The BEST way to spread Christmas Cheer…

…is singing loud for all to hear!

Watch my video first and then I’ll give you all the juicy details that went into the making of…

So. Where to begin? I only watched the Sing Off because I graduated from the University of Delaware and knew some of the Deltones that were on the show! So proud of them, what an honor to have been talented enough to be chosen! I don’t usually enjoy reality TV music competitions, but these judges actually knew what they were talking about, and the second I heard Pentatonix, my mom and I looked at each other, jaws dropped, and said “they’re going to win!!!” At that moment, I was hooked.

I do love PTX and I tell everyone about them.  And my video was absolutely meant to be a form of flattery. I think they are all incredibly talented musicians/arrangers and are bringing a new level to the a cappella genre.  They make it “cool” and my younger cousins and young music students are picking up on it and LOVE it.  They cover so many different genres. They’ve covered rap songs and then go write beautiful 5 part a cappella hymns.  I have been to 2 of their concerts and both times I noticed how incredible it is that you scope the audience and see 5 year olds… to 95 year olds.  They reach an audience that no one else is reaching.  It’s unreal. That’s why I know they’re going to last for a looong time. If not for their ridiculously catchy beats, luscious harmonies and individual flair, my cousins would only have Miley and Robin Thicke as role models. Not cool! I’m so happy they have a group to be just as obsessed with as I was with N’SYNC.  Same story, all talented musicians who wrote and sang real music.  Not that there aren’t talented musicians out there right now…  but, when you look at the current face of pop music, you certainly see a lot of people who are clearly auto tuned and just faces with a name, not musicians.

I bought tickets to one of their first shows on their tour at BB Kings in Times Square. Then I moved to the city, and happened to get a job there.  Needless to say I totally fan girl-ed when I met them backstage. (Not to mention, 3 of my managers watching this interaction who then didn’t let me live it down for a few days.) PTX was so humble and sweet and I’m thrilled I had the chance to meet them before they became so so sooo famous.

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Besides the instrumental and vocal musical gifts passed down to me from my very musically talented parents, I’ve always had an ear for harmony.  I naturally hear the harmony before the melody.  Pretty sure some of my friends get annoyed when I sing harmony to the radio, but the others love when we harmonize together! And I think picking out the 5 different harmonies in NSYNC’s songs, most especially their a cappella “O Holy Night”, helped me hone that talent. I remember going to sleep at night, cuddled up with my N’SYNC blanket and pillow and my little blue sony walkman, blasting that song in my ears and trying to follow their individual lines to find the harmonies. And sometimes… it wasn’t even in December. 🙂 So good. If you haven’t heard it, watch it here!

Last year when PTX’s Christmas EP came out, I was living in New York City.  I was freezing my butt off with that wind whipping around the buildings, so I would put my headphones in and blast it as I walked through the hustle and bustle.  I repeatedly thought, “Hey, this would be an awesome music video!”.  And then I thought, “Heeeyyyy, I can actually sing Avi’s bass part…”.  So a few weeks ago, I decided to start using garageband on my mac to record the parts and see what it sounded like.  It sounded okay, but not great because my little mac speakers couldn’t handle what I was trying to do. The parts were not distinguishable.  So I called my friend, Jason, who loves recording, and he so graciously made time in his very busy schedule to help me out!  When all the vocals were recorded, he kept trying to show me electronic noises to make a beat box.  I kept saying, no, because I wanted to keep it all natural and all me.  I didn’t want anyone to say, “well, if the rhythm is fake, then the bass must be fake too!”  Oh no no no, I did not want that.  I finally said, here’s what I can do… I like to call it “lip popping”, definitely not beat boxing.  It sounded pretty decent in the microphone so we kept it and it actually worked!  I said to Jason, “How do you think it sounds?”  His reply, “Like a white girl trying to beat box…”.  Haha!  Hey, I did the best I could and I think it came out pretty darn good! I didn’t think there was going to be any rhythm section at all!

Next came the video taping. First, my cousin Anjelika came to help me make a video…

and after that we went to the local dog park that has a running stream to take some clips. We were frozen. I couldn’t feel my fingers.  I brought my flute but could hardly play it because I was so cold! Since we were at the dog park, random dogs would run over to us and run in the stream, then come out soaking wet.  Luckily, none of them decided to shake off the water onto my camera! Wouldn’t you think someone sees a camera, a tripod and expensive equipment, that they would call their dog back to them, not let him slobber all over me? I know I’m in a dog park and I totally love dogs, but come on!

