In addition to my role as arranger and producer for our wedding music site, I produce music for individuals and various companies, Hal Leonard Publications being my primary corporate client. My favorite project for Hal Leonard was producing 120 of the songs for the new music curriculum that was released for public schools a few years ago, in conjunction with MacMillan McGraw Hill, Texas being the largest recipient of our joint efforts. There were many other producers employed as well in this massive endeavor. The 120 tunes was more work than I should have taken on; I called on Steve Dokken, bass player, and Sandy Williams, guitarist to help with some of the arrangements. Other rhythm players involved in these sessions were Steve Hanna and Larry Sauer on drums and percussion.
I appreciate the HL philosophy of producing school music, in that when possible, they favor using real instruments over synthesized sounds and samples. For many projects I do, that isn’t possible, so it was a real treat to have a number of sessions with the local string , woodwind, and brass players while producing the aforementioned school music project.
Recording the kids for 120 songs takes a bit of time as well – I don’t remember how long the average song took to record, but it was a LOT of hours with the kids. Mike Wilson helped with vocal production at times when I was too swamped to handle it, and he is quite comfortable and qualified producing kid vocals. Aire Born Studios and manager Nanci Milam have developed a great talent pool of younger singers over the years, due in no small part to the insistence of John Higgins and others on finding just the right voices for their projects.
The staff engineers at Aire Born (David L. Price, Ben Vawter, and Mike Wilson) are great friends, have an excellent work ethic, and are a lot of fun to hang out with. David engineers and co-produces some very cool music for Joseph Lamm, another good friend from the area who conceives and produces some very interesting electronica/pop and acoustic music. He has both a website and a mySpace page. Ben, a drummer and percussionist, gigs occasionally with Jaden Street Jazz, a band he was instrumental in getting off the ground; and on a side note I had a blast sitting in with the band at Sara Thompson’s wedding since their usual keyboard guy, Chad Hetrick, was unable to make it. And another connection I have with Ben is that I was a stand-in minister of music for a few months in 2008-2009 at his home church, Bethesda Baptist Church, in Brownsburg, Indiana, when they were in between worship leaders. Mike is the studio owner, and is always upbeat and ready with a joke if you want to hear one! The final member of the team at Aire Born is Nina – and I don’t know her last name! She’s always been just Nina…she handles record keeping and billing, and many other tasks. Nina Hunt is the correct answer….
Both Paul Lavender and John Higgins from Hal Leonard make the trek this direction from their Milwaukee headquarters for various projects; they have landed in this area because of the comfort level with the talent pool (players), contractor, and seamless integration with the recording studio I mentioned previously, Aire Born Recording Studios in Zionsville, Indiana on the Northwest side of Indy.
Some of the other projects that bring them this direction that I am involved in are their Essential Elements books and recording, teaching kids to play instruments utilizing accompaniments in every style of music known to man, and a few more(!); musicals for younger children; their premier musical each year for older students (last year it was “State Fair”), and a smattering of other session work as a player for them – orchestral and band arrangements that are to be released to schools and the like.
The last few years I have produced some of the sample choral demonstration recordings HL does as examples for the school music teachers to listen to, and in many cases the schools will use the background music without the singers for their classes and performances.
I had intended to blog about some of the other clients I’ve worked with over the years, and other kinds of sessions that I’m hired for as a keyboardist, but this one is getting rather lengthy, so I’ve changed the title of the blog, and I’ll save some of that info for another blog or article down the road.