The API 1608 analog console at the center of The Blackbird Academy’s 30-seat classroom has scarcely been idle since the school opened its doors in 2013. The Blackbird Academy, an extension of the top-flight, multi-room Blackbird Studio in Nashville, is owned and operated by recording engineer John McBride and his wife, country music superstar, Martina McBride.
Students in the program learn the basics of pro audio sound quality and signal flow using the classroom’s 1608, and then apply that knowledge in Blackbird Studio’s control rooms, which include a 32-channel API 1608 and two large-format API Legacy Plus consoles.
“The API 1608 sounds great, and serves as the perfect foundation for our students to build from,” says Kevin Becka, instructor and co-director of the academy. “Before arriving at Blackbird, most of our students got into audio using their own computers with inexpensive interfaces. They’re shocked at how the act of simply plugging in an instrument to the clean signal path and transformers of the 1608 can make it sound. We’ve come to call the effect, ‘API Love’. The construction of the 1608 is well thought-out and executed—everything about it is solid.”
The classroom is designed to give students a co-pilot’s view of everything the instructor is doing. Video cameras mounted above the 1608, and display the view on 65-inch screens. Each student uses an academy-issued iPad with custom-created apps, providing descriptions of every aspect of the studio, and how those aspects connect with gear in Blackbird’s dedicated control rooms.
Outside the classroom, students disperse into the control rooms of Blackbird Studio for smaller classes, and execute independent projects. “These are the very same control rooms that are regularly attended by some of the biggest names in the music industry,” says Becka. “It’s a unique experience for the students to go into those rooms and know that yesterday, Tim McGraw or Keith Urban were in the same room. Learning signal flow on the classroom’s API 1608 transfers directly to Blackbird’s two API Legacy Plus consoles.”
The staff at The Blackbird Academy is looking forward to a second year, and continued success, behind the API 1608.