Encore is the advanced middle school a cappella ensemble at Oakland School for the Arts, which is also home of five-time national high school champions Vocal Rush. Both groups are under the direction of Lisa Forkish.
Encore is made up of 12 students ages 12-14, most of whom aspire to sing with Vocal Rush down the line. This past year, the group set the bar higher than ever before.
The group committed to learning challenging arrangements (like Cold War -- originally arranged for Forkish's pro women's group, The Riveters off its album "She Don't Stop"). Encore competed for the first time and won (in a competition for high school groups). They've also connected as a group on a deeper level. These kids take their musicianship and overall group dynamic very seriously, establishing a new standard for future iterations of Encore.
OSA Encore with Vocal Rush
"When we were at the Bend A Cappella Festival, says director Lisa Forkish, "they stood out, even as the youngest group present; the adjudicators and event producers continually commented on the students' poise and professionalism. They didn't let their age define them, which I think is pretty incredible.
"Even in the studio, Bri Holland had only wonderful things to say about the way they carried themselves, taking feedback very seriously and really committing to getting the best take. She said they all finished ahead of schedule too!"
OSA Encore's Competition Set From Bend
"It was almost all of their first times recording", says producer Bri Holland. "Let alone recording by themselves with a (friendly!) stranger, and they came in with some nerves. We were recording during a particularly tragic time for the school (a recently graduated student passed away unexpectedly), so finding the right words and building the right energy as a producer was challenging.
But every single one of the Encore students had focus and ambition behind their talent and skill, and they all stepped up to the plate.
They're a really fun and adorably compassionate group of kids to work with."The editing/mixing wasn't really any different from working on groups from older age groups, except I guess that I minimized my use of bass octave.", says Holland. "I love working with Lisa- we've worked together on several projects over the years, so I feel like I understand her aesthetic at this point and it's easy peasy for us to work together.
"We recorded Encore in the same production studio inside OSA in which we record Vocal Rush. It's a narrow room wedged in between bigger music rooms, and it includes an isolated booth."
Forkish went on to say, "Ultimately, I think if we set the bar high, young people will meet us there. They want to be challenged. I even think many of them anticipate teachers and directors to expect less of them, so when you give them a challenge and let them know you believe they can overcome it and achieve what they set out to do, they are hungry to meet you there.
"It was a beautiful thing to watch this particular group knock down all the prior expectations of what Encore, a middle school group, could do. Vocal Rush cheered them on all along the way, which was also very inspiring to watch."
Don't forget these kids are in middle school; you could easily take them for a high school or even college group!
You can find the new OSA Encore tracks on iTunes.
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