Vocal ensemble exposes students to studio environment

LIVE IN STUDIO: In the home studio of Gary Fry, VX Studio Vocal Ensemble (VX) director, sophomore Jewoo Kim and junior Julia Packer stand behind a microphone to record their part of the song Let It Go, a track from the animated Disney film, FROZEN. The VX members completed multiple takes of the recording to make sure each part was received perfectly to keep as a reference for their live practices.

LIVE IN STUDIO: In the home studio of Gary Fry, VX Studio Vocal Ensemble (VX) director, sophomore Jewoo Kim and junior Julia Packer stand behind a microphone to record their part of the song “Let It Go,” a track from the animated Disney film, FROZEN. The VX members completed multiple takes of the recording to make sure each part was received perfectly to keep as a reference for their live practices.

Lauren Frias, asst. a&e editor

Several high school students gather around to sing under the direction of Gary Fry, the director of Midwest Young Artist’s (MYA) choral program.  After their routine vocal exercises, the group prepares to sing their music, not for a live audience, but instead into the microphones set up in Fry’s home studio.

The group, known as VX Studio Vocal Ensemble (VX), helps students understand the necessary skills and procedures in a recording studio.  VX is named after the abbreviation for ‘vocals’ used in the studio environment, according to Fry.

“This is the third year the group has been in existence,” Fry said. “We’re really centered [around] doing recordings. We do lots of short recording projects to help kids display their musicianship. We really try to teach the students to concentrate on coming in and reading their parts and being able to sight-read their parts, [which is] very important if you’re trying to make a living as a recording vocalist.”

Although vocal experience is not a necessary prerequisite for the group, an audition for the group is mandatory. According to David Sucher, junior VX member, the audition process included a short interview with Fry and a performance of excerpts of two songs from different genres.

Once in the group, however, Jewoo Kim, sophomore VX member, did notice that VX posed challenges, including the difficulties that come along with using microphones to record rather than amplify sound.

“Sometimes a difficulty [that I face] is the blend of the mics,” Kim said. “Because sometimes one voice group might be a little bit louder than the others, and you might have to re-record over and over again until it sounds alright.”

Despite its difficulties, VX does work to the students’ advantage.  According to Sucher, the experience of recording in a professional environment as well as practice with different musical concepts benefit him.

“I have learned the professional ideas and ways to act in a recording setting, along with many musical concepts and tricks,” Sucher said. “I think that this will help [me] know what to expect if I ever have to record professionally [in the future].”

In the long run, Kim does believe that the experience will be quite beneficial to her because of her aspiration to incorporate music in her future career.

“If I ever want to have a job [in] recording or [doing] a voice-over […], I guess the experience is helpful [because it teaches me] to be able to sight-read fast enough and pick up music and know a part right then and right there,” Kim said.

With experience in the live performance area of singing and little exposure in the area of recording music, Kim said that there is quite a noticeable difference between the two.

“[Recording] is much faster than singing live,” Kim said. “In choir, you go over this one small part over and over again over a span of days [to get it prepared for a performance]. In [VX], you learn it, record it and then you’re done.”

With these differences in mind, Michael Kirby, freshman VX member, prefers performing live over recording in a studio.

“I would rather perform live because it’s a better test on your skill,” Kirby said. “It’s also more fun to do. But recording also does help [improve] my live performance as well.”

Despite their main focus on the recording side of music, the group performed at a concert on March 5, which was funded  by Mesirow Financial.  According to Fry, the group recorded a commercial track as a gift to show their appreciation for the company.

Overall, Christina Kim, sophomore VX member, feels that VX is a good experience that all artists should partake in. She encourages other South students to take part in VX or programs like it.

“I think that more GBS students should be involved in programs like VX,” Christina said. “I think that a recording experience like this is very important for new budding artists and musicians and we have many of those at GBS.”