Indiana University, my alma mater, has boasted one of the country’s leading music schools for decades now, to go with an opera/voice emphasis that has no real peer in the States. Its focus on facilities, faculty and performance is not necessarily unique, as there are wonderful conservatories and top-notch instructors from Boston to Seattle, New York to San Francisco, and many stops in between. But there are few public institutions that can match IU’s Jacobs School of Music in the talent and scope of performers who, upon graduation, fill the world’s jazz ensembles, symphonies, chamber orchestras and composition suites. In 2021, the school of music will celebrate its centennial anniversary.
Within the Jacobs School of Music is the William and Gail Cook Music Library, one of the world’s leading repositories of information on all things music, with a depth unmatched certainly in the United States. For opera and symphonic works, the famous Musical Arts Center, designed to replicate the interior of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, is fronted by a gorgeous Alexander Calder sculpture. The other performance spaces, from rehearsal spaces to recital halls, are equally world-class. The faculty is a major drawing card.
Also within the Jacobs School of Music is the Recording Arts and Sound Production program, under the guidance of department chair Konrad Strauss. It’s an intensive program based around fundamentals of music theory and electronics, hand in hand with real-world production instruction. Only 20 students are accepted per year, and besides regular classwork and projects, the students record more than 500 performances a year, from faculty recitals to full-blown opera productions.
There are a number of studios sprinkled throughout the school, ranging from an Audient console-based room in the fourth floor of the MAC to an Avid/PMC-based 5.1 mix room known as Room 354. Plus, labs, a few production rooms, and all the local rigs for the varied performance spaces. As in a lot of public institutions, hard-working faculty make the best use out of the facilities and resources they have. Upgrades have to fit within a state and school budget. Never did the faculty and students at IU expect to be walking into a studio like the one pictured on this month’s cover. That just doesn’t happen at state schools.
But it did in Bloomington, thanks to the formation of a 15-year- plan of excellence by the Jacobs School dating back to 2006 and generous grants from first the Eli Lily Endowment and later the Georgina Joshi Foundation. Finally, there is a recording studio of quality to match the music being produced.
Nearly a year ago, I visited the IU campus, staying with my sister Annie and her husband Rick out in the country off of Old State Road 37. At the time, on campus, there was a concrete shell and a stack of drawings, laying out the floors and walls. Then I visited again in mid-October, on Homecoming Weekend, and walked into a beautiful studio, with students mixing at an Avid S6 and listening to ATC mains. A Hamburg Steinway in the main room and drums set up in a booth. Music students filled the hallways, as down the hall there was jazz ensemble practice. The Hoosier Hundred were coming in at 4. Students carrying cellos, trombones, violins and flute cases were everywhere. A college campus can be inspiring. A music school can certainly inspire a recording engineer.
At the same time, I am a firm believer that an education is reliant on the individual. Four years in Bloomington isn’t for everybody. There are two-day master classes, weeklong workshops/ retreats, summer internships in Aspen or Chautauqua, certificate programs, community colleges, for-profit colleges, four-year universities and well-established, elite conservatories. Many of them you will find in this month’s issue. The point is that there are options out there for students of all types, and all are valid if they provide the opportunity for a young man or woman to achieve excellence.
I have the feeling that I will be returning to Bloomington often in the coming years. Two of my favorite things in life are family and music. Down home in Indiana, I’m lucky to have both.