School of Rock: Austintown Students to Sing on Band’s Album

A choir of Austintown students has been assembled to sing in Opera Western Reserve’s upcoming production of “Carmen.”

But first, the 25 students in grades six through 10 will lend their voices to a local rock band’s next album.

On Saturday, the students – who are under the direction of Megan Keown, choral director and music teacher at Austintown Middle School – will travel to Mindrocket Studios in West Middlesex, Pa., to record two songs with Apocalyptic Lovers.

The choir will also appear in scenes during OWR’s performance of Bizet’s classic opera “Carmen” on Nov. 17 at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown.

Keown said the students were “really excited” when they were told they would be part of the rock album recording.

One of the girls, who is in eighth grade, was already a fan of Apocalyptic Lovers and loves to listen to the band’s music. “She said, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to be on my own Spotify playlist,’” Keown said.

The idea to use children’s voices came from Dave Hope, drummer and a songwriter for Apocalyptic Lovers. He put the word out last summer through social media that he was looking for a children’s choir, and Keown responded.

The opportunity was intriguing to her, but she balked at first.

“One of my dreams has always been to perform with a rap band,” she explained. “I chewed on [the offer] for a bit, but I didn’t have time for it. But it kept popping up, and I thought it was something that I would like to try.”

Her students will sing on two songs ­– “Coming Home” and “Can We Stand” – that will be on “And the World Tomorrow,” a 10-song album the band will release next year.

Hope said the children’s voices were needed as “the icing on the cake” for the two songs.

After Keown gave the green light, he visited the school to talk to the choir and was surprised at the students’ high level of excitement and engagement.

“They were just awesome,” he said. “They had already had a couple of rehearsals, and I was blown away with how good they sounded.”

The recording session will be videotaped, and the students will be part of the videos for the songs.

“I was in band all through middle and high school and, man, do I wish I had an opportunity like this back in the day,” Hope said.

Apocalyptic Lovers are Sean Magee, Dave Hope, Robert Kane and Mike Nagy. Not pictured is Eric Blinzley. (Photo by Amber Hope)

He hopes the project opens the students’ eyes to the range of career opportunities in the music industry – including recording engineer and video director.

“Some kids dream of being a pop or rock star, but how many even know about recording studios and working in the music industry?” he said.

Hope moved back to the Youngstown area from Arizona a few years ago, and the song “Coming Home” is about that experience. The song “Can We Stand” is rooted in the political upheavals of recent years.

In addition to Hope, the members of Apocalyptic Lovers are Rob Kane (vocals), Sean Magee (guitar and co-songwriter) and Mike Nagy (bass), all Valley natives. Another guitarist, Eric Blinzley, was recently added.

The band’s sound is rooted in the pop-metal era – commonly known as “hair metal” – that emanated from Los Angeles in the 1980s and included bands like Dokken, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard and Scorpions.

It was formed in Youngstown in the ’90s and reunited a few years ago, just before the pandemic.

The band hired legendary music producer Michael Wagener (Queen, Skid Row, Metallica, Motley Crue) to rerecord its “Redemption” album in 2019 and released it that year.

Hope said Apocalyptic Lovers were going to rerecord another batch of their songs as a follow-up but scrapped the idea in favor of an album of all-new material that will be “And the World Tomorrow.”

Pictured at top: Megan Keown instructs a children’s chorus she assembled. They will sing on Apocalyptic Lovers’ upcoming album.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.