For the Record
A group of Seaver students unite as alumni to elevate the level of praise and worship throughout Los Angeles
College graduation marks the beginning of a new journey, a life stage characterized by enthusiastic explorations of different paths. For a group of exceptionally gifted—and convicted—musicians at Seaver College, the separate roads on which each had chosen to travel fatefully brought them back together.
This band of music makers, now known as Well Collective, is the majority of the vocal and instrumental talent behind the 2016 album Covers—the very first record that features volunteer student worship leaders of The Well. Formed in fall 2012, The Well allows students to freely seek, commune with, and worship God together regardless of their religious affiliations or backgrounds.
The Thursday-night gatherings, held weekly at the Malibu campus and attended by an average of 300 students, facilitate praise and worship through live music, encouraging the crowds to participate in any way they feel moved.
These worship leaders were so passionate about making music for God that The Well’s worship director, Taylor Begert, felt inspired to honor their spirit of excellence by arranging to produce an album of one of their live worship services. Rather than a traditional studio recording, the project was designed to be a portable worship experience for Seaver students to continue to encounter God through the ministry of The Well wherever they go.
“We wanted to give the students on the record a tool that they could use when they went out into the world,” he explains of the musical and ministry talents that the soon-to-be working professionals could showcase to future employers.
After scouting possible locations with superior sound equipment, Begert and the students collaborated with the staff at Community Bible Church (where Begert also works as worship director) in Ventura County to create the live album of recognized modern Christian worship music. The recording session also commemorated the four years these students had spent together at The Well and marked the final time they would be able to worship together. With most of the participants anticipating the 15-song album to exude a sound typical of live recordings, hearing the occasional glitches on the record still exceeded their expectations of the final product.
For guitar player Jacob Williams (’16), who also works as a recording engineer, accepting a less-than-perfect sound was out of the question. Upon hearing the album for the first time, he felt compelled to take the seemingly unfinished product to Revolver Recordings, the recording studio in Thousand Oaks, California, where he had just landed a job, to edit and remaster some of the vocals and instruments to significantly improve the sound quality.
Over the next six months, Williams invited each of the worship leaders to come into the studio to re-record their songs, patiently and professionally piecing all the parts of a musical puzzle together one sound at a time.
“Recording live presented many challenges,” recalls vocalist Christy Panchal (’16) of the worship service at Community Bible Church. “The live recording was a good starting point, but we spent a lot of time working on it in the studio. Jacob especially spent countless hours putting the album together.”
Bass player Wilson Howard (’16) remembers his time working on the project as “the best summer of [his] life,” spending numerous nights working late in the recording studio with Williams to assist with tracking instrumentation that needed to be replaced or added throughout the album.
“Every moment in the studio was worship,” he recalls. “Whenever we were recording guitars or vocals, the priority was to praise the Lord with a joyful noise first and foremost and then to get a recording of it. We knew what we were making was more than just a list of songs—it’s a portable worship experience, and I think that comes across when you listen to it.”
Begert, who regards the album as “a collection of heartfelt moments designed to take you on a journey with the creator of the universe,” adds that every musical portion that made it to the record was genuinely created in authentic worship. In fact, when the students occasionally shifted their focus from worship to production during particular songs, the sound quality changed so much that those segments had to be re-recorded.
“I wasn’t thinking about singing; I was just worshiping,” he shares. “The vocals that you hear on the record are of the vocalist actually encountering Jesus.”
Panchal and Howard reveal that Well Collective is in the process of developing a second album, this time featuring all original music.
“It’s special to see how God grows everybody individually to make a very strong team,” says Panchal of the worship band. “It’s clear that we are all pursuing this together.”