NMU audio studio offers real-world experience

Mark Shevy, associate professor of Media Production and Mass Communication, sits at the sound board in Northern Michigan University’s recording studio.

Mark Shevy, associate professor of Media Production and Mass Communication, sits at the sound board in Northern Michigan University’s recording studio.

Modes of communication are constantly changing. For example, cell phones weren’t around until the ’70s, and since then, they have become more advanced than anyone from that time would have anticipated; the same goes for the Internet.

One thing, however, that has never changed is the need for communicating. Communication is very important. 8-18 Media recently went to Northern Michigan University’s Audio Recording Studio and Communications classroom to see how the school of communications has changed since the “olden days.”

The classroom at NMU is split into two portions: the recording studio and the classroom.

“It’s primarily used for teaching audio production classes,” Mark Shevy, NMU associate professor of Media Production and Mass Communication, said of the professional audio production studio. “The best way to learn this is to get in and use the equipment and practice, so we teach a few things during the class, but then we have the open lab time during evenings and weekends so students can come in on their own.”

Billy Benton, a junior in the Media Production program, talks about the courses and how this studio differs from home-studios.

“Most of the classes I have taken for my major have been pretty hands-on oriented,” Benton said. “What really sets this one [the recording studio] apart is the amount of money that goes into it. You don’t really see many studios like this in someone’s basement; it’s rather expensive.”

To give you an idea of this studio classroom setup, imagine, if you will, a large, polygon-shaped room designed to have as few parallel walls as possible, with a microphone, grand piano and a table, all of which sit in close proximity to typical school desks. Sound dampeners surround the room to keep the space extra quiet, and there are special carpets on the floor to prevent additional sound reverb. This is the classroom where students take advanced audio production, but it also converts quickly into a professional recording studio.  The carpet rolls back, the walls are extra thick to prevent any outside noises from seeping in and on any given day, the classroom/studio can be made ready to host a variety of recording acts, including bands and choirs.

However, learning about how to communicate effectively goes beyond hands-on learning.

“We have a good number of classes that are more about theory,” Shevy said. “We have Communication Law, for example, where it’s not working with equipment, but we’re trying to keep you from getting arrested or hurting people. We have other classes like the Effects of Mass Communications.”

Shevy explained that issues covered in theory include answering questions like, “Can you make media that might make people more violent?” Or “ How can you help them learn or change what they believe about the world?”

In the editing studio, large computer monitors adorn the wall beside a large window that looks into the classroom/recording studio. Over the years, the editing audio has become more and more advanced.

“When I took classes as an undergraduate for editing audio, it was on the reel to reel tape, and we had to pull it out and mark it with a pencil and use a razor blade to cut the section of tape out and tape it back together, and now if you look, you get to use all this digital stuff that is really, really cool,” Shevy said.

The editing of audio is now all done using computer programs, no razor blades needed.

Obviously, NMU offers a lot of majors, but the ones that require the studio and classroom are more along the lines of media production; however, as Shevy explained, “Some of the other students who come in here are multi-media journalism students. They are both in the broadcasting area of the communication and performance studies department.”

But what exactly can one do with a degree in media production in today’s modern world of social-media, blogs and Twitter feeds?

“There’s a lot of career options,” Shevy said. “Everybody needs to communicate, especially in today’s world, every organization tries to get audio and video on the web so that they can communicate. Some people will go into full-time media production working for radio stations and TV stations. Some people go into production houses where they make commercials and other more specific TV shows. We’ve had some people go on to Hollywood and work on TV shows like The Bachelor and things like that, and we’ve had some students go into filmmaking and work on movies, and then we have some students who will go into other areas such as the Department of Natural Resources, working with fisheries and wildlife, and they need to make videos and audio productions and write and tell people about snakes and birds and fish. They need somebody who knows how to do audio production and video production and writing for that. So, they can do that. I’ve had people go into hospitals and work in health communications. So anywhere there is a need for communication. Some people are trying to go into business for themselves by starting their own YouTube channels and podcasts.”

While careers working for online communications or social media are an option, Benton is hoping to land a career in a more traditional media role.

“I would really like to go to a TV news station,” Benton said of his after-graduation plans. “I’m trying to focus on the audio aspect of it, so yeah, a TV news station or radio station would probably be my dream.”

There are many paths one can take in the communications area of expertise. And though the tools for such communication may have changed, the desire to communicate is stronger than ever before. The way of passing along information has always been important, and those who are the best able to do this are held to a certain standard of quality. This standard is something that NMU professors pride themselves on passing along to their students.

This story was written by, Theresa Hermann, 17, with contributions by Ian Bek, 15 and Anja McBride, 10.

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