March 14, 2018

Pure Imagination video by Jonathan Dely (MM ’17) features 20 Manhattan School of Music students

The historic recording session of the American classic Pure Imagination  took place last March in the famous Avatar Studios in New York City, where artists from David Bowie, to Madonna and Bruce Springsteen have recorded hits.

Jonathan Dely’s interpretation of Pure Imagination from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory  features arrangements by Steven Feifke, a MSM master’s student in composition, along with many MSM students performing in the live orchestra.

The video is the second of two from the day-long  session that trumpeter Jonathan Dely — then a MSM jazz arts student — spent months to put together, with a very specific artistic vision.

“The idea to combine classical instrumentation, jazz harmonies, and pop repertoire into one hybrid philharmonic, really showcases our deep love and respect for these distinct styles,” explains Dely.

“Our creative vision is to make music that’s both highly artistic and widely accessible.”

Joining Jonathan and the orchestra in Avatar Studio A was Grammy-award-winning sound engineer John Kilgore, and arranger Steven Feifke, an MSM master’s student in composition, who worked closely with Jonathan on the arrangement.

Steven Feifke arranged and conducted the recording of Pure Imagination.

“Arranger Steven Feifke and I wanted to leave no stone unturned in our exploration of how distinct musical genres can coexist, intermingle, and enhance one another to form new and powerful collaborative moments in music,” explains Jonathan.

Pure Imagination has been recorded by a wide variety of artists including Mariah Carrey, Michael Feinstein, Maroon 5, and Josh Groban.

Along with the MSM students on the project, are students and recent alumni from Juilliard, Williams College, and the University of Michigan. The musicians come from the US, France, Estonia, New Zealand, and China; more than one third of the orchestra are people of color; and about one-third are women.

The first music video from the session, a recording of My Funny Valentine, was released in July 2017. Also led by Jonathan Dely on trumpet, the interpretation featured arrangements by jazz pianist and composer Jon Snell (MM ’17) who conducted the orchestra (see the video below.)

Studio A at Avatar Studios, where Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett also recorded best-selling jazz album Cheek to Cheek in 2014.

“Our recording of Pure Imagination captures an American classic about wonder and dreams through the lens of highly-talented musicians who are themselves dreamers about their future,” explains Jonathan.

“For us, the song’s theme about the endless possibilities of an imagined future feels distinctly authentic. We, too, wish to create for ourselves musical lives of endless opportunity.”

<em>My Funny Valentine,</em> the first of two videos from the Avatar session, released in July 2017.