Last Thursday night, eight student bands played for Centralhallapalooza Showdown, an annual competition organized by the Student Activities Board. Like most SAB events, the venue was well chosen, the decorations were appealing, and the food and beverages were excellent. Unfortunately, the live sound engineering the College’s Audio/Visual department provided was so riddled with mistakes that it almost ruined several student bands’ performances.

Incessant feedback screeches through the PA system undermined talented performers, and microphones died on multiple occasions. As a musician with experience in live sound production, the poor quality of the mixing appalled me. When problems arose during the concert, the student performers on stage looked to the mixing board for help, but the sound engineer was frequently nowhere to be found. The audience tried to stay positive and support their performing friends, yet the show was sidetracked by lengthy set changes and communication problems.

The beleaguered A/V student assistants looked on helplessly as sophomore Isabelle Parell, a featured vocalist for the student band ‘Deaf Davey and the Wineboxes,’ struggled to be heard over a dead microphone. Senior Nick Archer, the frontman of another student band, ‘My Dog’s Name is Keith,’ also lost vocals during his set, and drummer junior Dean Sinclair called exasperatedly for technical help when he could not hear his monitors. The student behind the mixing board called for her absent boss in vain when musicians needed level adjustments onstage. The bass boomed in the echoing hall and the mix unfortunately swallowed the guitars.

Freshman Matt Montgomery, who attended the concert in support of several performing friends, said the sound engineering was so poor that it likely cost well-liked bands valuable votes.

These problems do not necessarily have to ruin student band performances. Phi Mu Alpha has run Battle of the Bands for years, and hosted three of the same bands as CHP Showdown last semester. Even with less experienced sound engineers and inferior music tech resources, the music fraternity produced a show that highlighted the bands’ talents with clear sound. If the A/V department is not willing to commit to producing quality performances, perhaps other musically-inclined organizations would be.  

Student bands might not be professional, but the work that dozens of student performers put in over the last few weeks should be recognized by clean sound production and a worthwhile performance opportunity.

Anthony Manno’s team produces quality campus-wide events. The SAB crew, however, is entirely unfamiliar with what it takes to pull off a successful musical production, and the sound engineers aiding them are decidedly sub-par. The A/V crew could use the extensive tech resources afforded them by their department, invest in some training, and stay attentive and dedicated during campus events, regardless of the “professionalism” of the band playing. Alternatively, Manno should reach out to other groups on campus who actually produce quality shows for help with the music for SAB’s otherwise-excellent events. Either way, these simple changes would result in sound quality worthy of the students’ musical efforts, and would improve the caliber of the Student Activities Board’s already-enjoyable events.

Mr. Liebhauser is a junior studying marketing management and the president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.

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    Two questions:
    1. are those running sound student employees, or volunteers?
    2. If they are student employees, and you are a student employee somewhere else, have you asked to work in that department. If they are volunteers, have you volunteered to help?

    Having no idea what the quality level is for the gear, I question that multiple organizations have similar technical production gear. That’s going to lead to multiple groups having mediocre gear, and lesser experienced folks mixing. If SAB wanted to fix this, pool all the gear that gets used in these various battle of the bands type events, train a cross section, including getting some freshman doing some of the work, in 2-3 years, you have a self sustainable crew that refreshes itself.

    Depending on an A/V department staffed with folks generally putting out projectors, TVs, DVD players, single mic lectures is unlikely to result in a good show. Having mixed live shows for over 20 years, including a time in college where the SAB equivalent had vastly expanded the tech capabilities, needing house and monitor engineers, part of the role was to teach younger folks how to do the job. Part of that is unfortunately learning on battle of the bands type things, but when it is someone that is responsible to SAB, not the college A/V, they will be a lot more attentive to what is going on.