Frost Choral Students Appear on Album by Latin Megaproducer Tainy

By: Jordan Levin
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Star producer Tainy's first solo studio album, Data, released this summer, features mega-names like Bad Bunny and J Balvin, who've made him a major player in Latin urban and pop music. Plus some unexpected guests - members of the Frost Chorale singing a brief, shimmering vocal loop on the second track. 

"It was amazing, my first time working with a choir," Tainy said. "It was a learning experience for me."

And not just for him. For the 12 singers and Frost Director of Choral Activities Dr. Amanda Quist, being on an album with some of pop's biggest hitmakers is a thrill. But the bigger boost was the chance to expand their artistry, versatility, and future as vocalists capable of singing everything from traditional choral masterworks to pop background tracks to the kind of innovative vocal ensembles like Miami's Seraphic Fire or Roomful of Teeth, re-defining what a choir can be.  

"In the 21st century, to make a living as a professional singer, you must have flexibility," says Quist. "What we do really well at Frost is train our singers to have excellent technique that prepares them for the shifts they'll have to make throughout their professional careers."

The Tainy recording arose in the spring of 2021, when producer Richi Lopez, part of Tainy's team, asked Frost music education graduate Liana Salinas, artistic director of Miami's Children's Chorus and a former student of Quist's who'd become a friend, for help finding a choir for a track on a new Tainy album. Salinas called Quist, who hadn't yet heard of Tainy and was intrigued by the potential collaboration. Quist trusted Salinas's connections, knowledge of Latin pop, and instinct for the genre's creative possibilities for Quist's students.

"Liana gave me a sense of Tainy’s reputation; she told me he is one of the top Latin producers in the world right now," says Quist. "Once I did some research, I thought, 'Oh, this is a fantastic opportunity'." She invited students with strong, malleable technique, able to mold their sound in the moment. They responded enthusiastically, writing "awesome" and "amazing opportunity." 

That opportunity fit Quist's efforts to expand the choral program beyond traditional parameters, which include founding the Seraphic Fire Scholars internship program. The Frost Chorale, whose repertoire includes jazz and folk music, sang on Chair of Studio Music and Jazz John Daversa and the Henry Mancini Institute's album "All Without Words" and has performed with European pop/classical star Havasi in concerts on campus and at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel. 

"We're always interested in cross-genre opportunities for our students," says Quist. "There are many different ways to sing, and they're all worthwhile."

Though Lopez – himself a top producer who's worked with a constellation of Latin stars – was at the recording session at Gusman Hall in May of 2021, he left most of the creative work to Quist and the students, as she led them in playing with overtones, resonance, and color in a choral excerpt from the Kate Bush song “Cloudbusting.”

The experimentation was a sweet spot for Quist, an accomplished proponent of extended vocal techniques. "If you say you want a shiny sound with a lot of bass, that's right in my wheelhouse," she says. Lopez, whom she describes as generous and open, weighed in periodically while Frost sound engineer Jack Maguire handled the recording. 

Their work added a dreamlike effect on the song "Obstaculo," featuring Myke Towers, that heightened Tainy's vision for the thematically and musically adventurous album. "The highlight was making all of these ideas come to life," he said in a statement. "Like working with a choir to have that film soundtrack feeling."

Data debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and at number two on the Top Latin Albums chart, with the single "La Baby" winning a Latin Grammy for Best Reggaeton Performance.

For Frost DMA 2023 graduate Jamie Bunce, the session encapsulated the dreams and ambitions that drew her to Frost after 13 years of teaching a high school choir in New Jersey. Bunce and Quist became friends through the Westminster Choir College program, where they sang together, and Quist taught Bunce's students. Quist's adventurous ideas and expertise inspired Bunce, 40, to upend her secure life and reach for new opportunities. 

"I was looking for ways to open doors," says Bunce, now assistant director of choral studies at Kansas State University. "Choral music can feel gated. I love to have as many different kinds of musical experiences as possible." She joined the Seraphic Fire Scholar program and was stunned to find herself singing with Gallicantus, another groundbreaking ensemble, as part of her dissertation work. The Tainy session thrilled Bunce, who sang in a bar band and reveled in arranging pop songs her students brought her for concerts. 

Her Frost experience continues to inspire her. "If you had told me five years ago this is where I'd be, I would have passed out," Bunce says. "It changed the trajectory of my life."