By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Since joining the Marlborough High School (MHS) faculty as choral director in 2008, Shannon Phypers has shared her passion for musical performance with many students. This school year, her interest in recording led to the construction of a studio, where a music production class has been added to the curriculum. Fourteen students in grades 10 through 12 spent the first semester learning to record two songs, which they performed a cappella.
The first completed effort of these students, known as “MHS MusicProd: In the Making,” is a song titled “Take a Walk,” now available on iTunes.
“I couldn's be more pleased,” Phypers said of her students” accomplishments. “You give kids the opportunity to rise to an occasion, and they exceed your expectations every time.”
Phypers became interested in recording while in college and later recorded albums for local groups.
“It's cool to perform live, but the recorded art form is something very different,” she said. “You have technology at your fingertips and you can do all sorts of great things.”
She's particularly fond of performing and recording a cappella.
“A cappella challenges you to really be creative, to interpret something in a new way that nobody else has thought of before,” she said.
Phypers proposed the idea of a music production class to the school administration last year, prior to attending a one-week seminar in San Francisco titled “Soup to Nuts: Recording A Cappella.” The seminar was instructed by Bill Hare, a Grammy Award-winning producer, and Deke Sharon, who worked as a producer and vocal coach for NBC-TV's a cappella competition, “The Sing-Off.” Phypers and six other participants produced two songs within an intense schedule of five days including all-nighters.
“It was the best professional development I'se ever had because it was so immersive,” she said.
Her professional development time was well spent. The administration decided to introduce a music production class this school year. A classroom was transformed into a recording studio equipped with a sound booth, which was fully operational by late September.
“I wanted the kids to be working with professional-grade materials,” Phypers said. “When they graduate and go to study recording engineering at a college or maybe go right into the work field and start doing recordings, they would be using the same materials that they used here.”
She's grateful for the support received from the administration.
“I already knew that Marlborough supports music, but this is such a grand gesture and I feel such incredible support from the administration,” she said. “One of the things that appealed to the administration is that it's not just a music class; we'se dealing with collaboration. One of the art students made the cover art for the single. And we'sl be collaborating with a marketing student, who will help us market the song to the student body.”
Also, plans are underway for members of the audio-visual club to produce a music video to promote their first release.
Phypers sees similarities between the class and the seminar she attended with her peers.
“The environment is similar in that everyone is really excited,” she said. “When you get a bunch of people together in a room and they'se all excited about what they'se doing, then it makes the creative and learning process a lot more fun.”
Her goal as a teacher is for the students to become self-sufficient musically.
“As long as they have the equipment, they now can go out there and make music on their own,” she said. “They can now be music makers beyond school.”
To download their first recorded song, go to itunes.apple.com/us/album/take-a-walk/id591969744?i=591969937&ign-mpt=uo%3D4.