MTA’s Seasons Greetings

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Sara Hall


Some local kids are spreading holiday cheer the best way they know how: by singing.

The Musical Theatre Academy of Orange County, in Newport Beach, has released its first-ever CD, a mix of Christmas songs sung by the MTA students and staff.

“It was a fantastic experience for the kids,” said Amy Gutierrez, a volunteer for the academy, who has three children in the program herself. Gutierrez helped with the artwork, marketing and organization of the CD.

The academy held a launch party recently, complete with a red carpet, to celebrate the CD being released. Titled “Holiday Magic,” it features many classic Christmas tunes, including “Winter Wonderland” and “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The songs each have a personal touch or twist from the students and staff at MTA.

They sound great, Gutierrez said, and everyone put a lot of hard work into making the CD.

The students were arranged into age groups, ranging from 6 to 18. The youngest group are the Brite Stars, then the Rising Stars and the oldest students are in the Shooting Stars group. Each group of stars have their own songs on the CD, along with one song from the school’s acting students. The last song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” combines all the students together with the staff.

Students, staff and parents have started selling the CD to friends and family and have now opened sales up to the public. Several booths will be located around Orange County, including in front of Ralph’s Fresh Fare in Newport Beach today in the afternoon and tomorrow, Dec. 11, all day.

The CD can also be bought at the MTA office or downloaded through iTunes, Gutierrez said. The CD is $15 and package and bulk deals are available. Sales benefit MTA, a nonprofit organization.

The first 1,000 have almost sold out and more have already been ordered.

The student singers have also performed songs from the CD at several local Christmas events.

The CD was produced by Tom Brooks, who donated his time, studio and artistic expertise to the academy, said Gutierrez. The studio was state-of-the-art, she said, and the kids learned how to record songs like professionals.

Brooks is an award winning producer, she said, and used some Grammy winning musicians to lay down the tracks, including musicians who have played for the Jay Leno band, Kenny Loggins, Pink Floyd and many others.

Along with Brooks, there were many people involved in creating the CD, Gutierrez said. Sharon Frazier, who helped the kids with their vocals; Jimmy Hippenstiel, who was the executive producer on the project; Cheryl Brooks, who helped with the art and marketing; Steve and Teresa Bailey did the photography and marketing; and Tony TerBorg for the artwork.

There are many others who helped as well, she said.

Many of the MTA staff have solos on the CD, Gutierrez said. Hippenstiel, Frazier and Holly Bisaha, the production vocal director for MTA, all have solos on the CD. Even MTA founder, Margie King, MTA executive director, Michele Trgovac, and MTA staff member, Ruth Gottuso, are featured on the CD.

Some of the songs already had the tracks laid down while others Brooks had to create, Gutierrez said. Each musician would play the song with their instrument separately and then Brooks layered them all together, she explained. Then the kids came in and added the vocals later.

“When they heard themselves, they couldn’t believe it,” she said. “And many parents were amazed at the level of professionalism of the CD and the whole package. The parents were truly amazed and surprised.”

The kids learned a lot about how to make a CD and using the equipment in a music studio. They also had to learn how to control their voices and watch their pitch and reflections, Gutierrez said, since they were only familiar with singing on stage and having to project their voices.

“It was a wonderful educational experience for everyone involved, especially for the kids,” Gutierrez said. “They learned so much… And they feel really proud.”




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