Grown from the same musical breeding ground as Columbus natives and Grammy award-winning band Twenty-One Pilots, comes The Paragon Project — a collection of teenage artists who attend or have attended Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, the same school for members of the popular band.
The project aims to provide a platform for student voices, while the group writes, produces and records contemporary songs that highlight social issues that affect teens in the community.
The Paragon Project was founded and directed by assistant principal of Fort Hayes, Tony Anderson, who has worked in the music industry for more than a decade. Anderson has successfully transformed other school-based music groups into touring musical artists.
Anderson has also worked heavily in production with groups such as The Roots, who now serve as the live band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The Paragon Project released its third album, titled “Note to Self,” on Saturday, and Anderson said it took a lot of preparation for a quick turnaround.
“We recorded that album in 21 days,” Anderson said. “But there was a lot of build-up and prework that was done to get [the students] in the right mindset to understand what that experience was going to be like because it’s very intense.”
Anderson and a team of music professionals, some of which have worked in the industry for up to 15 years, worked with the students on their most recent album. Some students contribute to individual songs on the album, and showcase their talent as well as tell their stories through music.
“My song, in particular, is about the adoption process from a kid’s perspective and the emotions that go along with it,” said Kaylah Linkiewicz, a senior at Fort Hayes and member of The Paragon Project.
Linkiewicz was placed into emergency custody following the discovery of her father’s heroin addiction during her freshman year of high school.
“My big focus when creating was that I wrote the song that I needed to hear, the song that 13-year-old or 14-year-old me needed to hear,” Linkiewicz said.
Although Anderson is the director of the group and helps students such as Linkiewicz find their voices to express hardships, he said he learns just as much from the students as they do from him.
“The only reason I can do this job, with the amount of tireless effort that I do, is because they blow my mind every day with what they’re able to do, and with their dreams and ambitions,” Anderson said.
He also is beginning to find success in helping The Paragon Project find venues to perform in around the country and internationally. At The Paragon Project’s concert and album release party Feb. 23, it was announced the group has been invited to perform at this year’s Young People’s Concert in June, hosted by The World Leisure Organization in Papa, Hungary.
“You have so many conversations with [the students] about their dreams and their desire to travel, their desires to be taken seriously — they want to make it in the industry. They just need somebody that believes in them to help guide them and get them there,” Anderson said. “I’ve just been blessed and fortunate to have that experience, and I want them to know it’s very real and that they can do it.”
The Paragon Project’s third studio album, “Note to Self,” is now available on all streaming platforms.