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Jazz group crafts album

Release of music provides students experience, merit

Published: Monday, February 17, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 15:02


George Morin / The Advocate

Music majors Stephanie Rios (right) and Selenne Hernandez (middle) are showcased on the latest album by Jazzanova and JAZZ-ology titled “Starting Here, Starting Now.”

As part of its curriculum, the music department’s jazz ensembles, Jazzanova and Jazz-Ology, are currently working on their third album, which will be released next spring.

Released in May 2013, their second CD, “Starting Here, Starting Now” was a two-year project that showcased the talent of two generations of Jazzanova and Jazz-Ology members. Jazz-Ology member and department assistant Stephanie Rios said they are currently working on releasing the album through music streaming programs such as iTunes.

The Music Building’s brand new recording studio will be used for the first time this spring to record the upcoming CD’s rhythm section. Recording for vocals will take place in Milpitas with Grammy award winning producer Bill Hare, who is also a producer for NBC’s show The Sing Off.

“We record each year — this spring, and we’ll record next spring, and we will also release next spring. It’s a two-year cycle,” music professor Dr. Stephanie Austin said. “Four groups are represented. Jazzanova and Jazz-Ology this year, and Jazzanova and Jazz-Ology next year.”

Dr. Austin said most people do not understand the financial side to releasing a CD.

“We’re not given the money to do this. We raise every single dime,” she said. According to Austin, nearly $9,500 is used to record, compared to the $25-$30,000 that low-budget CDs usually cost.

“So we’re really putting this out economically,” Austin said. Fundraising is made possible through Jazz-Ology, whose main goal is raising money for the CD.

“What’s cool about (releasing an album every two years) is that usually people who are in Jazzanova one year might be in Jazz-Ology the next year,” Jazz-Ology member Selenne Ruiz said. “So it’s really cool to hear how your voice changes.”

The process is done within a time crunch. “As far as production goes, you just have to communicate...we had a two to three week turnaround (on “Starting Here, Starting Now”),” said Rios. Communication must be precise. They must communicate with graphic designers, account managers and make sure tracks are available on time. Austin said that it took two weeks to mix, duplicate and ship their last CD, prior to it being released at their spring music showcase.

Jazz-Ology member John Matthew compared his experience to a “9mm gun with a 50 caliber bullet.” Matthew said, “I was nervous because (Hare) has recorded with award winning artists. Just to be in that recording studio was a privilege.”

The album title, “Starting Here, Starting Now,” was chosen because it was the most personal song for Jazzanova members, according to Rios. “We put the extra work into that song because it’s so emotional,” Ruiz said.

Due to the 2011-12 Jazzanova members all being Spanish speakers, Rios said they made the song their own by working together to translate and change the lyrics into Spanish. “So we opened up in Spanish and it was the most personal,” she said.

For Austin, the most difficult part of her job is the inability to pick literature for the groups in advance. She must first see who comes in, hear how they sound and find charts which will fit with their sound.

“You don’t pick the literature and then pick the group, you pick the group and then pick the literature,” she said. This keeps the groups from singing songs which do not fit who they are as vocalists.

The groups learn between four to eight pieces of music throughout the year. By March, the group decides by consensus which three or four songs they will record.

“Listening to the recording is a reward because we can never capture what we’re doing with our cell phones,” Jazz-Ology member Eben Miller said. “It has also made me appreciate the other people in my group a lot, to be able to hear their voices crystal clear.” 

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