National Touring Group Performs, Then Records with BVU Students

(story by Tim Gallagher)

In addition to having the opportunity to perform with Cantus, students in the Buena Vista University Vista Chamber Singers spent a morning practicing with members of the nationally acclaimed men’s a capella group, enjoying a two-hour clinic setting that culminated with a recording of the BVU Alma Mater as performed by the Vista Chamber Singers and Cantus.

Music production majors working in a new state-of-the-art studio in Lage Communications Center recorded the session under the direction of Aaron Eastwood, Assistant Professor of Music Production.

The free concert and clinic were part of BVU’s Doris Grau Concert Series, which is made possible through gifts shared by the late Doris Grau.

“This was an awesome experience,” said Maddie Gradowski, a sophomore elementary education major from Schaumburg, Ill. “Members of Cantus introduced us to some strategies to help us get us to where we maybe haven’t been when it comes to vocal performance.”

“I loved being able to help record the session,” said Laura Bunge, a junior music production major from Hiawatha. “Having the experience of recording our BVU Choir as it worked with a professional group is going to help me because this is exactly what I want to do in the future.”

Cantus, which is heard across the U.S. on classical public radio, aims to preserve and deepen a commitment to music education in the schools, a mission illustrated throughout their day-and-a-half stay on the BVU campus.

“We’ve never done an outreach quite like this, going from performing a concert and then working with students to record a piece,” said Paul Scholtz, a member of Cantus for seven years. “It is fun seeing students growing through their performance and on the recording side as well.”

After delivering a free concert with the BVU Concert Choir and Storm Lake High School choir members in Schaller Chapel on a Sunday afternoon, members of Cantus spent the evening in Storm Lake, and then spent Monday morning working with Eastwood and Christopher Phalen, Director of Choral Activities, as BVU students sang and eagerly put into practice tips and strategies from the pros.

Cantus baritone Jeremy Wong, for example, asked BVU students to widen their stance and lower their torso during one part of their practice sessions. “When you bend your knees, you are forced to engage your support musculature,” he said. “I challenge you to think about and become more connected to the area around your waist when you rehearse.”

“Asking us to get our whole body engaged while we sing was very helpful,” Gradowski said.

“Opportunities like this might be once-in-a-lifetime for some students,” said Phalen. “At BVU, thanks to supporters like the late Doris Grau, our students may experience these kinds of performances and hands-on clinics each year. It helps Aaron and I as we constantly seek to build upon strategies that we learn from professionals who perform all over the country and the world.”

Eastwood concluded the session by thanking Cantus members. “It has been wonderful to see and hear how you work with our students, both those who sing and those who are on the other side of the glass in our recording studio,” he said.

“It was our pleasure to perform and work with you,” said Cantus tenor Jacob Christopher. “Plus, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset on Storm Lake. This is a very cool place!”