With the help of a few microphones, technicians and a recording studio, some UCF musicians get the chance to have their name on professionally produced and charted albums, all before they graduate.
Flying Horse Records, UCF’s jazz record label, started in 2009 as a way to give students an outlet to record and gain insight into the professional world of music.
“We wanted the students to have an outlet to record, and then not just make a vanity record that you would give to your mom and dad, but a record where they actually see how the record industry works,” said Jeff Rupert, founder of the label and director of jazz studies at UCF.
Flying Horse Records also takes care of the licensing and copyrighting necessary to produce a record, which gives the students experience beyond performing.
“It’s really set up as an integrated teaching mechanism, where the students learn not only about the recording side of it but also the business side of it,” Rupert said. “The students help get the record out and promote it and they understand the whole inner-workings of making a record.”
Two groups, The Jazz Professors and the Flying Horse Big Band perform on the albums. The Big Band is comprised of about 17 jazz ensemble students.
The record label has produced six albums so far and currently is in the planning stage for another album, Rupert said. The Jazz Professors, in which Rupert performs alongside other UCF jazz professors, reached No. 29 on JazzWeek’s charts in August with the Monet-inspired album En Plein Air.
The latest Big Band album, Into the Mystic, features remakes of songs by rock artists such as The Beatles, Van Morrison and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, as well as jazz artists including Charlie Parker and Al Cohn.
Senior Ryan Flint, who played lead trombone on the album, said he first heard about the recording of an album during his first semester in the ensemble class. Over the course of that fall 2013 semester, the Big Band narrowed down the track list from approximately 50 charts before focusing on the songs the class wanted to put on the album.
“I’m a performance major, which is more of the classical side, but with the way it is today, you want to be as versatile as possible,” Flint said. “That’s why every semester I’ve been here, I’ve played in the jazz band.”
The Big Band spent nine hours in the recording studio working on its last album, with constant playing and re-recording in between.
Flint, whose been playing the trombone for 10 years, said he was not used to playing that long, non-stop.
“If you show up to record something, you have to be on. Nothing matters other than you being there and playing the way that they want you to play. If you wake up late that morning or had some bad seafood the night before, whatever, it doesn’t matter,” Flint said. “You’ve got to show up and play.”
Alex Lewis, a senior jazz studies major who played trumpet on the album, described the experience as interesting and valuable.
“We went in there and I learned that it takes a lot of coordination,” he said. “The time in the studio is very valuable. If you mess up, you’re paying for that time.”
For students such as Flint and Lewis who wish to pursue music professionally Flying Horse Records provides an opportunity to not only gain priceless knowledge, but also get a foot in the door of the industry.
“The main thing is we’re trying to teach relevancy. I don’t want our students to just be living in a vacuum and not have a clue how to make a living,” Rupert said.
After their releases, the albums are played on radio stations worldwide. They are additionally available for purchase on channels such as iTunes, Spotify and Rhapsody, as well as flyinghorserecords.com.
“It’s very nice to be able to tell my family that I’m on a record that was professionally produced,” Lewis said. “It’s cool to be able to have a copy of something that’s out in the world right now that I am on. I feel that it’s very validating for the work that I’ve done and put into music.”
Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com.