John McBride has been hard at work over the past few months recruiting faculty and designing a curriculum for his recently revealed Blackbird Academy for studio and live sound production. McBride recently took time to talk exclusively to MusicRow about his solutions for inefficiencies he saw in the current education system and his desire to invest in a community he has excelled in.
“For three to four years I’ve been thinking about creating a school,” said McBride. “I’m 55 years old—the point in my life where I feel mentoring is a necessity. Without mentors, it would have taken me forever to learn what I have. I love working with kids who want to learn. I thought, ‘there has to be a way to take all the factors in my life from the last 30 years and combine them to make the world a better place.’
“The amount of support I’m getting from artists, producers and engineer friends is really phenomenal,” explained McBride. “It takes money to do it right. I raised funds, mainly from people in the music business who invested with me, to get the school off the ground.
“My goal is to give the greatest education in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. I have guys who work at Blackbird that have crippling student loan bills. The beauty is that in six months, you could graduate from this school and go engineer an album for the Rolling Stones at any studio in the world and do a damn good job at it. We should give you the education you need to make that happen.”
The school will launch with two programs. First, a Studio Engineering program at Blackbird Studios, which will begin Sept. 30. Afterwards, a Live Engineering program is expected to begin on Jan. 6, 2014 in conjunction with Clair Global. Additionally, a three-day seminar for 12 high school kids is planned for teaching recording and mixing basics.
“We’re also looking at doing something called the Blackbird Studio Sessions where we have 12 spots to interact with a serious producer and band for a one-week course, observing the overdubbing, mixing and mastering process,” continued McBride. “There’s a program already out there called ‘Mix With The Masters,’ similar to what we’re looking at.”
In 1997, Clair Brothers (now Clair Global) purchased McBride’s live sound company and has been selected to partner with the 2014 curriculum. “Troy Clair, the head of Clair Global, is very supportive and a part of the live side of the school. We’re designing our curriculum so you can go on the road for any company. The live course classrooms will be across the street from Clair Brothers.”
As for the staffing and curriculum design, McBride says he was fortunate to be able to surround himself with experienced educators who were able to start from the ground up.
Kevin Becka is the technical editor for Mix Magazine and was previously the Director for the Audio Engineering program at CRAS for 10 years in Arizona. Mark Rubel has taught for many years at Eastern Illinois University and also owns a studio in Champagne, Il. called Pogo. Carma Bandstra, who worked for years at Full Sail in admissions, will work with Blackbird Academy in the same capacity.
“Everyone I just mentioned feel like there are things in the present system that are broken and we should start new and do things better—hopefully better than anyone else—that’s our goal,” explained McBride. “I did talk to one school, thinking it might make sense to partner with someone established, but since starting Blackbird studios in 2002 I have been shocked to sit down and talk with interns, all of which are graduates of various schools around the country. It looks to me that students are not getting what they should out of their education, especially when you look at the amount of money and time invested. I’m afraid that partnering with an existing program, I would have to relinquish some control of what is taught, and how it is taught.
“My biggest concern at this point is the intensity of the program,” said McBride. “So we’re putting together a 2-4 week program to get potential students where they need to be. The cost of that would be applied to tuition to avoid overlap.”
Interns will remain an integral part of Blackbird Studios, which currently maintains 20-24 interns at all times. But McBride estimates that Blackbird Academy students will have the first opportunity at these positions in the future.
Housing has also been taken into consideration, according to McBride, with 7-month lease arrangements in place with certain complexes around Nashville available for students to consider.
The cost of a 6-month program at the Blackbird Academy is expected to be $21,900. Visit the iTunes book store for a free catalog of the program, or visit the program’s official website. For more information, contact the school at 615-385-2423.
“Now our job is to get the word out there to get the right kids,” said McBride. “These students will be able to start a lot of relationships that will help in the future when it comes to their careers. Our goal is to change the world and make it better, this is one of the best ways we can do that. I feel confident and inspired when it comes to the future.”
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About the AuthorEric T. Parker oversees marketing initiatives and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine, MusicRow.com, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] @EricTParker
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