The Nashville Section of the AES held its eleventh annual “Spring Mixer” on April 10, 2014. First-place-winning team Belmont University took home the coveted "Top Mixer" perpetual trophy that will be proudly displayed until next year – Belmont’s fifth win over the eleven-year history of the event. All area schools with audio recording programs were invited to participate. Participating teams were from The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville (Darrius Porter, Ryan Van Guilder, and Zach Helsinger), Belmont University (Anthony Dipiazza, Joey Doyscher, and Patrick Anderson), The Blackbird Academy (Jeff Todd, Brandon Schnierer, and Michael Freeman), Middle Tennessee State University (Charlie Garcia, Frank Gerdts, Luke Lasater), Nashville State Technical Community College (Gregory J. Bergeron, Destine Kaine Ellis, and Justin M. Osborne), and the SAE Institute-Nashville (Jeremy Moulder and Dalton VanVolkenburgh). Second place went to School of Audio Engineering Institute-Nashville, and third place was secured by The Blackbird Academy.
Each team was given identical raw original studio tracks recorded in a Nashville studio, identical mixing environments, and eight hours to create a stereo mix and complete the session documentation per guidelines from the AES and The Recording Academy® Producers & Engineers Wing®. Entering the competition, the students were only informed of the judging criteria and what equipment they would be using. The mixing was done over a two-day period in six identical Pro Tools HD mixing rooms in CMT’s audio post rooms in Nashville. The students were informed as to which version of Pro Tools to expect, which plug-ins would be available on those systems, and the studio monitors that would be supplied.
The final mix created by each team used tracks from a recording session of “Takin’ It Slow” by Canadian country artist Bobby Wills. The producer, Michael Pyle, spoke to the students via a video chat before the session and made them aware of the sound he was going for on the finished mixes. Rules prohibited any additional outside materials, re-recording of any new material outside of the given tracks, or any outside assistance.
The competition was judged by a panel of six industry judges: Producer/Recording Engineer Neil Cappellino, Recording Engineer Bob Clark, Mastering Engineer John Mayfield, Producer/Mixing Engineer Steve Marcantonio, Recording/Mixing Engineer Randy Poole and Recording/Mixing Engineer David Schober. The judging was based on aesthetic elements such as the fidelity, imaging, width/depth, dynamic range, mix balance, preparation for mastering and documentation-completion of page 5 of AES/P&E Wing Session Documentation. Held at the W.O Smith Music School, the evening was moderated by AES Nashville Committee Member/Recording Engineer Jill Courtney, and she awarded the winning teams their prizes.
AES Chairman Kerry Kopp stated, “The AES Nashville Section’s Spring Mixer is an event which we always greet with anticipation. This year’s event was one of the best in recent memory, with superlative judges who offered extremely beneficial mix evaluations. I believe each student that participated in this year’s event now has a much clearer vision of what they may experience when they enter the hyper-competitive environment of the technical side of today’s music business. Congratulations to the all of the teams that participated and benefited from this year’s event, with special accolades for the winning team from Belmont University!”
"It was a pleasure to participate in the judging of this event," said Steve Marcantonio. "I enjoyed hearing the varied approaches to the mix from these eager, young minds, and they were receptive and positive when given creative input."
Sponsorship of the 2014 Spring Mixer competition, including prizes for the top teams and their schools were from MikTek (PM9, C1 and CV3 mics); Softube (Tech Classic Channel Bundle); Asterope (guitar and XLR cables); FabFilter (creative bundle); Cascade/Corner Music (BE Fathead Ribbon mic); Mayfield Mastering (mastered mixes and consulting time); and Iron Mountain (t-shirts). The sound system for the judging was provided by Blackbird Studio, and live sound mixing and coordination was provided by CMT’s Director of Engineering Tom Edwards and live sound engineer Garry Farris.