“What we’re doing at Oxy is unique and very important for the music scene in Los Angeles,” explains Max Foreman, Director of the Choi Family Music Production Center. “We have many great music conservatories in greater LA and Southern California, but we didn’t have a school like this in the Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Silverlake area, which is one of the richest parts of the city’s vibrant music scene. Oxy offers a liberal arts education in which students have a well-rounded study of literature, art and history, but also can earn a degree in Music, with a concentration in Music Production, that primarily focuses on recording, mixing, and mastering — all within the local music community that we are uniquely positioned to nurture.”
(L-R) Max Foreman, Amos Himmelstein, Adam Schoenberg.
Occidental College (informally Oxy) was founded in 1887, making it one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast. The 120-acre campus, due to its proximity to Hollywood and its distinctive architecture, is frequently used as a location for film and television productions. Notable alumni include President Barack Obama, ten Rhodes Scholars, and recipients of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, BAFTA Awards and Emmy Awards.
Located in the school’s Booth Hall, the new Choi Family Center spaces were designed by nonzero architecture and include a fully-operational recording studio, large control room and a 16-student music computer lab in the new venue for music production, film scoring, audio engineering and songwriting courses.
L-R: Adam Schoenberg, Max Foreman, Amos Himmelstein.
Photos by Marc Campos, Occidental College
Nonzero architecture was brought onto the project by Associate Professor and composer Adam Schoenberg. An Emmy Award-winner and Grammy-nominee, Schoenberg has twice been named among the top 10 most performed living composers by orchestras in the U.S. He teaches Composition and Film Scoring at Oxy’s highly regarded music program. Essential to the large scope of the new center was Amos Himmelstein, Oxy’s VP and COO. The challenge was retrofitting the basement space of the music building to accommodate the program.
Fortunately, nonzero found abundant floor space and discovered hidden high ceilings, both ideal for the envisioned new Choi center. Before breaking ground, the designated section of the building had previously housed the music library’s huge underground vault of vinyl record collections. “When the ceiling was gutted, a tall space above was uncovered, allowing for a 13-feet high live room that was exactly what we needed,” says Foreman. In addition, the mostly subterranean location helped implement an efficient soundproofing scheme. Acoustic treatment was added in the form of vertical wood strips and fabric panels, mostly in the vibrant orange colors of the university.
In the production center there is a large tracking room with control room and a machine room that handles all the patching for the entire production center. Dante connects the control room, the live room, the production lab, and Foreman’s office, all part of the same audio network.
Grueneisen was able to strategically determine the optimal layout for rooms in the newly soundproofed and isolated part of the music building. The control room houses an Avid S4 console controlling Pro Tools, main PMC IB1 Monitors with a 5.1 PMC Surround System. “We can do tracking sessions, mixing sessions, film mixing sessions, and 5.1 sessions. And we have a large Extron monitor above that can display anything that’s on the computer displays,” Foreman explains.
The control room layout of seating allows students to sit in on professional recording sessions. Full courses are conducted where students take exams and view PowerPoint slides on the Extron Monitor. During the lecture class in the room, students are actively engaged, taking turns in the captain’s chair, setting up microphones in the tracking room, and assisting the engineering.
Oxy’s new Production Lab has 16 student computers and one instructor computer lectern desk, each equipped with Pro Tools, Ableton and Logic. Every desk has a mini-controller, and a suite of mixing plugins, sample libraries, and software instrument VSTs. The Extron system has a hub in the control room’s adjacent machine room. Student displays mirror the screen on the instructor lectern.
“The secret sauce, proverbially speaking, is the Dante network that is hooked into every room in the production center,” Foreman adds. “Our Dante network allows all of these computers to have their audio routed anywhere else in the building. So with the click of a mouse, the instructor can select computer number four, and have that computer’s audio playing over the PMC Monitors in the control room. We have an additional pair of PMC monitors in the live room. We can also send the control room audio to the Production Lab speakers and the computers don’t even need to be in the same room to be sent to a speaker system. All of that is accomplished using the Dante Network and configured using the DADman Software, which is installed on the production lab lectern computer.”
The new Choi center is exceptional at a liberal arts college and distinctive to Oxy, now offering a broad education with access to a truly pro facility for music production.
Learn more about Occidental College: https://www.oxy.edu
Learn more about nonzero\architecture: https://www.nonzeroarch.com/