GCU’s New Life Singers to Release Album at Thunderground Party
Story by Doug Carroll
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Ask Gabe Salazar about his new baby, and he’s apt to respond, “Which one?”
There’s little Colton, born to Salazar and his wife, opera singer Amber Wagner, in early June. And then there’s “Captivate,” an album of contemporary Christian worship music, which officially will be born next Thursday when it is available on iTunes and Amazon and celebrated at a release party in Thunderground on the Grand Canyon University campus.
The album was recorded after the end of last school year by GCU’s New Life Singers, the 16-voice ensemble led by Salazar, the University’s campus worship director.
Those accustomed to the group’s a cappella concert performances are in for a big surprise.
“Captivate” sounds like a Hillsong-style praise album, replete with the crunching guitars and booming drums of the Nashville session musicians who played on it. Its professional quality is stunning. Past and present members of New Life heard the finished product for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, along with representatives of GCU’s executive team.
“It’s even better than I expected,” said Jonelle Borowy, the only member remaining from the first version of New Life in 2010, who has a powerful solo on “Everything to Me,” one of 10 songs on the album. Seven tracks were played at Wednesday’s preview.
“It’s hard to integrate a choir into an album,” Borowy said. “The way it was mixed turned out very well. A lot of work was put into this.”
“Captivate” was recorded in a studio at Church for the Nations in Phoenix and produced by BJ Putnam, the church’s worship pastor, who is well-known in Christian music circles. The album consists of five original songs and five covers, running 51 minutes.
From the rocking “Song of Freedom” to the slow-building “Great I Am” to the power-ballad title track written by four GCU students, “Captivate” does indeed captivate.
“This is really impressive, and we’re proud of what you’ve done,” Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and CEO, told the group. “It’s inspirational to listen to this…. What you do in representing the University and the God we share is important.”
Third-year New Life member Aaron Walth said the growth of the group has been significant since he joined.
“There’s a lot more maturity and a sense of responsibility,” Walth said. “Last year and this year, especially, everyone’s really invested. It’s an incredible time commitment, and if you didn’t want it, you’d be miserable.”
New Life gave more than 100 performances in 2012-13, many of them at high schools and churches throughout the Southwest. It wasn’t easy to squeeze in an album after that, yet Salazar saw to it, even working in the studio the week his son was born.
“Gabe puts 150 percent into this,” Borowy said. “He’s the reason we’re here. He’s a perfectionist who requires hard work, and he’s an awesome guy.”
Salazar, 29, was a member of the President’s Singers — the four-part-harmony group that preceded New Life — during his undergraduate days at GCU.
The album “was a long time waiting, a dream come true,” he said. “The biggest request we get (at performances) is: ‘Do you have a CD for sale?’ Now we do.
“To look back at where (New Life) was the first day and to be where we are now, it’s more than I could imagine. An album isn’t cheap to make — it’s a big investment — but we’re really supported here.”
The CD-release party for “Captivate” will start at 7 p.m. next Thursday. New Life will perform, and copies of the album will be available. Downloading on iTunes and Amazon will be possible the same day, Salazar said.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].