In Concert

May 28, 2018

By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

A budding partnership between the Rollins music department and Full Sail is paying dividends for students from the neighboring institutions.

From the moment Rollins’ vocal ensemble laid down its first track at Full Sail University’s state-of-the-art Audio Temple last semester, both schools knew they had all the makings of a harmonious relationship.

Not only for the collaborative music production value—Rollins supplies the musicians and Full Sail provides the recording talent—but for the enormous synergy it unlocked between the neighboring institutions.

“It’s really visionary for the leaders of the two schools to be thinking this way,” says Daniel Flick, artist-in-residence at Rollins and a driving force behind the partnership. “We’re combining resources to make opportunities for both student bodies, and that’s a great initiative.”

Complementary Coupling

About once a month, a dozen or so faculty and students from Rollins’ Department of Music make a 3-mile trek east to team up with Full Sail’s music production program. Think of it as classical meets cutting-edge. Tech taps into tradition.

Even before partnering with Rollins, Full Sail—a leader in entertainment, media, arts, and technology—was attracting plenty of fine musicians, students and otherwise, to its top-of-the-line recording studio. But they mostly specialized in rock, hip-hop, and other popular genres. Classical stylings? Not so much. That’s when the Tars came marching in.

Now, for one session, Rollins might send a 15-person jazz band replete with horns, saxophones, and trumpets. The next, it’s a double quartet of four violins, two violas, two cellos, and a string bass. Other times, a-cappella and various acoustic arrangements fill the air.

All the while, Full Sail students and professors are behind the glass in the control room, handling technical duties and communicating with the performers.

“At Full Sail, we’re teaching students to compose commercial music and sequence it using virtual instruments,” says Russ Gaspard, who directs the school’s music production program. “Many of them play guitar, drums, keyboard, and so on ... but because we have no performance degree here, we don’t have a lot of wind instruments or bowed strings or the type of instrumentation you find at Rollins.

“We’re more of a pop-oriented school on the recording side, but we also want our students to be able to compose for film scores and video games, so it’s really good for them to be exposed to the classical end of it.”

In the studio, Rollins students regularly play arrangements written by their classmates as well as their peers at Full Sail. The interaction between the performer and composer, says John Yandell, Full Sail’s associate course director for advanced session recording, is invaluable.

“When you write for instruments like the piano,” he explains, “all notes are available to you in a certain way. But on a stringed instrument, where you have to finger the bow, the sounds come out differently. Composing for a virtual instrument, the computer doesn’t complain much. But when you’re working with another human, that’s a different skill set.”

Real-World Applications

In the same way Full Sail has talented musicians on campus, Rollins, too, has music composition and technology students who benefit greatly from their newfound access to the Audio Temple.

“We can do some recording at Rollins, but not at the level Full Sail does,” says Chuck Archard, artist-in-residence at Rollins and author of two best-selling books on bass guitar. “Full Sail will give us all the raw data and tracks, so our students in music technology classes can also mix these recordings and use them to promote their careers.”

Archard, who teaches music business, sees the Full Sail project as a way to integrate students with all aspects of what it takes to excel in the industry. The more contacts they make now, and the more skills sets they develop, the better their chances for success.

“They call it the gig economy today,” says Archard. “Well, as musicians, we’ve been gigging for a long time. That’s nothing new to us. I do holiday shows, I gig, I teach. I want kids to have access to everything they need to learn. And this is an incredible opportunity.

“The goal is to help our kids do their original stuff,” says Archard. “And virtually anything the students are working on, from composers to ensembles, Full Sail’s pretty wide open. It’s a win-win with real-world applications.”

Performance Partnership

When Rollins and Full Sail planted the seeds of collaboration last year, one of the first outgrowths was a project that went beyond the classroom to benefit the entire Orlando community. This past December, an estimated 3,000 people attended Songs of the Season, a free holiday concert on the Seneff Arts Plaza outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. As with the schools’ recording partnership, Rollins supplied the orchestras and choral ensembles, while Full Sail contributed the production expertise.

At Songs of the Season, more than 100 students and faculty were on stage, including the Rollins Choir, Rollins Singers, Rollins Women’s Jazz Vocal Ensemble, and members of the Dr. Phillips Center Jazz Orchestra. Archard and Assistant Professor of Music Jamey Ray ’06 provided instrumental and vocal arrangements, while John Sinclair, John M. Tiedtke Professor of Music and chair of Rollins’ Department of Music, wielded the conducting baton.

“This particular event featured choral and the music department,” says Flick, Rollins’ liaison with community arts groups, “but we’re hoping to expand our partnerships to include other areas of the College as well. There are also opportunities in dance, theater, visual arts, chamber music ... all of which can create first-rate experiences for the community while providing our students with career value.”

Writing a New Song

Rollins and Full Sail have been neighbors since the latter relocated from Dayton, Ohio, in 1989. But apart from some one-off projects over the years, the two schools never shared a strategic vision that had filtered down to the student level.

About a year ago, however, Rollins President Grant Cornwell began meeting with Full Sail President Garry Jones to explore how the schools could forge new ground together.

“We quickly came to the same conclusion that a collaboration between our music students and Full Sail’s music production and recording arts students would provide outstanding experiential learning opportunities for all concerned,” says Cornwell. “This kind of collaboration speaks exactly to our mission, and I look forward to watching this partnership develop.”

Full Sail’s Gaspard agrees. His greatest hope is to see an ongoing connection between the schools, one where each student can gain “professional friendships across the aisle.”

“We’re really trying to form relationships between the students and teachers at both schools,” says Gaspard, “kind of a regular handshake every month, which promotes learning.”

“I think this is going to be a very good marriage,” adds Rollins’ Archard. “There are tons of opportunities, and as soon as we’re successful with one, it opens the doors for many more.”

A Rollins professor leads a discussion in an outdoor classroom.

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