Chris is in his 12th year of music education, and he is currently the Choral Director at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Chris received his Bachelor’s in Vocal Music Education from Auburn University, which is also where he got his inspiration for arranging. Throughout his teaching career, Chris has had numerous choirs and competitive, award-winning show choirs in Alabama, Mississippi, and Illinois.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
I have a nook in our small bonus room. I currently work on my iMac using Finale for writing/arranging and LogicPro for making tracks and recordings. I use an Alesis V49 midi keyboard for inputs into Finale, and I use a simple Focusrite 2i2 interface for recordings. Very thankful for the PreSonus Eris 8 studio monitors for sound output (I love listening to things loud LOL).
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
It honestly depends. When I am arranging for a group other than my own, I want the director and/or choreographer to have a say in the format, style, etc. If it is a new client, I always ask for student vocal ranges so I can arrange for THOSE SPECIFIC VOICES. I do my best to listen to the original song on Spotify several times to get a central idea of the style and melody. Then, I try to play with the key to make sure it will be in a comfortable range for students. I also do everything I can to truly “envision” the song on stage and where I would see different dynamic opportunities, dance breaks, big vocal moments, etc. I also try to find opportunities to make the arrangement unique and different in some areas in order to set it apart, but if I am in love with the original too much, this becomes difficult LOL.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
If I am starting early in the morning, AdvoCare Spark, breakfast, and coffee with a lot of French Vanilla creamer is the go-to. If it is in the afternoon and I need a break from drinking water, I love having a Dr. Pepper and peanut butter-filled pretzels or peanut butter crackers.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
I don’t think we have enough room on this for all of that haha. I think the main thing is IF IT SOUNDS GOOD, DO IT. When I first started, my vocal arrangements contained basic voice leading, and my instrumentation was so boring.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
Thank the Lord for that midi keyboard. I love having my right hand pressing note values and my left hand playing the notes on the midi keyboard.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
Favorite choreographed arrangement I’ve done is “Iron’ by Within Temptation. My favorite ballad is probably “Drop Everything” by Riley Clemons
7. How can people get ahold of you?
My goal is to have a website up and running this summer with many pre-arranged titles with recordings. So stay tuned for that! For now, the best way to contact me is firstname.lastname@example.org.