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Hitting the Right Note: Students Produce Full-Length Music Album

Kelly Slonaker

Taylor Swift was not the only one busy in the recording studio in 2020—several of Canterbury’s student-musicians produced a full-length album of 18 songs in November. The collection includes songs performed by each of Canterbury’s music ensembles and spans several genres, including jazz, pop, soul, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, and country. “COVID-19 prevented us from performing live in front of an audience during the fall, so this recording was an important component of the semester for music students,” said Director of Music Dave Overthrow. “They set this tremendous goal and accomplished it!”

The Contemporary Music Band—a small group ensemble that performs music from various time periods—contributed eight songs to the album. The group includes vocalists Fatima Nda-Isaiah ’21 and Alessandra (Ali) King ’22; Nicholas Graham ’21 on drums; Sebastian Tseng ’21 on piano; and Xavier Leone ’23 on bass. The group covered several songs with Ali on lead vocals: “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King; “Love on the Brain” by Rhianna and Joseph Angel; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross; “At Last” by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren; and “Who’s Lovin’ You” by Smokey Robinson. Fatima lent her voice while distance learning from over 5,000 miles away in Nigeria and was the lead vocalist for cover songs “Take Me To Church” by Hozier and “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith, along with an original song that she wrote for the album. Fatima recorded tracks from her home using GarageBand and her phone, and they were later mixed with the musical recordings and mastered by Dave Overthrow.

“Students in the Contemporary Music Band learn music in different ways,” said Dave. “Some students learn the music through the reading of standard music notation, some students use their musical ear to learn parts from recordings, and some create parts from a set of given chord changes. Each of the students in this group exhibits advanced musical skills, and they each learn the music differently, both of which are important components of being a complete musician.”

The Jazz-Rock-Pop ensemble and the Contemporary Music Band-Horns include Mark “Maverick” Foster ’22 on tenor saxophone, Xavier Leone ’23 on alto saxophone, Connor Koh ’23 on trumpet, and Andy Xu ’21 on trombone. The quartet covered three instrumental songs for the album—”Pavement” by Victor Lopez, “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima (arrangement by Victor Lopez), and “Memories” by Lucky Chops. A talented tenor saxophone player, Maverick also chose to record two of his favorite jazz songs—”Yardbird Suite” by Sonny Rollins and “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Durham—and was accompanied by Nicholas ’21 on the drums.

The album was not just an opportunity for seasoned musicians; several students who were newer to their instruments also recorded beautiful renditions. Morgan Lau ’24 has emerged as a talented singer/songwriter. She sang and played guitar on three covers for the album—”Sweet Child of Mine” by Slash and Axl Rose, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks, and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton—and hopes to record some of her original songs in the near future. Intro to Guitar students Asher Hughes ’24 and Kate McDonough ’24 had some prior experience with guitar and displayed fantastic musical chemistry and harmonies. They teamed up for two songs, each singing and playing the guitar: “I Don’t Want To Do It” by Bob Dylan and “Across the Universe” by John Lennon.

The majority of the album was produced in the School’s own recording facility, which allows up to 16 tracks of live audio to be recorded simultaneously. As such, the groups were able to safely record with a limited number of people in the booths. Additional measures included thoroughly sanitizing between performances and outfitting horn instruments with special covers that allow air and sound to escape but prevent germs from spreading (similar to face masks). Once all of the individual tracks were recorded, Dave mixed and edited them together and then began the process of mastering the final album. 

The finished product is a sensational, professional-caliber album that will be played throughout campus for years to come. “Despite the challenges of not being able to perform and play together, we overcame every hurdle and worked together in the harmony of music,” said Sebastian ’21 of the process. “I feel as if I am a member of a second family in this band.”

This incredible album is available to listen to at cbury.org/music-album.