Story and photos by Melody Birkett

Two valley teenagers recently won a contest to record an original song at The Conservatory of Recording Arts in Gilbert.   

Aspiring singer/songwriters Sam Mortimer, 18, and Brittany Tews, 17, won the “Be Heard” contest. As part of that honor, they gave an intimate concert for family and friends in the recording studio. Two days later, they recorded a song they wrote.

“The conservatory is based on giving people the opportunity to get an education on the world of pro-audio and to connect them to their dreams,” said Ghery Fimbres, director of Admissions.

Until now, it has been all behind-the-scenes education. Students learn to become engineers and audio technicians and learn about “work in a recording studio, live sound, broadcast audio sound at the movies, some for television,” Fimbres said.

Thousands of students, both local and from around the world, train in the 11-month program at both the Gilbert and Tempe campuses. Students train in state-of-the-art audio recording and mixing equipment – the same technology used in today’s best studios and remote broadcast facilities. They learn broadcast audio, live sound, film and TV audio, music, and video game audio.

Graduating from the Master Recording Program II opens doors for employment. All students must finish a 280-hour industry internship in order to graduate. So far, two graduates from the conservatory have been nominated for the 2017 Grammy Awards.  

This is the first competition where they’ve invited “recording” students to participate.

“What we did is, we decided to build a songwriting competition to let young people know there is a life in that kind of field,” Fimbres said. “We built the opportunity to have a competition, we gave people two weeks to put together some kind of demo of their original recording, and they submitted them. We chose two winners.”  

He admitted it was tough to choose even two since they were flooded with submissions from very talented local teens.

Sam Mortimer just graduated from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe. He wants to pursue music as a career after he gets back from a mission with his church.

Sam hails from a musical family and has been playing guitar for two years. As he puts it, “I’ve been doing music since I was a baby. We all sang; we all did piano. Mom sings and plays piano and her family was also musical. My dad died when I was nine, but he was also very musical.” He worked at the conservatory before Sam was born. Sam’s dad played guitar, recorded two albums, plus built a studio.   

Sam is a triplet. His brother, who’s the same age, plays keyboards and violin, while his sister sings. Sam also has a 21-year-old brother, who plays drums, and a 24-year-old brother, who joined him in the recording studio playing guitar.

Sam enjoys all types of music. “I listen to everything. I love the oldies, soul, folk, I like country, rock. But I think I’d be interested in playing pop. I’d love a little jazz in between there.”

The song he wrote and recorded is called “Amazing People Do.”

“Originally, I wrote this song to do as a featured solo for my school choir. After my audition, my teacher called me back in and said, ‘You know, since you did an original song, we want to make you aware that there’s this contest going around. That if you submit an original song, and if you win, you get to record it, and do all this cool stuff in the studio.’”

That was enough for Sam, although he never thought he’d win. In fact, Sam admits he recorded his demo the night before it was due.

“One day in class RJ came in – he’s one of the people in charge – and he announced that I won. And I’m like, ‘wow’; I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was kind of freaking out, I was just sitting there. I didn’t know what to think. Just awesome I won. The experience I’m having right now is super cool. Hopefully it’ll continue. I’m thankful for this opportunity,” he said.

Brittany Tews will be a senior at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School. She has been singing all of her life but only taken it seriously the last few years.

Brittany found out about the contest through her guitar club at school. “The teacher is a really great mentor. He gave me a flier and said, ‘You need to enter this,’ so I did.”

Even though Brittany only had two weeks to submit a song, the country singer said it wasn’t a big deal. “I had a lot of songs to choose from” – all songs she has written.

“Meet in the Middle” is what Brittany recorded at the studio.

She plans to go to college and major in engineering. It’s a “money maker” as Brittany puts it, “But I’m definitely going to keep chasing this with everything I got.”

Brittany is the only one in her family who sings. She has a brother, 23. Her dad used to be a trumpet player and studied music in college, but ended up going in another direction.

The teen hopes to get a good response with posting the recording online. “I’m probably going to get… a really good version of the song and I’m hoping to release it.

“Check me out on Spotify, iTunes and Google Play,” Brittany added.