Courtesy of Zachary Huang-Ogata
In a small room in East West Studios, the sounds of strings plucking, horns blowing and sticks dropping fill the room as a conglomeration of students from Orange County look attentively toward director Desmond Stevens before beginning to play, an opportunity provided to them through the efforts of sophomore Kevin Lu and Northwood High senior Zachary Huang-Ogata.
Lu and Huang-Ogata released a five song album entitled “Lovers Lane” on Feb. 14, covering the songs “She,” “Shallow,” “Someone in the Crowd,” “Another Day of Sun” and “A Lovely Night.” According to Lu, these songs were chosen to fit the theme of Valentine’s Day. Student musicians recorded with Voice contestant JEJ Vinson, who Lu met at a charity concert, and singer Naomi Turner.
“Obviously having the album released on all the streaming platforms is huge, and it’s great as a final result, but my main thing was just showing kids and providing students the opportunity to get into a studio and record and see what the entire process was like and also give myself an opportunity to see what producing an album was like from the producer’s standpoint,” Lu said.
From a young age, Lu and Huang-Ogata were exposed to studio recording sessions from their mutual former music teacher, Albert Wu, who was instrumental in the pair meeting. These experiences helped inspire the pair to expand their horizons from playing to producing music.
“The recording studio was such a refreshing and inspiring environment for me at the time, and I remember the sheer excitement of plugging in my headset and gazing at the endless celebrity autographs on the wall,” Huang-Ogata said. “I wanted to bring that experience back to my peers here at the high school level, so Kevin and I worked to set one of those recording projects up.”
To spread this opportunity, Lu and Huang-Ogata brought student musicians in a full orchestra of both strings and winds to play in the album. The pair opened the opportunity up to the entirety of Orange County with many of the musicians coming through Huang-Ogata’s non-profit club, Interlude, which is dedicated to providing musical opportunities to those in Orange County. Lu also asked Stevens, who leads the music department, to conduct for the group.
As some student musicians are unfamiliar with the studio music production process, being involved in this project gave students not only insight into how contemporary albums are recorded but also how their playing style differs from playing in a standard wind ensemble or string orchestra.
“I think that doing the album was a different and beneficial experience for myself as a musician because we were playing pop music instead of the normal class music,” sophomore Chloe Tjangnaka said. “It was a good opportunity to see how classical musicians work in the real world.”
The album can be found on all streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play.
This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on March 5, 2020.