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Mass comm students in spotlight at Capitol Street Party

Students from MTSU’s College of Mass Communication got an experience that few media professionals ever realize when they assumed key production roles for the 2012 Capitol Street Party in Nashville Oct. 17.

As an estimated 14,000 fans on Lower Broadway enjoyed the music of Capitol Records artists Luke Bryan, Jon Pardi and Kelleigh Bannen, 53 students modulated audio, staffed HD cameras, conducted interviews and recorded the concerts for the label. You can watch a brief video about the event below.

“Usually, colleges don’t get to do projects of this magnitude,” said MTSU’s Bob Gordon, an assistant professor in electronic media communication, who will oversee the student-led effort at the Capitol event.

The free music event, where live  performances literally take to the streets, was staged  downtown on Broadway between First and Second Avenues.

Gordon assumed the role of assistant director alongside director Zack Eagles, a senior radio/television major from Alvaton, Ky., in MTSU’s 40-foot, $1.7 million HD mobile production laboratory.

Also known as “The Truck,” the lab is used by students to cover sports, concerts and events for local broadcast, cable stations and national cable networks.

Colby Graham, the senior radio/television major who produced MTSU’s efforts at the Capitol Street Party, said his job was to make sure every member of the crew executes well. Graham has experience with short films, music videos, concerts and volleyball games, but that doesn’t necessarily drive away the jitters.

“I always get butterflies,” Graham said. “Even if it’s just a class news show, I want everything I do to be good. There are so many eyes on this, but I feel prepared.”

MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, the fifth largest in the nation, includes three signature departments – electronic media communication, journalism and recording industry – and specialty centers devoted to popular music and student media. This marks the second year that the university has partnered with Capitol at this event to provide real-world experience for students.

“Our university’s strategic master plan calls for us to build partnerships, like this one we enjoy with Capitol, that benefit our community and provide hands-on experience for our students,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We value our close ties to Nashville’s Music Row and are glad our students will receive a meaningful and memorable experience as part of the Capitol team.”

Students worked alongside Capitol executives and technicians to stage the show, gaining uniquely valuable material for their individual portfolios when it’s over.

Professor Bob Gordon, shown standing fourth from right in the second row, and his student team from MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication pause early Oct. 17 in their prep for the 2012 Capitol Street Party featuring headliner Luke Bryan. The College of Mass Communication’s Mobile Production Truck was located at the corner of Second Avenue and Broadway. (MTSU photo)

“Normally, big acts like we’re going to be seeing at this event like to maintain total control,” said Billy Pittard, chair of the MTSU Department of Electronic Media Communication.

In addition to augmenting their resume credits, students will post-produce three music videos, each for a specific song. They also will produce a promotional video for the department and a “sizzle reel,” which Capitol will use in social media and other marketing efforts.

Eagles said he wants to be involved with concerts and live events in his professional career. Gordon pointed out, however, that the skill sets acquired through MTSU can be put to use in athletics, news and other broadcast events.

“My philosophy is I’m trying to teach students professional skills — not the way it used to be or should be, but how it is,” said Gordon, who also is a veteran producer/director on Music Row.

Gordon pointed to the three cable networks in Nashville as evidence that the Middle Tennessee market provides numerous opportunities for television and movie production personnel.

“There’s a large freelance community in Nashville doing this stuff,” said Gordon.

Graham said everyone on the MTSU crew at the Capitol event put in a long day — arriving early Wednesday and staying until well after the concert’s 11 p.m. close. Gaining an edge in a highly competitive job market by making this live event part of his education, however, is well worth the time and labor.

“To me, this is huge,” Graham said. “I’m striving for the best final product.”

— Gina Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)

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