Engineer Buford Jones and USITT SoundLab students
Since 1960 the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) has provided an environment for theater professionals to connect, create, share and communicate their craft. USITT has more than 3,800 members throughout the U.S., Canada, and 40 other countries, and its office is located in Syracuse, New York. The USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo 2014 was held March 26-29 in Fort Worth, Texas, featuring more than 12 areas of education and meetings for every speciality skill in the industry, as well as professional development workshops.
Held at USITT every other year, SoundLab concentrates on free product demonstrations for students, and this year, the conference was devoted to live sound reinforcement. SoundLab was co-chaired by Erik Alberg, technical director for Events and Conferences at Hope College in Holland, Michigan; and Mike Hooker, head of sound design at UC Irvine’s Department of Dramatic Arts. Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems Inc. made a key contribution by supplying its latest products set up for the event in the Arena at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
“The idea…was to provide students with the opportunity to mix live music while being mentored by some of the top people in the field as well as mixing on premium systems,” Alberg says. “The ideal system was to be much larger and possibly bigger than students would ever have a chance to mix on with in their own university settings. We came up with a model of having two consoles at FOH and switching the live console from one to the other while bands were performing onstage.
“We needed a console to drive the line array rigs and were thrilled when Yamaha stepped up and offered us not only equipment but the expertise of their staff,” Alberg continues. “Kevin Kimmel, a systems application engineer at Yamaha Commercial Audio, was a great help in developing the system layout for FOH and monitor system. We created a network of inputs and consoles that not only worked for the SoundLab mixing events, but also for the special events held at USITT such as the keynote speech and award presentations, along with system demonstrations.”
The console system included three Yamaha CL5 consoles: two at front-of-house for mixing for live bands, and one as a monitor console. There was also a CL1 at front-of-house that switched between the two CL5s and was used for running the special events requirements such as wireless microphones, video feeds and playback. The entire system was connected via Dante and included Yamaha Rio boxes onstage for inputs and outputs to the mains.
The bands were mixed by students at USITT under the mentoring of Buford Jones and Jim Van Bergen, as well as Kimmel, who stepped in for one session and provided invaluable services as monitor engineer for all but one of the bands. More than 70 students had the chance to mix during the event.
“The Yamaha consoles were intrinsic to the success of this year’s SoundLab,” says Alberg. “They worked well and we had no problems with connectivity or routing thanks to Dante and Yamaha. I was also very impressed with the consoles, their flexibility, and ease of use. Sonically they were great and provided our students with an amazing opportunity. The Yamaha staff was critical to the success of the project. Their patience, understanding and support were great and a real gift.”