Students’ Grand Collective album has touch of aloha

August 26, 2021 / by / 0 Comment
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By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

The Grand Collective is, first and foremost, a victory for God, who surely is smiling at the 31 Grand Canyon University students who worked on the inaugural album.

But “Hymns of Hope” is also a huge win for those students, who did it all.

“Student-led, student-produced, student-engineered, student-mixed, student-performed, student-written,” said Eric Johnson, Manager of the GCU Recording Studio. Even the song videos and artwork were by students.

It’s a victory for collaboration. Each of the six pieces (five songs and one prelude) has a different band.

“It was really cool seeing the little groups form between people who hadn’t known each other,” said Joseph Vaught, who managed the project along with his Executive Leadership team: Johnson and students or recent graduates Taryn Nellermoe, Nicole Raum, Saiki Roy and Desiree Aguilar.

And then there was another aspect of Johnson’s brainchild, available on Spotify and Apple Music, that was another big W:

It was a victory for diversity.

The third song on the album, an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art,” was inspired by Josias “Pili” Fronda, a sophomore from Oahu, Hawaii. The well-known song is “Ke Akua Mana Ē” in the language of the islands, and the Collective version includes various Hawaiian elements, including the guitar, drum (called “ipu”) and two portions in Hawaiian near the end – Fronda reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Kailee Chatters singing the chorus.

The process started as Fronda was getting ready to drift off to sleep one night in his home on Oahu. But when he saw Vaught’s Facebook post inviting students to submit ideas for the Collective, he bolted out of bed, went right to his desk and started writing down ideas.

“It was a chance to stop talking about diversity and actually do something about it,” said Fronda, who went to a high school for students with at least some Hawaiian ancestry and had one of the higher percentages (50%). “Anytime I’m given the opportunity to stop talking about diversity and do something about it, I think that’s an opportunity I have to take.”

His first mission was to consult other people he knows in the Hawaiian music scene.

Josias “Pili” Fronda gave “How Great Thou Art” a Hawaiian touch.

“Is this something that would be culturally appropriate and a way that we can appreciate the culture, make it more of a universal kind of thing?” he asked them.

“Especially at a time when it’s easy to see the bright side of Hawaii – the beaches and the nice hotels. It hurts my heart to see the other side of Hawaii, where the cost of living is too high and the minimum wage is too low. People who are my age and graduated high school have to leave Hawaii to do what they want to do.”

He went through about a dozen drafts over the course of two to three months. It had to be just right.

“How do we make it sound familiar while also giving it something that means a lot to me and to my people?” he kept asking himself. “I was just trying to show Hawaiian culture in a way that’s appropriate and correct but in a way that’s translatable and we can understand it.

“I wound up turning it into a love letter to the fact that we still can worship, but it doesn’t always need to be in a familiar format.”

The attention to detail didn’t stop there. He worked with Colter Bonaroti to make sure the Hawaiian piano sounds were just right. Fronda, a drummer in the Thundering Heard Pep Band and an assistant to the director, Dr. Paul Koch, played the drums in the song, naturally. Chatters also is from Hawaii and has some knowledge of the islands’ language, so that helped.

Preserving the beautiful Hawaiian language and culture also is important to Fronda, whose nickname is short for Pilināmakaika’oia’i’o Ka’upu. He points out something a lot of people don’t know: The language was banned from schools and government after the U.S. took over in the late 1800s and wasn’t reintroduced until many years later.

 “The fact that something can come out of Arizona in the correct Hawaiian language made people back at home weep,” said Fronda, who once took a music class in which Hawaiian was the only language spoken.

There are plenty of other genres – folk, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, indie and bluegrass on the album. But that wasn’t the only way that the project sought to be as diverse and inclusive as possible for Worship Arts students – an alternative to the annual Canyon Worship album, professionally produced and oriented more to corporate worship.

“It’s not that we wanted a ‘B’ project, a second project. It’s that we wanted to have a place where students who wouldn’t necessarily have a motivation to get on a Canyon Worship album would have a place to go,” Johnson said.

The Collective does include the work of many Canyon Worship veterans – Vaught, Travis Hathaway, Amanda Riffe, Madison Russell, Chris Calderon, Logan Myers, Nicole Raum, Taryn Nellermoe and Elaina Marchegger. But the collaboration is something they can’t stop celebrating as they look ahead to doing another album, hopefully by February.

From the victory of the Hawaiian touches to “How Great Thou Art” …

“This project has been insane, just to work with people willing to produce a dream and one that has never been done before in this way,” Fronda said.

To the overall vibe …

“It was just cool seeing so many people put so much into the project and watching it come together,” Vaught said.

To sharing it …

“It’s blessing enough that all of the students who were involved in it got to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Johnson said. “Now that we’ve been blessed by it, we want it to bless others.”

