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Brian Williams Delivers Elon University Commencement Address, Yamaha CL5 Delivers the Sound

While NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams delivered the undergraduate Commencement Address at North Carolina’s Elon University on a beautiful spring day, the sound was delivered beautifully via a Yamaha CL5 digital audio console, provided by Draughon Brothers of Fayetteville, N.C. The console was later used for the Elon Law School commencement. Overall production was a combination of in-house equipment and that provided by Audio & Light, Inc. of Greensboro, N.C.

“Our commencement activities take place in four different venues, with four ceremonies (MBA, Masters of Interactive Media, Undergraduate and School of Law), as well as a student marshaling location and rain plan location that is also used for Baccalaureate,” said Rick Earl, Elon’s technical director for cultural and special programs. “There were approximately 12,000 people in attendance during the weekend.” Yamaha digital consoles were used at all venues. The marshalling location and the rain plan venue were linked via the Dante network and have been for the past three years, this year using a Yamaha M7CL-48 and LS9-32. Two LS9s and an M7CL-48 were used for MBA, Media, and Baccalaureate commencements as well.

All commencement ceremonies featured live musicians. The primary venue is an outside location on Elon’s historic campus, called “Under the Oaks” which is where the CL5 resided. Adjacent to that venue is Whitley Auditorium that houses a Casavant pipe organ. The organ, along with a brass quintet, performed live in the auditorium. Herald trumpets were located in the outside venue in a balcony over the stage. The National Anthem and Alma Mater were sung from the stage accompanied by the organ and brass. The entire undergraduate commencement ceremony was simulcast and recorded in HD at the university’s on-campus television studio. With this year’s added attention brought to the ceremony by Brian Williams, the sound system also required dedicated feeds for NBC News as well as additional press feed locations.

“The Yamaha CL5 offered the ultimate in reliability, flexibility, routing, recall and operability,” says Earl. “Elon has an excellent IT department and takes pride in the technology on campus. The use of the CL5 was also to determine if it would fit in our plan to completely network all audio for the weekend’s events. After the main undergrad ceremony, we needed that capability in order to allow the musicians to stay in one venue in the event of rain. Television could also mix in the studio for broadcast.”

Earl said the overall benefit of the Yamaha CL5 is not just for the school and ceremonies but the students as well, as they are present in all phases of set up and interfacing. “Our Music Production, Recording Arts, and Communications students are hands on with state of the art technology and complex set ups. Other beneficial features of the CL is the ability to see the display, channel markers, and scribble strip in daylight, as well as the console’s size and weight. And, possibly, my favorite feature is the custom layering; I was able to have all necessary faders on one layer which made for quick and intuitive operation.”

“Yamaha’s service also weighed into this decision, notes Earl. I did not need to call them for assistance at any time while using the console, but knew they were available. The company’s support prior to this event, however, was invaluable, I cannot think of another pro audio company with the level of aid offered by Yamaha.”

Earl commented further that overall, the sound was fantastic. “I think I received more compliments on the quality of the sound this year over any other. The Provost actually stopped at the mix during the recessional of the last ceremony and said how great it sounded! At least one CL5 is planned for Elon’s future, and the commencement weekend confirmed that choice.”

For more information on Audio & Light, Inc., visit

For more information on Draughon Brothers, visit

For more information on the Yamaha CL Digital Console, visit