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Popular MDIA course, professor, facilities allow students to produce music locally

Erin Roberts | Jul 26, 2011

Popular MDIA course, professor, facilities allow students to produce music locally

Media Arts and Studies students and associate professor Eddie Ashworth, Ohio UniversityBy Erin Roberts, roberte1@ohio.edu

RIGHT: Media Arts and Studies students and Assistant Professor Eddie Ashworth work the audio board in the recording studio recently. / Photos by Soozan Palsa BELOW LEFT: Jeff Ellis, left, of Charleston, W.Va. and members of The Magnolias, a band based in West Virginia, play in the recording studio in the Radio-Television Building on the Ohio University campus.

ATHENS, Ohio (July 26, 2011)—Students in the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University are reaping the benefits of having a successful music producer as a professor and a state-of-the-art studio at their disposal. These resources are essential elements to a popular course that has fostered the recording of numerous records in the past eight years.

Just last week, students enrolled in the first summer session of Commercial Multitrack Music Recording and Production (MDIA 413), otherwise known as “Rock Camp,” assisted in the recording of four songs by Jeff Ellis, of Charleston, W.Va., backed by the West Virginia-based band, The Magnolias. Ellis has already recorded three albums with help from Ashworth and the students. His most recent album, "The Line," was released on July 5.

“We really like working with Eddie and the students and have been getting outstanding results so we keep coming back,” Ellis said. “To have Eddie’s experience and the tools the school provides is a bonus.”

Ellis returned from a year of military service in Iraq last year and, because of his experience there, has several songs lined up for production. He says one of the best things about working with students is their enthusiasm, which he might not find in an engineer who “has been wrapping cable for twenty years.”

“At my level, I believe I get more from the students than I would from a traditional studio,” Ellis said. “The students are new to recording and are really excited, which brings excitement into the studio. All of the students we’ve worked with really seem to know their stuff and they know their way around the controls.”

Jeff Ellis and The MagnoliasThe course used to be a summer offering only, but as its docket of recorded artists has grown, so has its availability to students.

“We have attracted enough talent willing to record their records with student engineers that we have been able to offer it on a year-round basis,” said assistant professor Eddie Ashworth, who has taught the course since joining the school’s faculty in 2003 and has more than twenty years of experience as a music producer. “What started as a summertime experiment in record production immersion has now become a mainstay course in the curriculum.”

Ashworth says there is no shortage of artists willing to work with students in the course, especially given the fact that a world-class recording studio, MDIA Sound, is available to students in the Radio-Television Building.

“As an active producer and engineer, I am often approached to produce artists,” Ashworth says. “I say, ‘Well, I can get you free studio time if you are willing to work with students.’ At that point, the course becomes a professional project in which students are able to participate.”

When Ashworth joined the faculty he tweaked the existing course to include not only the technical side of record production but the social element of interacting with artists in the studio.

“I thought it would be more valuable for students to assist in the actual sessions with the artists to see the mechanics of how it works—the social part of the session as well as the technical part,” he said. “It’s great to know the technology side of this, but our students also gain a firm grasp on how to motivate clients.”

Josh Landis, BSC ’10, remembers the impact the course had on him in 2009 by allowing him to see what an actual recording engineer would do. He said it was one of the more memorable courses he took as an MDIA student.

“Being able to interact with the artist in a session is just as important as being able to record and produce to make a quality product,” said Landis, who recently opened his own recording studio, Old Son Studios, in Columbus with fellow alumni Mike Jones, BSC ’10 and Alex Douglas, BSC ’10. “As a student, taking that course is when you start to really feeling like you’re doing it: you’re making music.”

As a result of the course, Ashworth and MDIA students have produced music for artists from such diverse locations as Las Vegas, Shreveport, La.; Columbus; Akron, Ohio; Ashland, Ky.; Huntington, W.Va.; Sacramento, Ca.; and Los Angeles.”

As far as Ashworth is concerned, there will be many more.

“I never get tired of it,” he said. “It’s been exciting for me to see the wheels start clicking with students when they figure out the mechanics of sessions.”

More than anything, Ashworth enjoys the passion and motivation students show.

“They will roll up their sleeves and get right in there with me and the artists,” he said. “They are motivated to go forward with the class and their career. It’s very gratifying to see that students have the passion that I still have for making a quality record.”