A colleague from outside my department, one who teaches Ethics in our Religious Studies department to sophomores, observed my Music Appreciation A class today. His write-up of that class is presented here:
Dr. Michael Connolly, Director of Choirs at the University of Portland, brought his choir over for a choral exchange while on tour through the Bay Area in January 2016.
He sent a very nice thank you letter to the President, Rev. Ed Harris, S.J. about their experience and thoughts about the choral program at St. Ignatius College Preparatory.
Here at SoundCloud are tracks that have been recorded, mixed and mastered in our Recording Studio at St. Ignatius College Preparatory.
Some of the first tracks shared on the channel were recorded at the Iglesia Santa Maria in Tolosa, Spain using our original Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 and the AKG 451Bs. I referenced this tour, the early years of the studio and the student who co-built Studio 2001 Gabe Todaro ’12 in this article.
Welcome back to the Recording Studio series.
Below is an article from Genesis, a magazine published quarterly by St. Ignatius College Preparatory, where I had the opportunity to ‘project manage’, from start to finish (actually any good project is in some sort of a work-in-progress), the building of a full service Recording Studio. These kinds of opportunities don’t simply fall out of the sky; in fact, this article will have been written nearly three years after our initial acquisition of a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 and 2 AKG 451s.
Over the course of three years, together with a team of colleagues and professional engineers, we’ve created a space for those students interested in audio engineering to pursue their curiosity, utilizing some of the industry’s most professional audio components and microphones.
I have also documented the work we’ve accomplished on the studio in these photo albums:
Black-on-black, 327/350 hp, 4sp manual, 3:36 posi-traction 67 Nova SS (no A/C, no vinyl top)
How do we create an environment of intrinsic motivation in an activity that promises an extrinsic reward? In my second article for Tempo, I share some of my thoughts and conversations with both students and colleagues over the years.
Tempo – Vlm 44, No. 3
One of my first articles appeared in the 2011, fall Tempo – an annual journal for the California Music Educator’s Association (CMEA) Bay Section.
Tempo – Vol 44, No. 1
Since I began my tenure at St. Ignatius College Prep, I have taken the Chamber Singers to this festival for several reasons: the quality of Adjudication and the level of musicianship by the participating choirs. In the almost 10 years of it’s existence, it has become the Bay Area’s premier choral festivals. I particularly value this summative assessment for not only my students but for me as well. To my knowledge, it is one of the only assessments that evaluate students and their teacher simultaneously.
I was tremendously pleased with the students work the day of the festival. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly pleased with their level of preparation throughout the process. I gave several formative assessments before the festival and those results were somewhat mixed. In the future, I could use the scoring rubric for the festival as a template for their own evaluation in those assessments.
What was most interesting is that the piece the students intrinsically favor the most from the set is their weakest piece at this particular snapshot in the music’s evolution. All things considering, I knew going in the Esenvalds was a stretch for this particular ensemble, not because they can’t sing it, it’s just that the composition simply demands more than this choir is capable of producing. They are a High School chamber choir of 28 voices, and when I first was programming this festival set, I was captivated by my colleagues College choir of about 32 – undergraduate and graduate voice majors – sized ensemble.
Yet again, this piece won their hearts over and they love so much to sing this piece. Looking back, and looking forward, I don’t think I have found the right standing order so they can really hear each other adequately. Also, it is very difficult to tune the water glasses and achieve a consistent sense of intonation with the chimes and choir. At the retreat when we first learned the piece, I had 2 performers per pitch on the tuned water glasses; we performed with only 1 on a part at the performance. Our intonation (tuning) was not our strongest component that afternoon.
William Byrd’s Sing Joyfully, on the other hand, is a perfect selection for this choir. This music is difficult, mostly because singers in the 21st century can’t instantly recall the ‘sound’ of music over 400 years old in the same way they can differentiate between the subtleties of Hip Hop. It’s just not in their ears. In the learning process, this requires a lot of patience and vocal modeling. Over the years, I have observed Renaissance music for high school students has – to some degree – been motivating for them because they just want to figure it out, kind of like a puzzle. There is also a sense of satisfaction when these mostly linear phrases lock into vertical sonorities at cadential points along the way.
I also have been very cognizant of what it is the students are really trying to attain: a Unanimous Superior plaque or authentic music making and sharing. I really believe in the format of this particular choir festival. After the performance, each ensemble receives a 20 minute clinic from one of the Adjudicators in front of other students from participating schools. The festival focus has always been: Educational from the country’s top, collegiate choral directors and sharing choral music from exemplary High School choirs in the Bay Area (it is an Invitational choir festival). And yes, the performance is rated/graded (fortunately it is not ranked).
The students had some interesting thoughts about the experience that can be found here: http://sichambersingers.blogspot.com/2015/03/festival-thoughtscomments.html
This is the first post in an ongoing series about the Recording Studio I created at St. Ignatius College Preparatory.
First Step: Have something to Record
In 2012 we had a senior in the music department that for the most part knew he was going to be Recording Engineering major in college. That same year I arranged a performance tour with my choir to Europe on an itinerary that traced the places Ignatius of Loyola lived and worked during his lifetime. On his first, semi-professional gig, Gabe accompanied the group as the recording engineer, capturing some amazing sessions in Europe’s most amazing churches to record choirs. He learned a ton; we were able to document some spectacular moments on the choir tour, and everyone benefits!
The gear we purchase for the tour and some of the first pieces in our inventory:
Here are some tracks from that tour:
It would take nearly 2 years for those and several other songs to be released on the Chamber Singers second CD “Listen“. The ‘studio’ during this interim would essentially lay dormant until Gabe and I start to dream big about the possibility of laying the foundation towards a Recording Program at St. Ignatius College Prep in the spring of 2014.