it applied to their lives. McCoin assigned the students the tasks of writing a song to illustrate that theme. He used the CMHF program which he described as providing a stellar program of rich student-centered materials.
He paired the students to co-write together. He describes the task as difficult and frustrating, as students often were at the point of tears, as they uncovered some rough life situations. The learning became an emotional process.
The class included a field trip to the CMHF where the students had a tour of the facility including the museum. The tour ended with the students going into a classroom where a songwriter played the students’ works.
McCoin said, “My biggest disappointment is that I wish all the students’ songs could be played because they were all so good. I am proud of Samantha and Addison, but every student in the class deserved a spot at the table. I feel they did a great job representing their classmates, as well as Portland High School.”
Samantha’s and Addison’s song centered around relationships with boys in today’s world. The song deals with asking their grandmothers for advice on choosing that special someone. The chorus is as follows:
Make sure he walks you to the door
And you won’t end up crying on the floor
Make sure he shakes your daddy’s hand
Before you think about a wedding band
But above it all
Before you fall
Make sure he’s yours
In describing the experience Samantha said, “I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to write a song to be chosen by the Country Music Hall of Fame. When writing this song, Addison and I had to do a lot of soul searching. We have both had our fair share of hardships in our lifetime, so it was hard to decide on what we wanted to write about.
Finally, we decided on searching for love. In the time that we have grown up in, it is extremely different from what our parents and even grandparents experienced. Traditions and manners tend to get neglected by boys our age, but they are still near and dear to our hearts. We wanted to write a song that expressed how important it is to “make sure he’s yours” - “before you fall.” We are so proud of the song we have crafted and I’m so happy to have had this opportunity with one of my best friends.”
Addison added, “Participating in the Words of Music program was a once in a lifetime experience. I am so grateful to the Country Music Hall of Fame and to our English teacher Mr. Charlie McCoin for making this experience possible. Hearing our words transformed into a real song was absolutely amazing Although the live event could not take place due to COVID-19, it was a true honor to have our song chosen to be showcased in the Words of Music virtual event.”
The program featuring the girls’ song can be found online at: https://countrymusichalloffame.org/wordsandmusicnight. The program is made possible by professional songwriters in the Nashville community, who work with the students to put their lyrics to music. A list of sponsors of the program is available on the website.