Many of the singers on "A Holiday Spotlight" never heard their vocals recorded in a song before, said musician and producer Tim Herron.
One of the vocalists, a student at Auburn's Spotlight Studio named Colleen, broke into tears when she heard her voice accompanied by Herron's instrumental work on one of the holiday tracks.
"The reaction that I got after I played them was unbelievable. Some of them were crying," Herron said. "They never heard their voice recorded like that."
Comprised of 13 classic holiday tunes, the album will be officially released and available for purchase Friday, Dec. 6, during an album launch party at the 39 Genesee St. studio as part of Auburn's First Friday programming for December.
Herron teaches a class at the studio called Spotlight 360, and acts as music director for the Spotlight Showcase, a monthly live performance by his students. The Spotlight Studio, which is part of Arc of Seneca Cayuga, is a space for people with disabilities to take classes that focus on creative activities, like Herron's.
Though Herron has taught many of the students for years, "A Holiday Spotlight" is the first album they made together. He said they were "ecstatic" when he brought up the idea.
"We always do holiday music around this time. You start practicing with that. And I just thought, 'Why don't we record and let's just see what we can come up with?'" Herron said.
Proceeds from the album will go back to Spotlight Studio, and the vocalists will also get a cut, according to a press release from Arc of Seneca Cayuga. The album might eventually be available to stream, but Herron wanted to release the music as soon as they could.
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Herron and the group of 15 students began working on the album in September.
"It's a lot harder for them to learn a song. All of them have different kind of challenges that they're facing," Herron said. "They worked really hard for that time period."
AUBURN — Thursday afternoon, just before rehearsal starts, Spot Light Studio is utter chaos …
As the students worked on vocals and practiced pronouncing the lyrics, Herron created the musical arrangements separately based on how they sang in class.
"Some of them can't pronounce the correct words. So they have to practice that a hundred times to get that right," he said.
The students picked some of their favorite songs — including "Blue Christmas" and "Silent Night" — to cover for the album. They recorded the tracks at the end of October in the Spotlight Studio space in Auburn, and the album was ready by November.
Herron noted that positive reactions to making the album has generated discussion about starting a songwriting and recording class for people with disabilities through the Spotlight Studio.
"They were absolutely ecstatic to be able to do something like this and to do something that is just kind of the norm in the music industry," Herron said.