Media and Entertainment students are True “Roo”

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Taylor Sullivan, an incoming freshman video production major from Cleveland, Tennessee, works one of the cameras filming the Henry Wagons performance. Photos by Rob Janson/MTSU.

For Robert Gordon, his role in coaching students working at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, in June was all about capturing the essence of “the Roo.”

“The major difference with producing Bonnaroo performances for TV from that of an individual artist TV concert is that the festival is the star,” said Gordon, an assistant professor in the Department of Electronic Media Communication with almost 40 years of experience in broadcast, cable and network programming.

“Bonnaroo is an experience. Stage to stage, hour to hour, day to day, year to year, the performers change. Bonnaroo is the focus.”

Gordon was a key member in a group of MTSU faculty and staff supporting about 40 College of Media and Entertainment students working at the 2016 festival. MTSU’s involvement, in its third year, is the result of a unique partnership between the university and festival organizers Superfly Presents and AC Entertainment.

Roo Bob Gordon

Bob Gordon (right), a video production faculty member, works with student Kyle Miller in “The Truck.”

At the heart of the college’s presence was its 40-foot, $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab, known as “The Truck,” which worked the Who Stage at the event for the second straight year.


MTSU produced 20 different acts over four days for television, said Gordon, who oversaw EMC students capturing footage of the 15th anniversary edition of one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

Stocked with world-class video and audio production equipment, The Truck served as Gordon’s behind-the-scenes operational headquarters where he orchestrated the show as a “player-coach.” His role was “to provide a fun, safe atmosphere and a creative structure in which people can do their best work and benefit from the experience.”

A student production manager coordinated transportation in and out of the festival, and for each act, students rotated among all the camera and truck positions.

Roo photographer

Student Sean Byrne, a sophomore video production major from Memphis, works a handheld camera during the Henry Wagons performance.

“The students presented totally different artists, live, with no rehearsal, in one take and showed the essence of each act, as well as the atmosphere which is Bonnaroo,” Gordon said. “I directed the first part of each performance, with a student assisting me. Midway through each act, I gave the reins to the student and was their assistant.”

Students with expertise in audio, video, photography and journalism are again working at the four-day event to produce a variety of multimedia content.

“Our students learned about working in live events and entertainment — and that week, Bonnaroo was their classroom,” said Billy Pittard, chair of the Department of Electronic Media Communication. “Live events present great career opportunities for our students.”

Sean Byrne, a sophomore video production major from Memphis, Tennessee, was among students handling camera duties.

“We just ran handheld for a band called Henry Wagons, an up-and-coming band from Australia, and it was really cool to get in really close and shoot over the shoulder and get all kinds of shots and be creative with it,” Byrne said.

Gordon noted that while last year’s crop of students included “several dozen audio and video student volunteers,” this year’s group also included an audio production class as well as video and photography students that he recruited to join in on the action.

“This year we brought three photography majors, guided by Assistant Professor Jonathan Trundle. They produced photo essays on various aspects of the festival experience as well as behind-the-scenes essays on the television production,” Gordon said.

The audio class had several recording industry graduate students who attended last summer’s Bonnaroo production and mentored the undergraduate recording industry students, supervised by an audio professor, Michael Fleming.

Fleming is using MTSU’s previous Bonnaroo experience to teach a graduate and undergraduate audio production course this summer focused on live location music recording and subsequent post-production of performances on the Who Stage captured by The Truck.

Click here to watch a video on the students in action at the festival.

Roo circle

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Categories: Faculty, News, Partnerships, Students

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