December 23, 2020

Princeton High School’s Studio Band Releases Album Recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios

RECORDING AT THE SHRINE: The members of Princeton High School’s Studio Band were thrilled to create an album last December in the same studios where “Lady Madonna” and numerous other Beatles hits were made decades ago. The album, which was recorded a year ago, is now available for purchase online and at Princeton Record Exchange.

By Anne Levin

Making international appearances is nothing new to the musicians in Princeton High School’s Studio Band. But last December’s trip to the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, during which they recorded an original album in the same room where The Beatles created many of their biggest hits, was something else altogether.

Princeton Studio Band: The Abbey Road Sessions is a full-length album that commemorates the experience. The album has eight tracks, seven of which are new jazz arrangements of classics from the 1960s to the 2000s and were commissioned specifically for the 36-member ensemble. The eighth is an original jazz fusion composition written by composer Drew Zaremba for the band. The album is available on iTunes and Amazon, or at Princeton Record Exchange on Tulane Street.

Joe Bongiovi, who has led the band since 2007, said the project was a year and a half in the making.

“We travel internationally every other year. The tours have been great in terms of learning about other cultures, and doing shared performances with groups from other countries,” he said last week. “This time, we wanted something a little more meaningful in terms of music education. Being in the studio was really an extension of our classroom in trying to raise the bar. We wanted to go to the next step.”

The band — ranging from freshmen to seniors, along with three vocalists — spent three days working in Studio Two, home to the piano where Paul McCartney recorded “Lady Madonna,” among other Beatles hits. The studio has also hosted other music greats including Pink Floyd, Adele, and Maroon 5.

While the era of The Beatles and Pink Floyd might have seemed like ancient history to the PHS students, Bongiovi said they appreciate the significance of those years.

“The kids were not only aware, they respected it,” he said. “We didn’t just listen to the music. We studied a lot of the history behind the studio. And certain selections were recorded [by the PHS Band) in the same room as the originals — ‘Let it Be,’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Money.’”

While in the U.K., the group performed a few concerts and visited Cambridge, The British Museum, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Stonehenge. Being in the Abbey Road Studios was the highlight. “It gave them an inside look into the lives of working musicians and the rigor and precision involved in recording a studio album,” reads a press release from the PHS Band Parents Association. “The fact that they had this amazing experience at Abbey Road Studios was an added bonus.”

Bongiovi is proud not only of the students’ musical achievement, but by the way they approached the trip. “I was floored by our kids,” he said. “I was amazed at how seriously they took the entire process, and how hard they worked. You could hear a pin drop in that studio, and we were recording for three days straight. We’d go back to the hotel afterward, and most of them would just do homework or go to bed. It was the best group of kids I have ever taken on a trip. We have a big goal, and they are so focused on that goal.”