Three Beats: Matt Baron tours first grade as Future Hits | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

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Three Beats: Matt Baron tours first grade as Future Hits

Plus: Netherfriends release the midwestern dozen from 50 Songs 50 States, and full-time goofball Chris Ligon celebrates a new album

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INDIE | Miles Raymer

Coach House Sounds is among a growing number of Chicago-based online video series featuring live performances by local acts in nontraditional spaces—in this case the basement of a coach house—but with almost three years and nearly 100 sessions under its belt it's arguably the best established. This fall CHS will issue its first compilation—a cassette featuring Joan of Arc, Disappears, Bobby Conn, Radar Eyes, and others—but at the moment it's taking a break from recording new material. CHS producer and cofounder Matt Baron, who recently started his second year teaching elementary school, is directing most of his creative energy into a new project that's become his passion: making what he calls "curriculum-based/Common Core Standards-aligned educational rock songs" under the name Future Hits.

Baron (who also fronts the group Baron von Something) began teaching ESL and Spanish in September 2010, visiting CPS first-grade classes in a regular rotation. By March he'd started to incorporate music into his teaching, in the form of original songs written to accommodate both his host teachers' lesson plans and the state's requirements for language arts.

He says his adherence to the rigid standards to which educators are held made his music "a hit" with administrators and teachers. The rest of Baron's audience, being a bunch of first graders and thus highly entertainable, were easier to win over. "It's pretty much guaranteed," he says, "that whatever class I'm in—I go to about six different classes every day—whenever I do a song, they'll raise their hands and ask if we can sing it again, like right then."

Baron recently teamed up with Hollows bassist Emma Hospelhorn and Columbia College assistant professor in audio design and production Ben Sutherland to record a full-length Future Hits album, to be produced by former Coctails member Mark Greenberg (who's also produced for Wilco and Andrew Bird). He plans to finish the recordings (and accompanying lessons) by the end of the year, and he's launched a Kickstarter campaign to help cover expenses. Depending on the size of your donation, premiums can include anything from "tiered worksheets" to an in-home live performance and a meal cooked by the band.

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