North Carolina’s Elon University offers a fine example of what can be done with technology in music education. The small liberal-arts school boasts a Music Technology curriculum that addresses the technological and artistic elements of audio engineering in studio and live environments, while building essential musical skills through traditional coursework.
The school needed mixing capabilities for a wide variety of recording and sound-reinforcement applications in an assortment of labs, concert halls, rehearsal rooms, and classrooms. Already familiar with PreSonus equipment through its use of the DigiMax FS, Elon University’s music department ultimately chose a StudioLive 16.4.2 for its Music Technology program. “The sound quality is amazing,” enthuses assistant professor and Music Technology coordinator Dr. Todd Coleman. “All of the music faculty and students who listened to our first few rehearsal recordings using the StudioLive consoles and Capture were blown away by the clarity, low (seemingly zero) noise, huge dynamic range and headroom, and ease of use.”
An accomplished double-bass player with a Masters and Doctorate from the Eastman School of Music in New York, Coleman taught music at Grinnell College for four years. Two years ago, he joined the Elon University faculty as coordinator of the new Bachelor of Science in Music Technology program. He also teaches a variety of music and music-technology courses. Coleman enjoys the school’s small size and student-to-faculty ratio. “Students have very close working relationships with the faculty, often working one on one or in very small groups,” he explains. “They can practice their craft without having to compete for studio time and space with hundreds of other students.”
One of Coleman’s many responsibilities is directing the Elon Electric Ensemble, which is a music-department-sponsored rock group. He started using the StudioLive to mix and record rehearsals for the Electric Ensemble and for a school vocal jazz/pop ensemble called élan, which rehearses in the same space as the Electric Ensemble and features 12 vocalists.
However, the Electric Ensemble is a large group, consisting of drums, electronic drum pad, bass (routed through a DI box), three electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, four synths, lead vocal, and three background vocals. With one StudioLive 16.4.2, it was impossible to track all of the guitars and synths. So the music department bought a second StudioLive—problem solved! With the recent release of StudioLive firmware version 1.12, the faculty and students can daisy-chain the two mixers for a 32-channel system—more than enough to mix and record rehearsals of the Electric Ensemble.
The StudioLive 16.4.2’s portability and flexibility permit the music department to use their mixers in an assortment of applications, getting maximum value for their investment. “We plan on using the two StudioLive boards individually from time to time,” notes Coleman. “We have a Music Technology Lab with 18 Mac Pro 8-core workstations. We will move one of the StudioLive mixers down to the lab for in-class demonstrations from time to time. We also will use one of the StudioLives and a laptop to ‘mobile record’ music-department concerts and recitals in other locations on campus, with the option of going beyond the typical stereo pair to record additional tracks for possible 5.1 or 7.1 surround mixes.”
According to Coleman, the StudioLive 16.4.2 can be a teaching tool, as well. “For our course in live sound, I plan on using the StudioLive consoles with previously recorded concerts and other multitrack sessions with the FireWire returns to allow students to practice mixing front-of-house in various venues on campus, having to adjust EQ, compression, effects, aux routing for monitors, etc.,” he explains.
We asked Coleman what the music-department faculty thought of the StudioLive 16.4.2 now that they have had some time to work with it. “The FireWire returns and Capture/DAW integration are great, along with recallable scenes,” he replies. “For an educational program, these features allow students to practice mixing in both studio and live environments without needing to have the performing musicians present. We love the intuitive interface, fabulous mic preamps, and overall audio quality. The ability to daisy-chain two StudioLive mixers was one of the main selling points for us, along with the recording capabilities. In general, we appreciate the features PreSonus has delivered at this price point.”