End of Semester Show is largest in Tucker Theatre history

ESS ReignIt’s about the crew.

That sums up the End of Semester Show, an opportunity for students learning how to run live shows a chance to practice their craft. Thanks to Department of Recording Industry’s Frank Baird, his students in the Advanced Sound Reinforcement class get to do just that.

“We teach technicians like we teach musicians,” Baird said, “by giving them the opportunity to learn with their instrument.”

With a lot of experience and a very small budget, Baird has fined-tuned a course that takes his students out of the classroom and places them in real-world scenarios. He creates a series of live “workshops” throughout the semester for his future technicians, including lives shows with School of Music ensembles in Hinton Hall and Studio A recording sessions in Bragg. During spring semester, his student crew also traveled to Nashville to ride on a tour bus up to the War Memorial venue, obtaining bus etiquette instruction from Celebrity Bus Drivers Academy instructor Brett Reeves. Students then set up equipment and ran a live show for two bands inside the War Memorial. Tech professionals were on hand to provide feedback to the student engineers, lighting directors and stage hands on their performance.
All these workshops lead up to the final event of the semester, appropriately entitled End of Semester Show. The crew calls it “ESS” for short. In the three years since Baird created the ESS, participation has grown tenfold. Now, numerous departments, colleges and event MTSU Athletics are benefiting from the “concert for the crew.”

The Advanced Sound class handles the sound and production, while the Department of Electronic Media provides the TV mobile unit to record the live event. This year, EMC instructor Mike Forbes arranged for use of a video wall worth $1.5 million, donated by VER in Nashville. His animation class provided original content for the giant digital screen.

Forbes said the video wall has really engaged his electronic media and animation students. “I can’t tell you the amount of energy these students have for the entertainment industry now,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few students now working freelance for VER both in the shop and on the road since this started.”

Baird has also watched his live production students migrate to paying jobs in Nashville. Two of his crew are already working at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center after the War Memorial gig. Baird has also secured donations of his own, including top-of-the-line audio equipment from LMG and thousands of dollars worth of lighting equipment from 4Wall that was used by the Department of Theatre and Dance.
This year’s ESS was held on April 25 and was the largest production ever in Tucker Theatre. The show featured headliner and national artist Cheyenne Medders with opening act Reign, a group that just signed in March to student-run label Match Records. Student hosts on WMTS 88.3 interviewed Medders as part of the concert’s promotion, and M.F.A. Recording Industry students did a multitrack recording of the performance.

The concert has grown to the point of collaboration among difference classes in Recording Industry, Electronic Media, Theatre and Dance, Match Records, WMTS radio and Athletics, which used the video wall and set up for the MT Raiders Choice Awards on April 28. ESS even doubles as a benefit/fundraising event – the price of admission is a can of nonperishable food that is donated to the MT Student Food Pantry.

Baird says the show’s only going to get bigger and better.

“My next goal is to secure funding,” Baird said. “The video wall needs a lot of power, so money to rent a generator would be nice.” Considering he pulled off this year’s show for $100, it’ll be fun to see what Baird and his crew have in store next year.

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Categories: Events, Faculty, Students

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