The holidays arrived early in Astoria this year for a group of high schools students with dreams of becoming professional musicians.
Members of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts a cappella concert choir were invited on Monday to record two holiday songs at one of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ recording studios and one of the largest in the city, KAS Music & Sound.
The invitation came through Kaufman Astoria Studios and the nonprofit Exploring the Arts, which was founded by Tony Bennett, who also founded the high school.
The group of about 55 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, recorded “Silver Bells” and an arrangement of “Deck the Halls.”
Joe Castellon, executive director of KAS Music & Sound, oversaw the recording and gave his tips to the young aspiring singers. Once he has finished editing the two songs, Castellon will give the music back to the school, which will then decide what will be done with it.
“We’ve done it twice before and it gets better every time,” said Castellon. “It’s great because you are seeing them just right at the beginning and their first exposure to it.”
He said that the students’ excitement is palpable: “With the students it’s great because you get to feel that.”
The high school’s concert choir teacher and one of the founding members of the school, Heidi Best, led the group during the recording and hopes this experience gave the students a taste of what it really means to record their music at a professional studio.
“[Recording] is a very different animal,” Best said. “’[The students] are thrilled because they know this is a big deal, and it’s really good for them because they get to hear themselves and the things they don’t really think about and it gives them a keener sense of performing.”
For some of the students who participated last year it was a chance to return to the studio, but for others it was the first time they had walked into a studio and shared the same equipment that has been used by musicians such as Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.
“It was exciting because it’s something most of us haven’t done,” said 17-year-old Feyjon Cobos, a senior at the high school who first stepped into the studio two years ago with another choir at the school.
“It’s nostalgic but very thrilling,” said Bruce Jimenez, 16, a junior who has also recorded before. “It was very fun. I wish I could do it again.”
This was 17-year-old Paola Solis’ first time recording in a studio, and she said it was exciting to get the opportunity.
“I’ve recorded, but like on an iPod,” Solis said smiling. “It’s really amazing to be here in an actual studio.”
The group of students will be performing the songs at the MetLife Building in Manhattan next Monday and at the school’s winter concert on Dec. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m.