Some students turn in special projects to earn extra credit -- but theater and music students at Grandview Heights High School could earn an onscreen credit this weekend.

The students will work as part of the crew when "Songs at the Center," a live-music show produced in Columbus and syndicated by American Public Television, records two episodes in the Grandview Heights High School auditorium.

The program airs on more than 265 public-television stations nationwide.

WOSU-TV airs the show at 11 p.m. Saturdays.

Residents are invited to attend the taping, which will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the high school, 1587 W. First Ave.

It is open to the public free of charge, with no tickets or reservations required.

"Songs at the Center" is "a celebration of the art and craft of songwriting," said executive producer Jack FitzGerald.

The program was created and is hosted by Columbus-based singer-songwriter Eric Gnezda.

"Eric's vision for the show was to have the songwriters and performers and their songs at the center of the show, so that's why it's called 'Songs at the Center,' " FitzGerald said.

Each episode features three singer-songwriters performing in the round and includes interviews with the musicians, he said.

Some audience members share the stage with the performers and can be seen as part of each telecast, FitzGerald said.

About 25 to 45 people are included in each episode's on-stage audience.

Even audience members who sit in the auditorium may be shown during the performances, he said.

Anyone who attends a taping of "Songs at the Center" must sign a release granting permission for their image to be shown, FitzGerald said.

Audience members need to arrive no later than 5:30 p.m. for the taping to ensure they will be able to sign the document and be seated before the show begins at 6 p.m.

Two separate shows will be recorded Dec. 8.

"It's not a traditional concert-type experience," FitzGerald said. "There are a number of breaks to reconfigure the performers or reposition the cameras. People in the audience don't have to stay for the entire show. They can take their leave during one of the breaks. It's a nice addition to your evening out."

The first round will feature Erin Enderlin, a songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack and Luke Bryan, among others, and who recently performed at the Grand Ole Opry; Craig Heath, a four-time Ohio Music Awards winner who has performed at the world-famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee; and Nicolle "Nikki D" Brown, who performs with "Sacred Steel" lap and pedal guitars.

The lineup for the second show will include Andrew Adkins, a native of West Virginia who has gone solo after leading the Appalachian stompgrass band the Wild Rumpus; Ronnie "Diamond" Head, former lead singer and guitarist with the Ohio Players, who now performs gospel music; and Sugarcane Jane, a husband-and-wife duo featuring Anthony and Savana Lee Crawford. Anthony Crawford has performed with Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill and Rosanne Cash and has co-written songs recorded by Winwood, Yoakam, Kenny Rogers and Lee Greenwood.

While "Songs at the Center" considers the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington as its home, the series travels to various locations in central Ohio and in other Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Marietta, to record episodes, FitzGerald said.

"Whenever we are at a high school, we love to work with youngsters and give students who may be interested in a career in the theater or show business a chance to gain some real-world experience and get credit for it," he said.

Students who sign up to work in the crew at the Grandview shows will have their names listed in the credits running at the end of the nationally broadcast series, said Mitch Hyde, a Grandview resident whose children attended the district's schools.

Hyde helps run the sound and lighting for stage productions at the high school. He also serves as live audio engineer for "Songs at the Center."

Hyde contacted Grandview Heights Schools to gauge the district's interest in hosting the program.

"I think the success of the Bruno Pelletier concert really opened people's eyes to the kind of event we could hold in the auditorium," he said. "Typically, it's only used for school plays and some learning activities. This will give us a chance to put the spotlight on our school and our auditorium."

Pelletier, a renowned Quebecois singer, performed his second U.S. concert April 3 at the high school, accompanied by pianist Julie Lamontagne.

Students will work in a variety of roles as part of the crew, including helping with sound and lighting setup, assisting the performers and seating audience members, Hyde said.

"I'm so excited that our students are going to have this opportunity," he said.

"Songs at the Center" is in its fourth season, FitzGerald said.

The two shows recorded in Grandview will be made available to public-television stations May 1 as part of its fifth season, he said. Stations can air the show whenever and wherever its fits into their broadcast schedules.

"Most of the stations that air our show broadcast it between 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday, which is kind of the 'music time slot' for public television," FitzGerald said.

Many stations, including WOSU, schedule the show to air just before or just after "Austin City Limits," Hyde said.

For more information about "Songs at the Center," visit its Facebook page or songsatthecenter.tv.

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