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A few days later, it snowed. A lot. And I thought, “wow, this would be so perfect and picturesque”! My white gloves were missing.  Oh no! Now I have nothing to match my white scarf!  So no gloves, equals more frozen-ness. Mom and I went outside and shot a bunch of clips.  Then she got cold and went in and I stayed out and used the tripod for some still shots.  The frozen-ness was soooo worth it because the clips came out beautifully!  The snow could not have been more cooperative. Giacomo Poochini on the other hand, is a pansy and such an inside dog and definitely not cooperative in the snow.  (He’s the mini poodle. You can see he was far more willing to help me out when there wasn’t snow on the ground.)  Then there’s Cosmo, the wire fox terrier who LOVES snow.  He will stay outside, eat it and run in it until his fur is a giant coat of icicles.  You have to force him to go inside. So he cooperated nicely running in the snow for me!

Then, I sat in front of my tree, and video taped myself singing all the parts.  Wanna know why some lighting is different?  Because when I was close up to the camera, I was using my cell phone for a direct light on my face! Duh, isn’t that how everyone creates lighting? (I reeeeeally need to invest in lighting.)

Did you notice I wore a different shirt for every part?  Red was Mitch, dark blue was Kirstie, white was Avi, light blue was Kevin and green was Scott.  Did you catch the signs of “peace” and “joy”? Spot the Rudolph ornaments on our tree at 1:31? We love Rudolph in our house!

At 2:05 is my second favorite clip.  (The first being at :59 for my lip poppin’ lips.)  I am very close friends with lots of dancers and one of them recently taught me how to spot when you spin so you don’t want to die from dizziness.  I concentrated on one spot in the sky and was able to finally spin in a circle without getting dizzy! Ended up with a bunch of outtakes, one of those, you can see in the outtake video – ha!

One morning, I woke up and flew out of bed with this thought… “OMG how can I tie in flute and oboe?!”  I tried adding some to the recording I made in garageband.  It sounded terrible. Then it hit me, that it would be beautiful by itself, instead of together with the voices!  And how nice it would be to start and end it instrumentally! And that’s how that idea was born.

My brother Nick helped me record the clips of flute and oboe.  He did some awesome camera angles! He’s also very musically gifted, he helped me with my Chef Stef theme song, that you heard at the very end of the video when the credits were rolling!  He played guitar, helped me perfect it and then helped me record it.  Good thing we did that before I recorded this song with Jason. It helped me get the giggles out.  I’ve never recorded something where I can hear myself in headphones while I try to record another part.  I had a serious case of the giggles that day with Nick! It’s weird to hear your voice on a camera, it’s even weirder to hear it in your head through expensive headphones so it feels like it’s echoing throughout your brain!

After downloading about 2 and a half hours of footage onto my iMovie, I began the most time consuming task of piecing it all together.  I basically edited for 2 days straight, and a few hours the final day.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  Matching the lips to the music wasn’t even the most difficult part.  It was just scrolling through all those clips and deciding what to use where! But that’s the kind of work I love the most, so bring it on!  I’m thinking of starting a production company for making videos for theatre companies and businesses… what do you all think?

I got my editing skillz from my dad.  He taught me at a young age how to use iMovie.  I’ve been making and editing movies since I was 13.  Got my musical skillz from my parents, and from generations before them!  My parents both went to Manhattan School of Music. I went to the University of Delaware and came out with a masters degree in oboe performance.  I did start playing flute before oboe, back in 4th grade. Someone recommended if I wanted scholarship money for college I should switch to a double reed and boy was he right!  (Free masters degree, anyone?) Seriously, if you’re thinking of switching, do it, because colleges are always looking for double reed players!! We are a very rare commodity and highly valuable to any school, even if you don’t want to major in music!

The wink at the end was obviously in there to tie it to Chef Stef! 🙂

Phew!  I think that’s it!  Super long, but hey, if you wanted to know all the details and the behind the scenes of how this video came to life, there ya go!  Have a VERY happy holiday and please, please, plllllease share it!!! It already has 820 views, and it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for SO many of YOU sharing it!! Thank you so much!! ❤

Keep it classy,

Chef Stef

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2 thoughts on “The BEST way to spread Christmas Cheer…

  1. Steph, I don’t think we’ve met, but your mom and I were “singing partners” in Junior High School. (She’ll tell you what I mean by that…we probably have a few different memories, at this point!:-) Your mom’s talent always was amazing and obvious…just as yours is! I loved watching the video and reading the backstory was just as much fun! Definitely, definitely, think about doing video production…and anything that lets you express your abundant creativity. (Sounds like you have a handle on how important that is, already…:-) Keep on doing all that you love and please, please, please, keep on sharing it! Thanks, blessings and great, good holiday cheer to you and your family…KathySabo

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