… There were victories all the way around. God’s smile grows wider.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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THE GRAND COLLECTIVE 2021

Executive Leadership: Eric Johnson, Joseph Vaught, Taryn Nellermoe, Nicole Raum, Saiki Roy, Desiree Aguilar

Marketing: Elaina Marchegger, Logan Myers, Sarah Henley, Joseph Vaught

Album artwork: Connor Wolfe

“Tis So Sweet/I Surrender All”

  • Producer: Travis Hathaway
  • Co-producer: Joseph Vaught
  • Recording engineers: Joseph Vaught, John McJunkin, Eric Johnson
  • Mix engineer: John McJunkin
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Drums: Justin Johnstone
  • Bass: Brennan Smith
  • Electric guitar: Corban Figueroa
  • Acoustic guitar: Travis Hathaway
  • Keys: Travis Hathaway
  • Programming: Joseph Vaught and Travis Hathaway
  • Vocals: Travis Hathaway and Nicole Jasperse
  • Gang vocals: Nicole Raum, Taryn Nellermoe, Tim Hesman, Jaelyn Brown

“Blessed Assurance/Nothing but the Blood”

  • Producer: Madison Russell
  • Co-producer: Joseph Vaught
  • Recording engineers: Joseph Vaught and John McJunkin
  • Mix engineer: Joseph Vaught
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Drums: Saiki Roy
  • Bass: Brennan Smith
  • Electric guitar: Tim Remy
  • Acoustic guitar: Madison Russell
  • Keys: Tim Hesman
  • Programming: Joseph Vaught and Tim Hesman
  • Vocals: Madison Russell and Tim Hesman
  • Gang vocals: Austin Bratton, Trina Beecher, Nicole Jasperse, Logan Myers, Daniel Floring, Colter Bonaroti, Chandler Blue, Amanda Riffe, Philip Star

“How Great Thou Art”

  • Producer: Pili Fronda
  • Co-producer: Joseph Vaught
  • Recording engineers: Joseph Vaught, John McJunkin, Daniel Floring
  • Mix engineer: John McJunkin
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Drums: Pili Fronda
  • Percussion: Pili Fronda
  • Bass: Brennan Smith
  • Electric guitar: Tim Remy
  • Acoustic guitar: Joseph Vaught
  • Keys: Colter Bonaroti
  • Programming: Joseph Vaught
  • Vocals: Kailee Chatters and Austin Bratton
  • Spoken word: Pili Fronda

“Holy Holy Holy/Doxology”

  • Producer: Austin Bratton
  • Co-producer: Joseph Vaught
  • Recording engineer: Joseph Vaught and John McJunkin
  • Mix engineer: John McJunkin
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Drums: Micah Crandell
  • Bass: Brennan Smith
  • Electric guitar: Joseph Vaught
  • Acoustic guitar: Austin Bratton
  • Keys: Nicole Swartz
  • Programming: Joseph Vaught and Nicole Swartz
  • Vocals: Austin Bratton and Trina Beecher
  • Gang vocals: Madison Russell, Nicole Jasperse, Logan Myers, Daniel Floring, Colter Bonaroti, Chandler Blue, Amanda Riffe, Philip Star

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Prelude)

  • Producer: Gabby Kim
  • Recording engineer: John McJunkin
  • Mix engineer: John McJunkin
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Piano: Gabby Kim

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

  • Producer: Chris Calderon
  • Recording engineers: Joseph Vaught, John McJunkin, Chris Calderon, Eric Johnson
  • Mix engineer: Chris Calderon
  • Mastering engineer: John McJunkin
  • Bass: Brennan Smith
  • Electric guitar: Corban Figueroa and Chris Calderon
  • Keys: Chris Calderon
  • Programming: Chris Calderon
  • Vocals: Amanda Riffe and Madison Russell
  • Spoken word: Tyler Villines
  • Gang vocals: Nicole Raum, Logan Myers, Taryn Nellermoe, Chandler Kruse, Travis Hathaway, Austin Bratton, Trina Beecher, Nicole Jasperse, Logan Myers, Daniel Floring, Colter Bonaroti, Chandler Blue, MacGregor Young, Brennan Smith, Phillip Star

 ****

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GCU Today: As 2020 album soars, The Grand Collective takes off

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GCU Today: From Chapel to Canyon Worship, her ministry heals

GCU Today: Marchegger feels right at home in spiritual journey

GCU Today: Blue’s Canyon Worship song is part of her nature

GCU Today: Her Canyon Worship wait ends with ‘In the Waiting’

GCU Today: Like her brother, Russell stars on Canyon Worship

GCU Today: Jasperse brings folksy sound to Canyon Worship

GCU Today: Mondello scores in 1st (and last) Canyon Worship try

GCU Today: Vaught’s Canyon Worship 2021 song makes waves

GCU Today: Bratton puts a lot of faith in his songwriting


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