Every May, the four a cappella groups of Princeton High School begin their month-long objective to record, construct, and sell CDs. These CDs are a culmination of their progress and musical growth throughout the year, as well as a display of their various soloists and song choices. In addition, CDs are the main source of income for the groups at PHS, making them an integral part of the fundraising agenda.
The recording process is complicated and lengthy, explained Caitlyn Bongiovi ’14 of Cat’s Meow, PHS’s sole PHS Choir-affiliated, all-female a cappella group. “We spend two or three days recording in the band room, [and] everyone has their own mics; we spend usually two to three hours [each day] recording all of our songs.”
Often, important aspects of a CD such as tone quality and blend can be difficult to achieve using recording equipment, said Zoe Resnick ’14 of Cloud Nine, PHS’s all-female, non–Choir-affiliated a cappella group. “For the past few years, we have been standing in a circle and singing, but this year we are doing group mics, so it should be easier mixing and blending everyone together,” she said. Groups attempt to find the best combination of voices, voice parts, and microphones to produce the best recorded sound.
Connections are also an important element to consider when finding people to record and produce CDs; recording costs of CDs are the main expense of groups. Cloud Nine records its CDs in the home of an elementary school teacher whose husband owns the necessary equipment. Even with this relationship, Cloud Nine still pays $1,000 to record and an additional $600 to have the CD edited and produced.
Equipment and scheduling can prove to be a problem for some groups. “[In] previous years … we had a member who had access to recording equipment … This year, [we don’t],” said Matthew Tam ’14 of the Testostertones, PHS’s only all-male, non–Choir-affiliated group. Tam is not sure how the Tones will go about recording this year.
Close connections, however, can completely eliminate recording costs. Caitlyn Bongiovi’s father is PHS Band director Joe Bongiovi, so Cat’s Meow has free access to school recording equipment. “Fortunately for us, [it does not cost money to record], but the other groups do have to pay their recording person,” said Caitlyn Bongiovi.
Furthermore, the lengthy process can help members of a group get to know each other better. “The recording process takes a long time, and we spend a lot of time with each other,” said Erin Forden ’14 of Around Eight, the PHS co-ed, Choir-affiliated a cappella group. This togetherness is crucial to the success of an a cappella group, as cooperation can be the key to a good performance.
Even if that standout performance is not produced during performances with audiences, recording a CD can give an opportunity for a display of the group’s talent by letting the singers take time to reach perfection. “[Recording a CD] is a way to get really good versions of our songs out there so people can hear what we can actually do,” said Forden. The CDs also allow family members and friends to hear songs that they would not otherwise be able to hear outside of events.
Depending on the specific a cappella group, funds raised go towards different things. “Since we’re not Choir-affiliated, the money is actually accumulated,” said Tam. “When the school year finishes, we distribute all of the cash amongst the seniors.”
In other groups, funds are used to produce CDs the following year. “The money goes to the CDs that we make the next year,” said Resnick. “It’s all about the CDs.”