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Producing Multi-Media Rock Concerts Part of NKU Program

Rock concerts have become multi-media performances with music blasting from multiple speakers, vibrant light shows illuminating the stage, video projected on huge screens and fireworks exploding above the audience.

For students interested in learning the technical skills behind all that, NKU offers a degree in Rock & Roll and Concert Music Technology through the Department of Theater and Dance.

Megan Taylor of Walton is one of 10 students currently in the program. She’s on schedule to graduate next May and expects the degree to be just what she needs to get a technical job in the entertainment industry.

“It is the best foundation you can get for getting the practical experience,” Taylor said. “If I didn’t have the degree I wouldn’t know anything about what went where or how it all works. There’s so much more to it than you can imagine.”

This is the third year that NKU has offered the concert technology degree, according to Ken Jones, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance. He said the degree has the same core curriculum as a theater arts major, but there are courses that focus specifically on sound, lighting, video and special effects used in concerts.

“In theater, technical students typically are employed as soon as they get out of (NKU), and a lot of it has been in concerts,” Jones said. “So the demand for technical students is huge, and now we add this extra layer of expertise where they’re not just going into a concert with some theater knowledge, but they also understand music and musicians and what’s needed behind the scenes.”

Jones said he has not found any other college in the country that offers a degree in concert technology.  So when he was planning classes for the major, the chair enlisted the help of Stan Lynch, the original drummer for Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“Stan looked at what we put together and made recommendations on classes we would need,” Jones said.

The department also offers internships through Loud And Clear Inc., a production company in Cincinnati that provides staging, audio, lighting and video for all kinds of performances.

Kevin Havlin, an NKU alumnus who works for Loud And Clear, said interns start out by learning the proper way to prepare and load equipment. Eventually, they get a chance to work in concert settings alongside the technicians who are in charge of sound, lighting, video and all the rest.

As concert technology evolves, the demand for technicians with that formal training increases, according to Havlin.

“The reality of today demands that talent has to be coupled with a strong technology and computing knowledge base,” Havlin said. “As a result, the need for both formal education and hands on experience has never been more important. So, an individual with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Rock & Roll and Concert Technology and internship experience will be far ahead of other applicants in the field.”

Taylor has been working as an intern with Loud And Clear Inc. since last year. She said there’s a lot of physical labor involved in setting up and testing the technology before a show. And then they have to pack it all up and take it away after it's over and the crowd clears out.

“It’s not glamorous at all, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said.  When it all works, it’s awesome seeing how everybody enjoys it.”

All of the students in the concert technology program are from the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. Jones expects that to change when the department gets an opportunity to promote the degree.“We’re hoping that when we get the funds to advertise on a national level we’ll start to see a real influx of people who want to do this, but also have a degree to back it up,” he said.

This article comes from NKU and is written by Terry Boehmker

Photo by Tim Sofranko/NKU