Big Blue mix makes first album [The Virginian-Pilot :: ]
(Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 29--NORFOLK -- On a rainy Monday night, Krystal Jones waited for her turn inside the recording studio.
She rested her chin on her hand and watched as two colleagues took turns manipulating controls on the sound board.
Through the control-room window, Jones could see Thomas Oliver pounding out a beat on a djembe and then later playing air guitar as he sang vocals on "Across the Sea," a song he penned.
With each take, Bob Wright scrolled through earlier recordings on a computer to find the spot where new layers could be added. A dozen bars of different colors filled the screen, showing the weeks of work already done.
While it sounds like the inner workings of any recording studio, everyone there was on their own time. Wright, an Old Dominion University music professor, has spent two to four hours nearly every night for months with students working on what is to become the first album for Big Blue Mix.
The effort by the students and faculty, they hope, could be the beginning of something bigger.
Work began on the project in December, when everyone met and decided to make an album to support ODU Relay for Life. Students were sent on their winter break with homework: write songs for the album.
In a few short weeks, originals like "Angel Over Me" and "Eye of the Storm" took shape. Recording began in January and is close to wrapping up.
In all, about 30 students have had a hand in producing 20 tracks. The album has a diverse mix of genres and styles, with a story behind every song.
They plan to record at least two additional songs, and then it will take about two weeks to mix the album. Acting as a studio manager, Wright gives students the reins, letting them set up equipment and edit rough song mixes.
When Cole Meyers, a music production senior, went to swap out Oliver's microphones, Wright watched.
"I've trained them on everything," the professor said. "This is his chance to be the producer. To work with the artist."
After Oliver and Meyers finished with "Across the Sea," it was Jones' turn at the microphone. In the control room, Tarane Parker took over as producer.
"You've got the controls," Wright said to the electrical engineering junior. "Let's fly this ship."
As everyone listened to Jones sing "Believe," Wright said he didn't have plans to do much to her voice when mixing the song later.
"Her voice is so pretty on its own," Wright said to Parker. "No gimmicks, you know what I mean? Just her pure voice."
Initially, Wright didn't tell ODU Relay for Life about the album. He wanted to see how it shaped up before promising anything. He was pleasantly surprised at the reaction when he finally stepped forward.
Relay for Life, which supports the American Cancer Society, is planning to sell the album throughout the region and is suggesting national publicity.
Meanwhile, the work is just the kind of thing the university hoped would come of the newly expanded Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center, according to John Toomey, department chairman.
"I think it's a most worthy cause," Toomey said. "A good way to motivate our students."
It's a chance, Wright said, for the students to take what they're learning in class and put it into practice.
Meyers, who will graduate with a bachelor's degree in May, will return to ODU in the fall to start an MBA program. He is also planning to work as a manager for the label.
With weeks of finishing touches ahead on the inaugural album, Wright is already looking to the next semester and a new album for another charity.
If things work out, Wright wants to produce a new student album every semester and possibly open the studio to outside acts.
He also hopes to raise enough money to avoid working for free.
Lauren King, 757-446-2309, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the album
"ODU Relay for Life: Eye of the Storm" should be available for early release April 11. The proposed cost is $11.99, with net proceeds going to ODU Relay for Life. The album will be sold with the artist name "Big Blue Mix," and should be available on iTunes by April 25. If you want to help the students with the project, visit tinyurl.com/BigBlueMix.
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