Watch CBS News

Philadelphia high school musicians get industry experience playing at Four Seasons' SkyHigh lounge

Philadelphia music students' dreams reach new heights through MIC'd Up program
Philadelphia music students' dreams reach new heights through MIC'd Up program 02:25

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Every Monday evening, Philadelphia high school student musicians get to step into the life of a gigging musician, playing to guests dining at the top of the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at SkyHigh bar and restaurant. It's part of a program called MIC'd Up, which stands for Music Industry Classrooms. The School District of Philadelphia partners with SkyHigh and BELLOSOUND to provide a place for students in small jazz ensembles to play. 

Several different Philadelphia high schools participate in the program, each playing a residency that lasts around six weeks. Students get paid between $120-$200 per gig, depending on how many students are in the ensemble. The MIC'd Up program fundraises to pay students, and students also get a free meal.

"I think it's been an awesome privilege," said James Newcomer, a 16-year-old pianist from Girard Academic Music Program, or GAMP. "I think I've gained a lot of experience from it, honestly."

Students are mentored by Luke Carlos O'Reilly, a pianist with over two decades of industry experience. In addition to coaching students on improvised solos and music theory, O'Reilly teaches students the skills needed to book and maintain gigs.

"We also talk with them about restaurant and jazz gig etiquette, like tipping and how to work with the servers and being courteous," O'Reilly said. "Getting that relationship started at an early age, because that's really important."

Keith Holmes, another GAMP student, plays trombone. Holmes said O'Reilly has pushed him out of his comfort zone.

"I've never done an improvised solo ever before I did this," Holmes said. "And our first night, he's like, 'You're going to do a solo.' And I'm like, 'Can you write one out?' And he's like, 'No, you're going to improvise a solo.' And I did my first improv solo, and I was proud of it."


Newcomer also said he's gotten a lot better at soloing.

"It's like being thrown into a country that you don't speak the language of, you have to develop the capacity to speak that language," he said.

Nehemyah McBride, 18, plays the bass guitar in the MIC'd Up ensemble. Prior to his residency starting, he said his friends had played in the program. However, it was a completely different experience when he got the opportunity to do so.

"Man, when I came up here I was like, oooh. Feeling like luxury, you know?" McBride said. "It feels great to call my friends, and say 'Hey, I can get you reservations at the top of the SkyHigh!' It feels great."

MIC'd Up has programming throughout the summer, every Monday from 6-8 p.m. The program, which mostly hosts jazz ensembles, also includes student DJs.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.