Music and Sound Recording Students Get Inside Look at Nashville Music Scene
Music and Sound Recording Students Get Inside Look at Nashville Music Scene

by Jackie Hennessey
UNH Today Contributing Writer

Mike Bognar ’16 hadn’t planned on going to Nashville to study away. He liked living on the UNH campus. “I thought I’d be out of my comfort zone,” he said. But then John McBride, owner of Blackbird Studio, came to UNH to talk with students from the music, music industry and sound recording programs about the University’s new Nashville Study Away program. 

“He started talking about the program and the studio – one of the best recording studios in the world – and what students would be doing in the courses and in the internships,” Bognar said. “I knew right then Nashville was the place to be if you want to work in the music industry. I left the auditorium and immediately called my mom and I said, ‘I have to do this.’ And she told me we were going to make it happen.”

Mike Bognar ’16

Now Bognar is in Nashville, studying at Blackbird Studio and interning at the studio as well. One of 14 students in the University’s inaugural Nashville class, he is taking “Mixing Techniques” with David Leonard, a Grammy Award-winning producer and recording engineer who mixed Prince’s Purple Rain and has worked with Paul McCartney and a long list of well-known artists. He’s also taking a production course with Steve Fishell, a Grammy Award-winning producer who has played pedal steel guitar on Emmylou Harris’ tours for a decade.  

“The best way to learn something as subjective as what a producer does in a studio, making all the creative choices necessary for an artist to reach his or her creative goals, is by experiencing it,” Fishell said. So this semester, when Grammy-level independent artists are recording a new album at Blackbird, the students will be part of it, observing and, at times, working alongside the professionals in the studio, as the coffee flows and the sessions stretch on from seven at night until one in the morning.

Fishell said students will develop a critical ear and have the chance to watch the nuanced ways studio pros talk with artists to get the best possible sound from them. “You don’t press the talk back button and say, ‘So how are your headphones?’ because that lets the artist know you weren’t happy, and that lets doubt creep in,” he said. “Instead you say, ‘That was a good warm-up. Let’s try it a couple more times.’ It takes a while even for a Grammy-winning artist to get 'in the zone' when singing in the studio, to sing like it's the third set in a favorite nightclub. That's what the students will experience."

The story is an excerpt of a feature story that appeared in the spring issue of the UNH Magazine.

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