New recording studio features room(s) with a view
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
There are canyons, and then there’s the Grand Canyon. There are recording studios, and then there’s the new one for students at Grand Canyon University.
As recording studios go, this one is a lot like the Grand Canyon — including the view.
“It’s one of the bigger studios I’ve seen in my career,” said GCU Center for Worship Arts Director Bart Millard, who as the longtime lead singer for the popular Christian band MercyMe has spent thousands of hours in such venues. “There are bigger ones, but they’re rare. Most of them are cubbyholes, and most people are doing their songs in rooms that are about the size of broom closets.”
Monday, at the dedication of the new jewel on the fourth floor of the engineering building, Millard and GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller welcomed local church leaders into a space that will give students plenty of room to produce more work like the Canyon Worship EP that they created last spring. An appreciative audience that filled the studio’s main room got to hear those three songs performed live by the students who did the original recordings. (Click here for a slideshow of Monday’s event.)
Anyone who was there probably couldn’t help but notice that all the rooms have windows, providing a panoramic view of the Valley. Again, this is not normal.
“I don’t know of any other studio that has this kind of windows to look out through while you’re creating,” said Eric Johnson, hired by GCU this summer to be the studio’s manager. “Most studios are dark and cave-like. This one is open and inspirational.”
Students got a sneak preview of the studio late Friday night, when MercyMe also did a special acoustic concert for them.
“Everybody was blown away by how massive it is,” said Tanner Krenz, one of the three students, along with Desiree Aguilar and Maddison Harris, who performed their Canyon Worship EP solos Monday. “We’d heard it would be one of the largest studios in North America, but to actually see it made a lot of students even happier to be part of the program.”
It’s a program that is growing rapidly — the number of students has more than doubled since the CWA began for the 2014-15 school year — and Millard noted in his remarks to the audience that the talent level of the freshman class is every bit as good as that of the first group of students, “but there are a lot more of them.”
Tim Beal of Cornerstone Church in Chandler, who spoke at Chapel last week, was back this time to get a look at the new studio.
“Unreal,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it wasn’t this.”
And that feeling matches what he thought of the music he heard at Chapel, which the guests Monday also were invited to attend. They got to hear another spirited performance from one of the three Chapel bands.
“I’ve been in churches all over the place,” Beal said, “and that’s better worship than people who get paid for it.”
Another visitor, Fr. Bradley LePage of St. John the Baptist in Laveen, said, “This is what the church needs — to get more young people into ministry. It looks like a lot of people put a lot of work into this, and it’s really edifying to see that.”
That’s the mission of Millard, Worship Arts Coordinator John Frederick and Dr. Jason Hiles, dean of the College of Theology — to turn out quality Christian worship music. Hiles observed that even Theology students who aren’t in the Worship Arts program can benefit if they are artistically talented “and just want to hang out and see, ‘What does a soundboard do?’”
And now, with the new recording studio, there are plenty of things to see and plenty of room for everyone. The studio has three band practice rooms, five isolation rooms, a control room and a live room for Studio A, a smaller Studio B room, a collaboration lounge in which students can relax while working on songs or just hanging out, and three offices.
But this is just the start. While Millard said Monday, “I never dreamed I’d be part of something like this,” he also dreams of the program’s continued growth.
“The first students last year, the program literally was being built around them,” he said. “When after the first year students were saying, ‘It was one of the best years of my life,’ we knew we had something. But it’s actually scary for me because it made me think, ‘What are we going to do when we know what we’re doing?’”
One thing they do know: They’re already creating a sizable legacy at GCU, and the Canyon Worship EP and the new studio are tangible proof. But the intangibles are in plain sight as well.
Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.