By Ashley Bowden
There are several places on campus that enable performing arts students to explore their craft in-depth. The new music technology lab in Humanities is open for music and musical theatre students to compose to their heart’s content. “[Students] know they’re going to get a lot out of it, and it’s been my pleasure to help put it together,” John Meschi, professor and graduate advisor in the music department, said.
“Our students were so excited when they entered the new music tech lab the first time,” Priscilla Bagley, associate professor of voice, said. “Their faces lit up like kids at Christmas.”
The lab is equipped with 24 Mac computers, audio equipment and 24 brand-new synthesizer keyboards for students to use. A projector, audio and video lines will be the final touches in completing the three-month-long project. “We are very definitely there, [the lab] can be used in a class, and it is,” Meschi said. “There are five classes being taught in here this semester, and there will be more in the future.” A new degree program in music technology is potentially underway, according to Meschi.
Musical theatre students attend a music theory class in the lab and learn how to read, edit and compose music. “I think a good number of them are great performers and singers, but there comes a point where as a theatre person, you really need to learn how to read music,” Meschi said. He believes the skill can help students have a more successful career in musical theatre.
“You have musicians and you have musical theatre, there should be an overlap, and I think this course is going to address that,” he said. “I think that’s one of the greatest improvements for what a lab can offer.”
Instructors are excited for the opportunity to teach classes such as music theory in the new space. “This course will be a game changer for our students,” Bagley said. “Knowledge is power.” She hopes for students to develop skills that will make them confident and self- sufficient as music professionals.
“It’s fun to be in that class, I look forward to it,” sophomore acting major Bailey Willitz, said. She anticipates learning how to work through her own music and figuring things out on her own.
For almost 15 years, the only music technology labs were in the Fine Arts building on south campus. “One was what we called the computer lab, and the other was a keyboard lab, and they served different purposes,” Meschi said. Now, the labs have been upgraded and combined into a larger space and more convenient location in Humanities 013.
The lab features 88-key synthesizer keyboards with weighted keys. “We thought it would be better for our students that are learning how to play piano [to] have full-sized keyboards,” Meschi said. Students will create music sequences with the keyboards and the software programs Auralia and Musition. “This is one step away from going into a recording studio,” he said.
“The new tech’s going to be very helpful,” Patrick Hong, sophomore jazz performance major and teaching assistant, said. “Just teaching them theory with a whiteboard and chalk is a lot different from teaching them with actual keyboards.” Hong looks forward to learning more about the synthesizer keyboards. “Now that we’ve got synthesizers like this, we can actually play like the professionals do,” he said.
“Having the electric keyboards is really nice,” Stephanie Jerker, sophomore musical theatre major, said. “We can play and record music from the piano onto the software.”
Students have responded positively to the upgraded workspace. “So far it’s a really fun and interesting experience because we haven’t really had such high tech in the theatre department aside from lights and sewing machines,” Lauren Lehosky, sophomore musical theatre major, said. “Being able to open up a piece of sheet music and actually be able to plonk stuff out on a keyboard is really, really cool.”
“I think [music students] were surprised at the size of the room and the new keyboards,” Meschi said. Having moved from the previous lab in Fine Arts, adjusting to the larger space has been an ongoing process for both Meschi and music students. Musical theatre students accepted the space with excitement and eagerness to learn, according to Meschi. “It was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had because the enthusiasm was much higher than I’ve seen in a classroom in a long time,” Meschi said.
Meschi plans to have the lab open various hours throughout the week. Students will be able to access the space from 12:30-2 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.