When I was a kid fresh out of high school, the idea of going to college to learn how to produce and engineer rock records, promote a band or learn the dynamics of the music industry was a pipe dream. At the time, college music departments were designed for those who wanted to play in orchestra, learn music history or become high school band teachers. I remember dropping out of string-bass class because my classically trained teacher regarded me and other electric bass players as “electricians.”
Dr. Wesley Bulla, dean of the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business, teaches a class in RCA Studio B.
Photo: Michael Krouskop
Today, Nashville has an abundance of great educational opportunities for musicians. One of the best is only a few blocks from the heart of Music Row, Belmont University and the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business. Ever since the inception of the school's program for audio and music production in the early '70s, Belmont has provided students with a well-rounded offering of courses that dig deep into every aspect of the industry. The staff members are very experienced, and most of the teachers add to their resumes as they continue to achieve notable successes in all areas of the music industry.
Assistant professor James Elliott and adjunct instructor Ashley Gorley have enjoyed hit recordings as songwriters. David Moser, an associate professor, teaches courses on intellectual property and legal issues, and just published an in-depth analysis of copyright law and its application to the music industry titled Moser on Music Copyright.
For sheer cool factor, any school that hires Mark Volman to teach is okay in my book. Volman was the frontman for The Turtles and was a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. He has also appeared on numerous great recordings by John Lennon, T-Rex, Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan, the Psychedelic Furs and others.
The Mike Curb College is undergoing a national search for a new dean to fill the vacancy created by Jim Van Hook, who has moved on to Christian music powerhouse Word Entertainment. In the meantime, associate professor Wes Bulla is operating as the school's interim dean.
Notable Belmont alumni include Chuck Ainlay, Doug Howard, Mark Wright, Bil Vorndick, Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeff Balding and Mark Bright, who produced seven tracks on Carrie Underwood's debut CD, Some Hearts. Many of these former students have maintained relationships with the school, operating in advisory positions.
The Mike Curb College operates nine distinctive and renowned recording studios housed in three separate facilities: Ocean Way Nashville, RCA Victor Studio B and the campus-situated Robert E. Mulboy Studios.
Award-winning Ocean Way Nashville features three studios and is housed in an 1850s-era Gothic Revival graystone church on Music Row. As a commercial facility, Ocean Way Nashville's artist client list includes Matchbox Twenty, Harry Connick Jr., Sheryl Crow, Los Super Seven and Kid Rock, among others, as well as producers Byron Gallimore, Peter Asher, Desmond Child, James Stroud and Tony Brown.
Belmont's acquisition of RCA Studio B in 2002 was a major coup for the school, providing students with a hands-on opportunity to find out what earned this studio the moniker “Home of 1,000 Hits.” Studio B is operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in partnership with Curb, and Belmont has refurbished much of the original gear and instruments in RCA Studio B. The Mike Curb Family Foundation also purchased the Bradley's Barn collection of historical microphones, almost all of which were originally used at RCA's Nashville studios. These microphones are currently being refurbished and will become educational tools.
However, one of the most important parts of Belmont's curriculum is addressing the ethics of good business. Assistant professor Tim Tappan, who teaches Audio Engineering and Survey of Recording Technology, says, “I have also added leadership perspective into my production classes because we don't operate in a vacuum. Future producers need leadership training to effectively and morally deal with this industry.
“In the marketplace, producers are often individuals of great influence. This influence should be tempered with ethical leadership values,” Tappan continues. “My introduction of leadership into the course is an attempt to get future producers thinking about how they will make decisions that are based not only on money and personal benefit, but also with an eye on the well-being of people and a heart that is plugged into doing things that benefit humanity, not tear it down.”
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