NASHVILLE, TN, May 8 , 2018 — The Nashville Section of the Audio Engineering Society held its 15th-annual “Spring Mixer” competition on April 19, 2018. Area universities and technical schools with audio recording programs were invited to participate in the annual student mixing competition. Participating were students from Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University, SAE Institute-Nashville, The Art Institute of Tennessee – Nashville, and The Blackbird Academy.
“The AES Spring Mixer is a tradition that reflects the best in both professional engineering and the genuine sense of caring and community that defines Nashville,” says AES Nashville Section Chair Barry Cardinael. “Most importantly,” he continues, “it focuses on providing local audio students with hands-on experience, mentoring and invaluable feedback from world-class, award-winning engineers and producers. From the mixing day to the judging to the listening, review and awards ceremony, the week’s activities constitute an incomparable experience for tomorrow’s young audio professionals.”
The final mix created by each team, using tracks from a recording session of “This Is Me Now” by artist Laura Palumbo, was judged on eight elements, including Fidelity/Sonics, Imaging Width, Image Depth, Mix Balance, Lead Presence, Mix Development, Dynamic Range/Preparation for Mastering and Documentation – completion of page 5 of AES/Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing Session Documentation.
The winning team of this year's competition, representing SAE Institute-Nashville, was composed of Rich Kelly III and Brian Prost. “The AES Nashville Spring Mixer was an awesome experience,” shares Prost, “from getting to work in the CMT building for a day to getting invaluable constructive criticism from seasoned professionals. I found it particularly interesting hearing the feedback from a professional mastering engineer about what he's looking for when he receives a mix.” Kelly adds, “Both Brian and I felt challenged and inspired by the competition – we really wanted to bring the trophy home to SAE for the first time. I felt like the biggest challenge for us was getting a mix that sounded sonically great, but could also please five different judges who undoubtedly have differing opinions on how the song should’ve been mixed.” Kelly and Prost graduated from SAE Institute-Nashville on April 27. “Music, mixing and recording are my passion,” Kelly continues, “and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life – we felt like this was a fitting way to end our time at SAE. It felt like validation for all the hard work that we put in over the last 16 months. We really appreciated this opportunity and we are thrilled to have brought home the win for SAE!“
Each team was given identical raw original studio tracks recorded in a Nashville-based professional studio, identical mixing environments, and eight hours to create a stereo mix and complete the paperwork as recommended by the AES and the Producer & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy. The mixing was performed on April 14 in five identical Pro Tools HD post production rooms at the Country Music Television facility in Nashville, TN. Entering the competition, the students were informed of the judging criteria and what equipment they would be using, including the Pro Tools version, room monitoring equipment, and what plug-ins would be available on those systems. Competition rules prohibited any materials being brought in, re-recording of any new material outside of the Pro Tools systems, or any outside assistance.
The song’s original mixing engineer, GRAMMY Award winner John Jaszcz, spoke to the students before the session, making them aware of the sound he was going for on his finished mix, and emphasizing the feel of the song. Nashville AES Section Chair Cardinael served as emcee for the awards event, where a panel of judges composed of industry professionals graded the mixes and presented their critiques. The event was held in the 4th
Story Theater at the West End United Methodist Church in Nashville. The judges included studio owner/producer/engineer Chris Mara, producer/engineer Dan Shike, producer/engineer David Thoener, producer/engineer Doug Sarrett, producer/engineer Louie Higuera and mixing engineer Adam Smith. The judges made their evaluations independently, with no knowledge of which mix came from which team.
Second place went to Belmont University and the team composed of Jonathan Korzelius, Tanya Orlov and Alberto Sewald. Third place went to The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville and the team of TeDarrius Weekley, Dusty Mahan and Ian Gibson. The winning school received a MikTek CV3 microphone, and each winning team member received a MikTek MK300 microphone, Avid Pro Tools, Presonus Studio One Professional, Harrison Mixbus, Fabfilter Pro-L2 Limiter, Slate Digital Everything Bundle and a half-day mix session at Blue Grotto Sound studios. Other prizes generously supplied by sponsoring manufacturers included Slate Digital Verbsuites & FG-Bomber plug-ins, That Sound sample libraries, iK Multimedia’s T-RackS MAX and Presonus Quantum Thunderbolt interface.
The AES Nashville Section furnished event t-shirts for all the team members. As the first place winner, SAE Institute-Nashville took home the coveted "Top Mixer" perpetual trophy that will be proudly displayed with appropriate bragging rights until next year.
Visit AES Nashville at www.aesnashville.org