Grammy-nominated graduate finds new MTSU recording studio

(MURFREESBORO) A few feet from the site where Middle Tennessee State University students began learning 40 years ago how to make music sound right, a new set of recording studios are preparing them for record-breaking careers.

Students in the Recording Industry Department now use Studios D and E – nearly 5,000 square feet of custom, expandable, “world-class” space, complete with control rooms, equipment rooms and an open meeting / reception area – moved from a former dormitory, intended for demolition, to the former parking and transportation services building on East Main Street.

These students range from first-year students with their first chance to work on professional-caliber analog and digital equipment to applicants for the unique Masters of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technologies with years of experience at the tables. mixing.

“These are going to be extremely valuable,” said department chairman John Merchant of the nearly $ 2 million facility. “It’s a massive upgrade from where we were; previous studios were very modest.

“These new ones are remarkable world-class spaces that will be a game-changer for us as it means our students get to work in these superior acoustic and electronic spaces. You can really clearly hear what you are doing, and that makes such a difference in terms of the type of work you can produce. The fact that these are now our introductory studios means that students get that kind of experience from the get-go, and it’s hugely beneficial.

BryTavious “Tay Keith” Chambers understands that kind of career experience. A 2018 graduate of Integrated Studies from University College at MTSU, the Memphis native, who started making music at the age of 14, came to the university for its program on the recording industry. .

He accepted his bachelor’s degree, with a minor in media management, the same month, a track he co-produced, Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE”, went double platinum and No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. and was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

Since then, Chambers, 25, has seen “Sicko Mode” reach diamond sales status of over 40 million units and 1.5 billion Spotify plays; worked with artists such as Drake, BlocBoy JB, Wiz Khalifa, Future, Beyonce, DJ Khaled, Miley Cyrus, Gucci Mane, Lil Nas X and Lil Baby; won No. 1 on Billboard Magazine’s Rap Producers Chart in August; and was included in Billboard’s “50 Greatest Producers of the 21st Century” listing.

He returned to campus on September 29 for a ‘sneak peek’ of the new facility with Nick Brownlow, 2019 MTSU Concrete Industry Management Graduate, Director of Public Relations at his Nashville-based record label and production company, Drumatized; and longtime friends Cambrian Strong, Commercial Director of Chambers and former Advertising and PR Specialist at MTSU College of Media and Entertainment, and stylist Tyland Jackson, a major in integrated studies at the University College.

I love these ceilings. The sound is going to be tight, ”Chambers said after listening to tapes, inspecting equipment and answering a handful of student questions in a studio control room, then stepped outside and looked nearly 17 feet into the room. recording area.

The new location of the studios was originally a church gymnasium before the church moved and the university bought the property and turned it into office space.

Merchant and the college named Chambers and Brownlow “honorary professors” in the recording industry department during their visit, citing their dedication to completing their own education as well as training future students with scholarships, internships, courses and other opportunities.

“We are all MTSU graduates and appreciate the university supporting us like this,” Chambers said. “We connect the dots of MTSU and Cultural Education.”

A video recap of Chambers’ visit is available on https://youtu.be/jNdp8ZrAsmk.

“Encourage students to do a good job”

Providing students with the basics for success like Chambers and Brownlow is the reason New Studios, Professor of the Recording Industry Dan Pfeifer noted. Pfeifer co-chaired the committee that oversaw the studio project, which spanned nearly two years with the help of several recording industry departments and partners, including the former chair of the Concrete Industry Department and Professor Heather Brown.

The former Brown Department, now MTSU’s School of Concrete and Construction Management, has its own $ 40.1 million building currently under construction on the site of the former Ezell Hall dormitory, where Studios D and E have been located since 2013. By securing state and industry funding for this building, Brown also helped to find money for the studios. movement.

“What this means for our program is huge,” Pfeifer said of the new studios. “We make our students do a good job, and that’s the most important thing for me.

“I was just listening to our first round of mixes, and they’re still better than what I’m used to hearing. I don’t know if it’s the room or the students or what exactly is at stake, and I really won’t know for a while, until we finish more projects and hear more results. .

Pfeifer and studio committee co-chair Bill Crabtree are also graduates of the department where they teach. They learned to make music in the show’s first stand-alone installation, Haynes House, a renovated East Main Street home turned into a recording studio.

It served students from 1980 until the department moved in 1991 to what is now known as the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, then expanded to Ezell Dormitory with D and E studios and classrooms. for the new commercial songwriting program. Haynes House was then demolished to make room for the expansion.

The commercial songwriting program is now in its own new space at the Miller Education Center on nearby East Bell Street. The recording industry department also stepped up its audio production program in January when it opened the Chris Young Cafe, a renovated 1960s cafeteria into a student learning lab and live entertainment venue.

Grammy nominee Young, a former MTSU student, donated $ 50,000 to update the space for students to learn almost every facet of the entertainment industry: music business, production audio, songwriting, venue management, sound, lighting and rigging, as well as radio shows, comedy shows, and other events produced with the help of all of MTSU’s university colleges.

Prepare professionals for success

MTSU graduates and alumni have been part of countless projects that have won numerous gold and platinum sales statuses, as well as top broadcasts and streams, and they have also been on the radar of their peers. for industry awards and recognition for years. At the annual Grammy Awards, for example, MTSU alumni, alumni and current students, and faculty from across the university were among nearly 120 nominations over the past decade.

The number of Grammy winners connected to MTSU since 2001 now stands at 13 with a total of 33 Grammys, including eight repeat recipients, in categories ranging from classical to pop to country and gospel.

The Country Music Association, Association of Country Music, and Gospel Music Association awards lists also regularly include nominees and winners related to the MTSU in the areas of writing, production and performance. .

MTSU’s Recording Industry Department has been on Billboard’s annual list of America’s Best Music Schools for seven years, joining its counterparts across the country as the industry’s top pro producers. music ready to work. The magazine has yet to announce its 2021 list.

MTSU established its recording industry department in 1973 and introduced its first Bachelor of Science degree in 1974. It offers undergraduate degrees in audio production, commercial songwriting, and music business, as well as a graduate program with the MFA degree and a new MBA with a music company. concentration.

Just over 1,100 students are currently majors in the recording industry at MTSU. About two-thirds are majors in audio production, and one-third are majors in the music industry or commercial songwriting.

New courses in the department’s program prepare students for entering into independent contracts and running their own business.

“We teach them how to go out, hang their shingles and do things,” Pfeifer said. “We are constantly looking for these types of opportunities for our students. This is the most amazing thing about this program: it’s not “it’s working, let’s keep doing it”.

“There’s a constant grind and evolution, an approach of ‘How can we do this better? How to better prepare them for their entry into the professional world? That’s the goal, ultimately.

For more information on the Recording Industry Department of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment, visit https://mtsu.edu/recording-industry. The college, which also includes the School of Journalism and Strategic Media and the Department of Media Arts, has a website at https://mtsu.edu/media.


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