Malibu High School musicians record at professional studio

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Malibu High School band members pose with employees at Bandrika Studios. The MHS contingent went to the Tarzana recording facility, actually recording a song and learning how the recording process goes. Contributed Photo

MHS band members take inspiring field trip to Bandrika Studios in Tarzana

It was a field trip that will be remembered for a lifetime. Twenty-four high school musicians from the Malibu High School band spent a day at a professional recording studio, not just for a tour of the beautiful facility, but to actually have a recording session where LA’s top musicians and award-winning composers record scores for movies and television. 

The MHS musicians, led by Band Director John Kibler, were hosted in March at Bandrika Studios in Tarzana. 

After just a few months of rehearsal, amid school assignments and playing for the MHS production of “Mean Girls,” the teens pulled off an unbelievable performance of the jazz fusion classic “Spain” by Chick Corea in what Kibler called “a totally professional style recording session.” 

Kibler, a professional musician and band teacher at MHS since 2018, said this was one of the best learning experiences for the young musicians. “This is something you’ll find yourself in if you become a musician if you’re interested,” he said.

The MHS recording session was set up just like a professional booking. Every musician had their own microphone and headphones. The band’s drummer was isolated in another room as is standard practice. 

“The equipment and everything was totally top-notch, super-pro,” Kibler noted. “I think having each kid with a mic in front of them ups their concentration, focus, and level of playing. It really turned out well, and they got to see it all come together. We put in the work rehearsing the song, but then we did a few takes, took a break, did some over-dubbing where we layered some other sounds on top of what we previously recorded, and it was really fun to see the whole process come together.”

The students then were allowed into the control room to see first-hand computers and recording equipment that the engineers used to record their piece. The kids were able to see and hear their work edited and the process of music production. 

“The beginning is from take one, the ending from take four,” Kibler explained. “Music production is not just performance. It (a studio experience) exposes them to all these different career paths in music. You don’t just have to play an instrument. You can be a recording engineer or an editor.”

Amar Taha a 17-year-old trumpet player raved about the experience. The MHS senior said, “Recording in a professional studio was an amazing experience. I felt like a professional musician. For example, noticing all the high-tech equipment, observing the professionalism of the producers, and doing multiple takes of our song Spain by Chick Corea (arranged by Paul Murtha). 

Bandrika is certainly an experience I won’t forget.”

Lulu Goode, 16, a sophomore flutist, said, “The band trip to Bandrika was an amazing experience. Actually recording the song was so cool, recording and re-recording different pieces of the song was a new and super great experience. We also got to learn about and see super cool instruments, and that is something that I will never forget.” 

One of the most unusual instruments the group heard was the studio’s undoubted gem, a 1928 Wurlitzer organ. The nearly 100-year-old instrument is not only rare, it has 1,366 pipes and a host of percussion instruments, all triggered from its console. The organ, that was commissioned by Fox Studios, can be heard in hundreds of movies from the silent era through its residence at Fox until 1997. The Bandrika Studios was built around the massive instrument. 

Parent and trip sponsor Evyen Klean, whose son plays keyboards in the band, called Bandrika a “musical museum of super cool instruments.” He called the trip “fantastic.” Kibler described the studio and experience with the students as “super cool and amazing.”

But the real amazing part was the talented young musicians. Kibler applauded his musicians, saying, “This year we have one of the best bands we’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s so supportive and positive this year with everything we do. We’ve been doing a lot more projects, and everybody’s so enthusiastic. They keep each other in check. It operates like a community and democracy when deciding what to play. We talk about it. I’m super excited with this high school group and their level of playing the,ir ability to meet challenges, and their enthusiasm for new things. It’s really great.”

To see and hear the kids’ amazing performance, visit drive.google.com/file/d/1lef-dAP95dQnI9q14nyvbnRCRH3qJOsc/view?usp=drivesdk