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McNally Smith Helps Bring a “Battle of the Bands” to Duluth

On April 19, 2009, McNally Smith College of Music’s Technology Department helped sponsor the Duluth chapter of Junior Achievement’s annual “Battle of the Bands.” The event was held in the DECC arena on the waterfront of downtown Duluth with approximately 2,000 people in attendance. McNally Smith representatives recorded the 14 competing bands, McNally faculty member Chopper Black served as a guest judge, the college spread the word at an information booth, and more.  The group Broken Glass, which won the competition, took home a prize package that includes a two-day recording session at McNally Smith College of Music’s McKern Complex.

The 14 bands competing in the battle were selected to appear from a large pool of applicants. All band members are required to be no older than high school age and must be submitted by their school for consideration. Bands were recruited through promotional materials such as posters and flyers that went out to over 150 schools within a radius of 100 miles of the Duluth area and in all affiliated Junior Achievement businesses. The event also received heavy radio and TV coverage.

McNally Smith’s Location Recording class, led by instructor Thomas Day, provided a key service to the Battle of the Bands. This year’s class included Kody Ellington and Nathan Kirchoff. The class recorded the entire event on Digidesign’s Pro Tools via a special connection to the venue’s front of house console. Now that the music has been recorded, McNally Smith instructors, students, and Record Lab staff will edit and mix all of the songs played and create a compilation CD for Junior Achievement to distribute as a promotional item.

Chopper Black, a McNally Smith faculty member who is well known for his engineering work on hit recordings including Paula Abdul’s smash Forever Your Girl, appeared as a guest celebrity judge to help give the event a little extra “starpower.” Michael Foehse from McNally Smith’s Admissions team operated a booth in the Career Fair in the adjoining auditorium to help spread the word about McNally Smith’s many offerings. Bryan Forrester, Chair of Music Technology, also went along to function as liaison and over-qualified gopher, and to simply enjoy the music of these up-and-coming musicians.

Eddie Mapp, front of house engineer for bands including the Stone Temple Pilots and Evanescence, returned as the guest mixing engineer for the event. Mapp appeared as a guest lecturer at McNally Smith College just two days prior to the Battle.

Winning band Breaking Glass hails from Esko, Minnesota, with members ranging in age from the 12 year-old bassist to seasoned 14 year olds. Although the audience may not have given the band much of a chance considering their youth, within fifteen seconds of the first chords the crowd was going crazy over the precocious rockers!  These kids had an amazing sound, a level of maturity well beyond their years, and a certain swagger that was simply not expected. Even the row of esteemed judges was up on their feet clapping and yelling for this upstart act. Many in attendance felt that they may someday be able to brag to their friends that they were at the Battle and heard Breaking Glass “way back when”.

In addition, to Breaking Glass’s recording session at McNally Smith, the top four bands at this year’s Battle will have the opportunity to appear at the annual CD release party at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth on May 17, 2009.