Guildhall Jazz student Q&A

Guildhall Jazz Students recording in Milton Court Concert Hall

What was your experience of working on this project?

Francesca Confortini, postgraduate Vocal student: Working with New York voices has been such a complete experience! I feel like 2021 found us all more used to online classes and tech-savvy, but craving for something that gave us a bit of continuity. Having a series of workshops let us create a sense of community through the screen, where we managed to know the members of NYV both as an ensemble and individually. We were able to work as a team towards a recording, but also talk about vocal technique, improvisation, arranging and our future career. 

Clare and Kevin were great at facilitating our sessions, but also Peter, Darmon, Kim and Lauren were friendly, open for conversation, very patient and so down to earth! It was inspiring to chat with them, gaining a fresh perspective on the life and career of a jazz singer and sharing our ideas and projects with the rest of the class.”

Florence Pugh, postgraduate Saxophone student: It was really amazing to be involved in this project with New York voices as both a singer and instrumentalist. It’s such a fun groove to solo over on sax, and the vocal part is such a joy to sing. The saxophone part was recorded in the studio with the rhythm section and I recorded my vocals remotely at my house. I was lucky enough to be in this choir for two years so have gotten to perform this tune for live audiences and in a recorded setting which was really cool. 

One really positive thing that came from COVID was getting to work with amazing international artists such as New York voices who we may not have considered before we realised what was possible with Zoom!

Issy Owen, BMus Vocal student: This project was so much fun! Taking part in such a variety of workshops, classes and recording projects with New York Voices was such an honour - I really gained an important insight into the vocal jazz world.

Will Rees-Jones, BMus Saxophone student: My experience of this project was one of constant learning and improvement, as the quality of the music and tutelage was so good. It was really interesting to see how the songs took shape on Soundtrap after all the time spent learning the tunes.

Mark McQuillan, BMus Bass student: This was a very exciting project to be involved with, particularly in the last term of the year and in the context of the pandemic. As I was new to recording vocals, making time to record was a challenge while I was preparing for the various exams near the end of the year. Having the guys from New York Voices involved also gave the whole thing an added ‘weight’ and was particularly significant as we had sung some of their arrangements in earlier concerts this year. Both the masterclasses and feedback sessions gave me a lot to think about in terms of recording, singing and arranging.

Jonny Mosesson, postgraduate Vocal student: I found it an intense learning experience just outside my comfort zone which is where I like it. The recording process was a new one for me. Recording remotely with such a large collective, being able to compare other singers’ vocal takes, was a huge insight into variation in our approaches. It was a social experience, sort of where logic meets Facebook, and that made it all the more exciting. It did come with its challenges – having to redo takes (that I was initially happy with) and learning the best approach where such detail is required was challenging, a labour of love and a fantastic learning experience.

Nicole Petrus-Barracks, BMus Vocal student: Working with the members of New York Voices was so inspiring to me. I am such a fan as I know so many others are too, and I have so much more respect for them  now after they shared their own personal musical journeys with us.

We were so incredibly lucky to hear their opinions on vocal health, artistry (and in particular vocal artistry) and song writing! Managing to record multiple tracks with them was more than anyone could have hoped for… we are so blessed! They had such useful critical commentary and positive support on the recordings we made made as ensembles too. Such a beautiful experience! 

Mark Fincham, BMus Bass student (rhythm section): I always enjoy recording in scenarios like this one. I feel as though I can create a big impact on the music and make my own mark, without treading on anyone’s toes. Creating great music successfully when everyone is isolated from each other proves how great an art music is. What a project!

How do you feel the project helped your development as a musician?

Aitzi Cofre Real, BMus Vocal student: This was a very exciting project that engaged my focus in rehearsals and home recording. It helped me develop a constructive inter critic.

Issy Owen, BMus Vocal student: The feedback we received throughout the project was incredibly detailed and helpful, from New York Voices, but also from Kevin and Clare. I’ve gained an invaluable amount of knowledge about ensemble singing, vocal technique/ health and recording. And I’ve finally figured out how to work Zoom properly!

Tom Potter, BMus Drum student (rhythm section): I had so much fun recording drums for this project! I feel that this project has helped my recording skills as we had to read new charts and play along to a click which was a fresh and exciting experience!

Nicole Petrus-Barracks, BMus Vocal student: Critical thinking. Attention to detail. Everything this project brought to my life inspired me to work harder, record more, strive for more. It reignited a spark of passion! 

Francesca Confortini, postgraduate Vocal student: The project gave me an incentive to work on my arrangements (I had the opportunity to share something I had been working on in a workshop with Peter), it gave me some interesting tips on how to improve my vocal improv skills, but most of all it gave me the chance to work as a session singer being part of a choir, learning how to be even more flexible and paying attention to the smallest of details in order to blend well with the rest of the ensemble, which is something you don't normally do as much when you record a solo part.

Will Rees-Jones, BMus Saxophone student: The project helped my development as a musician by making me much more aware of how my voice works, how to blend with others, and seeing how great vocal arrangements are written (definitely going to steal some things from the arrangements!)

William Inscoe, Bmus Piano student: Being taught by some of the best musicians in the vocal world made me look at a different approach of musicianship and how to improve beyond basic techniques like aural, transcription etc.

What was your highlight from the project?

Jack Rennie, postgraduate Guitar student: My first highlight was Darmon’s vocal improvisation class. This was a very slick, informative and useful overview of vocal improvising in a jazz style, and it was fascinating seeing concepts I am familiar with delivered in a different way. But the top highlight has to be the final zoom ‘listening party’ where we got to listen to the finished products for the first time. I was genuinely blown away by the standard of music on show, and it was wonderful to see both our teachers and the NYVs looking equally proud and impressed. 

Aitzi Cofre Real, BMus Vocal student: Hearing the end result was absolutely amazing. Going from the beginning to the end of this project was a beautiful experience and super rewarding as we were hearing the final mix of our hard work.

Will Rees-Jones, BMus Saxophone student: My personal highlight was hearing the final mixes for the first time - Having had covid and missing out on all the fun it was really nice to see how our hard work paid off after all that time. The mixes sound absolutely amazing, and I still can’t quite believe that I’m singing on it!

Jonny Mosesson, postgraduate Vocal student: I loved the individual Zoom sessions with each of the New York Voices. It was very interesting to understand some of their processes and I definitely took away some of that information and experience with me moving forward, so it was very useful. Each of them had different strengths and personalities that came through, so there was a wealth of knowledge and experience to learn from. Amazing to be able to learn so much remotely. Thank you for a fantastic project!

William Inscoe, BMus piano student: The highlight of the project for me was the song writing class with Peter Eldridge. It’s really encouraged me to write more compositions and how to write them effectively.

Mark McQuillan, BMus Bass student: My highlight from the project was the masterclass with Peter Eldridge on song reinvention. It was interesting to hear Peter talk about his own process. The post-production session with Nick Girard was also quite illuminating with regards to what happens to a vocal track after it’s recorded.

Belle Haswell, Vocal Fellow: A highlight for me was seeing the progression and development in both the relationships forged and the project itself. It was great to meet with them over a longer period, rather than a one-off workshop. Thank you to all involved in making it happen!