It’s an aspect of music we listeners rarely consider: what goes on behind the recorded performances of our favorite vocalists or instrumentalists to make sure the tunes we love are pleasant to the ear and consistent in tone, volume and levels.
BU students Rebecca Dressler, Coal Township, and Reed Lehman, Bloomsburg, were responsible for these aspects and more as they mixed and mastered all tracks on The Clickard Consortium’s new CD, “Dança do Papagaio,” during summer 2016. The Clickard Consortium is a 10-musician jazz band led by Stephen Clickard, chair of BU’s department of music, theatre and dance, and director of both BU’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts and the Jazz Ensemble. Guest musicians on the new CD are saxophonists Nate Harbaugh, a senior marketing major and music minor from Edwardsville, Pa. and recent BU graduate in music, Charlie Bryant, Philadelphia.
Clickard says the CD already was planned when he was selected to receive the first Jack and Helen Evans Endowed Faculty Fellowship. Established as part of BU’s It’s Personal campaign, the two-year fellowship includes an annual award stipend of $2,500 to augment scholarship and create professional and applied learning opportunities for students.
“The fellowship came as a surprise,” Clickard says. “Producing the CD fit well within the fellowship’s goals, allowing me to further my professional activities while helping students further their career goals through faculty/student collaboration.”
The jazz, swing and Latin tunes on the CD are Clickard’s original compositions and his arrangements of songs in the public domain. The CD’s title track, which translates to “Dance of the Parrots,” is a nod to the Clickard family’s aviary of 15 birds and their red-winged macaw who danced on the piano as the song was composed. The song, in a Baião feel, evokes the macaw’s native homeland of northern Brazil.
The students were responsible for producing a recording that conveyed “my conception of the pieces as they were written and performed” while conforming to industry standards, Clickard says, working directly with the musicians and behind the scenes.
“One night, The Clickard Consortium came to the studio to be recorded,” says Dressler, a dual major in audio video recording and music. “Reed (Lehman) and I were in charge of choosing and placing microphones, setting up the recording software, getting microphone levels and the actual recording. Later that month, we mixed and mastered that track, ‘In the After Rain.’ The whole process has helped me prepare for my professional career.”
“As a musician, it takes thousands of hours of practice to even start to reach mastery,” adds Lehman, who is majoring in audio video recording. “The same concept goes for mixing. I think Rebecca and I spent 90 to 100 hours in the studio. All of that time translates into skills gained.”
Both members of BU’s Jazz Ensemble, Dressler and Lehman came away from the production experience with a bonus – a new perspective on performing. “When we were mixing the album, we had to listen to all of the parts separately to make sure they sounded their best, then we had to switch focus to see how they sounded in the big picture with the full ensemble,” Lehman says. “As a member of the Jazz Ensemble, I need to focus on my job and making sure I sound my best, but I also need to focus on what I contribute to the ensemble as a whole.”
Working on “Dança do Papagaio” gave the students experience conceptualizing a full album and carrying that concept through from tune to tune, Clickard says. “They now have that experience … along with professional credit on the recording.”
“Dança do Papagaio” is available through Amazon.com, iTunes and CDBaby.com. •
Bonnie Martin recently retired as editor of Bloomsburg: The University Magazine.