Sixty-seven members of Middle Tennessee State University’s Band of Blue stood instruments poised and bodies packed into the College of Media and Entertainment’s Studio No. 1 for a project two decades in the making — an updated recording of MTSU’s fight song.
Cue a collaboration with John Merchant, chair of MTSU’s top-tier Department of Recording Industry, Craig Cornish, music professor and band director, Michael Fleming, recording industry professor, and more.
“It actually requires a lot of technology in a tight time window,” said Merchant, who coordinated the facilities, production team and scheduling for the one-hour time slot. “We’re using multiple facilities within the college (because) our normal recording studio is too small. All mics and recording will happen in the larger TV studio, and the sound will be sent by fiber optics to another room where all the recording and quality control will happen.
“We’re also doing multiple passes of the track. One all at once. One broken down by instrument section … (and) we’re really trying to let our students take a guiding hand in choosing the venue, choosing the technologies at play and actually operating everything.”
Listen to the new version of the song and watch a short video of the song’s production below .
The project arose after Andrew Oppmann, vice president for marketing and communications, wanted the fight song to be used as the “on-hold” music on the university phone system, but discovered a technical issue.
“To do that, I discovered we needed a high-def digital copy of the song … (and) our official sound file of the Band of Blue playing the song was about 20 years old and wasn’t done professionally,” said Oppmann, who added that the updated version will be available for download on MTSU’s website, played at home basketball games not supported by the Pep Band and used soon as the phone system’s on-hold music.
In the hours leading up to the new recording, audio production graduate students Mitchell Breitmann, Kelly Grenvik and Kolyo Vanchev worked on the studios’ final preparations from measuring the exact distance between the multiple microphones and considering the effect of rising air temperature, Merchant explaining heat actually slows the speed of sound.
“This session will provide an excellent opportunity to work with a large group of musicians and learn from professor Merchant and professor Fleming,” said Breitmann, a second-year graduate student in recording arts and technologies originally from Augusta, Georgia. “Seeing how to professionally record a large ensemble like the marching band will be invaluable for my future career.”
Vanchev, a third-year graduate student in the same program, served as the project’s recording engineer.
“I am currently working on my thesis, focused on chamber and acoustic music production, and this recording project is tangentially related to it,” said the Atlanta, Georgia, native. “This project (also) exposed me to new equipment and technical setups I may encounter, especially in broadcast audio.”
Call time crept closer, and band members assembled on the quad to warm up, the drum line alone booming and audible across campus.
“The band members get to be a part of MTSU’s grand history!” Cornish said as the first of his students began to set up in the studio. “They will be a part of a special recording!”
As faculty and students hit their final marks in studio, Merchant and Oppmann echoed the collaborative and student-centered nature of the project.
“MTSU’s audio production major is reliably ranked as top tier among all the academic programs in the world, so who better to ask for this job?” Oppmann said. “This collaboration allows us to showcase the excellence of both our Audio Program as well as the Band of Blue, and it could not have happened without the enthusiastic support of both professor Merchant and professor Cornish.”
“They’re getting a unique academic experience,” Merchant said. “For the production students (specifically), they’re seeing a session that lasts an hour requires dozens of hours on the front end. The more quality, time and thought you put in in advance, the higher chance you have to get a good result.”
Learn more about MTSU’s audio production major at https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/audio-production/.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)