Pro Sound News - July, 2002

"Learning To Go Live"
A picture of the Conservatory article in the June,1999 issue of the Pro Sound News
For years, post-secondary educational institutions dedicated to teaching students about the recording industry have enjoyed the publicity and prestige that is often attached to such facilities. Organizations that offer education in live sound, on the other hand haven't received the same amount of attention, even if their programs make up a portion of a larger curriculum also covering recording.

But now, as the demand for slick presentations in the touring and corporate industries continues to grow, and the technology associated with these shows becomes increasingly complex, it’s safe to say that job candidates who have received formalized training in sound reinforcement may have a leg up in the live sound career market

At the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) in Tempe, AZ, the sound reinforcement program, developed by well-known live sound engineer Robert Scovill, is a 48-hour course that covers signal distribution, sound reinforcement mixing consoles, signal processing for sound reinforcement mixing consoles, signal processing for sound reinforcement, large speaker array concepts, SIA Smaart analysis software, show control protocols and applications, basic FM transmission, and FOH and monitor mixing. At this facility, the soundreinforcement program is part of the entire 900 clock hour Master Recording Program II.

“There is a lot of cross-pollination [between the recording courses and the sound reinforcement courses],” noted Kirt Hamm, CRAS’ school administrator. “There is so much more that we are teaching in other curriculum areas [outside of the live sound program] that is signal-flow-oriented. We don’t have to cover it in the live sound course because it is being covered in other areas.”

Added Scovill, “Instead of covering basic signal flow in sound reinforcement, while all the time divorcing its concepts entirely from the recording curriculum, my goal was to provide a curriculum that could easily cross-pollinate with the recording curriculum. I have a reputation of approaching my live shows with a philosophy that is based in recording, and approaching recording projects with a philosophy that is grounded in live sound. Ultimately, my goal was to help create a student who leaves the school with the chops to work at a high level in either field effectively, because they are so similar in many ways.”

Scovill developed the program out of a desire to bring some formality to the audio industry. “What inspired me to develop it was my own experiences in live sound and recordings,” he said. “In the past, both live sound and recording have suffered a bit from a lack of methodology. While I was lucky enough to have some great mentors in my career, it seemed that overall, everyone just had to struggle through the school of hard knocks and try to figure out through trial and error what everyone else was doing. Basically, the mentality was that your techniques or your method was only as valid as your results.

“At the Conservatory, I have tried to incorporate an examination of many of the methodologies that have existed in live sound over my career, and hopefully the students can grasp the pluses and minuses of each,” Scovill continued. “At that point, hopefully some seeds will be planted so that once they get into the field, they can keep from straying into a flawed technique.”

Eddie Mapp, a CRAS graduate and a live sound engineer who currently works as a FOH engineer for guitarist Zack Wilde (Ozzy Osbourne, the Black Label Society), acknowledged that the training he received at the institution provided him with a solid foundation on which to build his career. “I received the basics and what I needed to know in order to help keep me from making too many mistakes at first,” Mapp said. “The training gave me a good head start, a head start that some people don’t have. Sometimes it is easier to stand back and look at a problem, and look at the big picture of what is going on. Sometimes, for me, it is easier to pinpoint what the problem may be, whereas someone else [without proper training] may just throw up their hands.”