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Program Changes at Peabody Institute

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz

Studio A features a magnificent Steinway D grand piano.

Studio A features a magnificent Steinway D grand piano.

Photo: Ed Tetreault and Scott Metcalfe

The Peabody Institute (www.pea body.jhu.edu/recordingarts) — the music school within Johns Hopkins University — has been a respected training ground for musicians for more than 50 years, and for classical and jazz engineers for more than 25 years. The program's emphasis on the mathematics and science behind engineering and acoustics, and on high-level instrumental performance and composition, means that a bachelor's degree takes five years to complete and results in a double-degree either in performance and engineering, or in composition and engineering. Now with director Scott Metcalfe onboard, Peabody is broadening its musical horizons.

“The philosophy has always been to emphasize classical and jazz music and production,” explains Metcalfe. “I'm shifting the program so the focus isn't so largely on classical and jazz. Though my experience is more in classical and acoustic music recording, engineering and production, I want students to be able to handle a rock session, folk, jazz, et cetera, but still be equally qualified to record an orchestra or a string quartet.”

In addition to revamping courses and adding faculty, Metcalfe added an assortment of outboard processing hardware to Peabody's studios.

“In recent years, we installed a Sony Oxford console, and upgraded to Pro Tools HD3 running Version 8 software, a Pyramix MassCore System and a TC Electronic System 6000,” Metcalfe says. “This past summer we added API parametric and graphic EQs, a UREI LA-2A and an 1176 alongside our existing Lang EQs, 1178 and two LA-4s [modified by Eddie Ciletti]; two Distressors and a Fatso Jr; Chandler Red Devil EQs and compressors; mic pre's from Great River, Millennia, API and Grace Designs; a Z-Systems mastering EQ; a Manley Vari-MU compressor; and a pair of dbx 160 compressors.

“The advantage of having these analog devices is that even if our students are using plug-ins, if they call up an optical setting on a Waves compressor, for example, they know what that refers to and what sound they're going to get because they've used the device on which the plug-ins were modeled.

“Some projects they do are completely in the box, either Pro Tools or Pyramix,” Metcalfe continues, “but on some projects, the DAW is used just as a tape machine, and everything else is done on the console with outboard gear, and they're fully mixing on faders. We give them the opportunity to see what works best for them, or for their project.”

Peabody's performance spaces are wired to the studios to accommodate large-ensemble recording, but soon, it may be just as likely for a student to be tracking guitars in the studio as setting up a Decca Tree on an orchestra.

“Students will be able to borrow techniques from a rock/pop-style production and apply them to a 20th-century classical string quartet,” Metcalfe says. “A classical engineer might think of something different from what someone out of the rock 'n' roll handbook would come up with, but either approach might be appropriate for that composition.”

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