Nashville Skyline

It's not surprising that Nashville, a city that's had a thriving music business for many decades, is also home to a number of educational institutions
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MTSU’s new Studio D/E features Sony DMX-R100 consoles and iZ RADAR systems.

Photo: Jae-Jin Park and Nathan Adam

It's not surprising that Nashville, a city that's had a thriving music business for many decades, is also home to a number of educational institutions catering to students eager to become part of that business. One of the best-known programs, located 40 minutes southeast of Nashville in Murfreesboro, is Middle Tennessee State University and its College of Mass Communication (**record/index.html). The college (which currently has 1,700 music business and audio production majors) has 25 full-time faculty members.

It's housed in the $15.5 million John Bragg Mass Communication complex and strives to make the latest in recording technology available to students. Facilities include two excellent audio recording studios, a post-production lab, a MIDI lab, up-to-date classrooms and more. The acoustic spaces were designed by Russ Berger of Russ Berger Design Group while systems design was overseen by Richard Zwiebel of Peak Audio. Additional design work and consulting on the facilities was provided by designer Bob Todrank and department chair Christian Haseleu.

The school has just opened two recording rooms for the fall semester. The control rooms feature Sony DMX-R100 consoles, iZ RADAR hard disk recording systems and monitoring via Genelec 1037 and 1029. Outboard gear includes units by Lexicon, TC Electronic, Eventide, Drawmer, Yamaha and Millennia Media. The rooms were designed and constructed in-house. Haseleu notes, “These new project-type studios will help keep our technology current with the industry while opening up additional studio time for our students.”

A measure of a school's success can be gauged by its graduates' career paths. “Many of our graduates can be found working on major projects in L.A., New York and Nashville,” says MTSU associate professor Cosette Collier. “On the West Coast, we have recent graduates like Josh Newell at NRG Recording Services; Courtney Blooding working for David Foster on recordings by Josh Groban, Celine Dion and Renee Olstead; and Andy Lackey and Chris Alba doing sound for films such as The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Ghost Ship, as well as video games such as Enter the Matrix and Spider-Man 2: The Game.

“In the New York area, we have Pablo Arraya at Sony Studios, Missy Webb at Sound on Sound Recording and Dan Bucchi assisting at Hit Factory and working with such artists as Beyoncé and Dream Theater.

“In Nashville at East Iris Recording Studios are Mike Paragone, studio manager and house engineer, and Sang Park, house engineer. We also have Leslie Richter at Oceanway Nashville. Working for Byron Gallimore, producer for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, are two MTSU grads: Erik Lutkins and Sara Lesher.” The school also has a well-organized intern program, which I have used from time to time.

Outside of the regular curriculum, MTSU's Department of Recording Industry recently co-hosted the second annual Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp (and the June Anderson Women's Center at MTSU). There were around 80 to 100 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who participated in the week-long event, which was started in Tennessee by a current Recording Industry major, Kelley Anderson, who was inspired by a similar event held in Oregon each year.

“The girls sign up for a particular instrument, whether they know how to play or not,” says Collier. “They receive lessons throughout the week, form bands and perform. They also take part in workshops about recording in the studios, promoting their bands and 'zine-making. It's very exciting to see these girls excited about making music and engineering. We've also started a new student-run record label called Scared Rabbit Records, which has three artists currently under consideration for production deals.” Demo projects on two of the artists — Victor Furious and Big Fella & Te' Arthur — are being recorded and produced in MTSU's studios. The label is currently working on a deal with Sony's Red Distribution.

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Vol State’s Vaughn Skow (left) and singer/songwriter and A Designs rep Brian Thomas

Photo: Rick Clark

Northeast of Nashville in Gallatin is Volunteer State (, a community college that has just opened a multimedia studio complex featuring a recording studio, audio editing suites, a large video studio and several video edit suites.

The recording studio (designed by Austin Belmar of J. Scalf & Associates) features an ample tracking area with an additional isolation booth; a control room with gallery seating for up to 16; and an editing room with three Pro Tools editing suites with Mackie Control fader surfaces.

The Vol State recording program is led by engineer and producer Vaughn Skow, who has taught there for the past seven years. Skow also served as design and construction consultant on the facility, and selected and installed equipment in the main studio and editing suites. “The studio is all about the students and I have personally chosen every piece of gear based on its educational value,” Skow says.

The facility features a Pro Tools HD|2 Accel rig in the main studio running on a silent Carillon PC with a 192 expanded I/O. There is also a MOTU MTP-AV SMPTE hub, 8-port MIDI interface and a 438-point long-frame patchbay. In addition, there are 24 tracks of 24-bit DA-78HR tape machines clocked to the Digi 192 I/O for additional clock stability, plus a Tascam BR-20 15/30 ips 2-track reel-to-reel, Sony DAT and Tascam CD burner. The console is a Mackie 32-input, 8-bus in an Argosy 90 Series custom console.

Skow is especially excited about the donation of A-Designs' MP-1 mic pre. A Designs president Pete Montessi notes, “Vol State's class is trying to promote the arts and I feel engineering is an art unto itself. From my own teaching experience, I know that money is always in short supply for the arts in any educational system.”

Vol State's program is a great value for anyone getting into recording and video, but it has become an even better deal thanks to a collaborative effort with MTSU's program:

“MTSU has formed a committee to develop an ‘articulation agreement’ between Vol State and MTSU,” says Skow. “Successful grads of our program would gain guaranteed admittance to the MTSU R.I.M. [Recording Industry Major] program as a junior. We've always felt the commercial music program at Vol State was a real bargain. Once this agreement is in place, it will be even more so.”

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