Among a small group of manufacturers recognising the unprecedented requirement for education in pro audio, Sennheiser UK recently staged three sessions for aspiring sound engineers.

Radio Microphone Best Practise

Phil Cummings and students
Phil Cummings and students
The first of these was held in the Sennheiser lecture theatre (which the company sponsors) at the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts (LIPA). Here, Sennheiser UK Special Projects Manager Phil Cummings and Chief RF Engineer Andrew Lillywhite delivered a two-part session to 50 students.

The first part offered an overview of Sennheiser – covering its history, products, services and position in the industry. The second was a Radio Microphone Best Practise session, which covered topics including what exactly a radio microphone is, planning and frequency allocation, antennae placement, cable selection, Channel 69-38 spectrum awareness and intermodulation.

This was followed by a question-and-answer session which, Cummings notes, overran because of the high quality of questions. ‘We had an audience of really strong students who asked lots of questions and all stayed completely attentive, despite the session lasting for over three hours. They were all taking notes and showed true dedication to the sound industry,’ he says.

Chris Layton, live sound lecturer at LIPA, acknowledges the success of the seminar: ‘The workshop covered a huge amount of ground and ran well over time. We’d planned to take a break part way through, but forgot to and didn’t notice – the students are normally quick to let you know if they’ve had enough – and they didn’t.

‘The session was technically very informative and also enjoyable with both Lillywhite and Cummings providing anecdotes that provided a good insight in to some real-world situations,’ he adds. ‘It reinforces both my and the students understanding and also answered a lot of those deeper technical questions that you never quite get to the bottom of unless you live and breathe a subject. We hope they will do another session soon.’

A Day in the Life of a Production Manager

Soon after, David Dwight – music and music technology teacher at High Wycombe’s Misbourne School – took a party of Year 10 BTEC Music and Year 12 A-level Music Technology students to the British Music Experience (BME) in East London, where ‘Old Misbournian Phil’ ran another two-part workshop. This time, a session on the history of Sennheiser was followed by A Day in the Life of a Production Manager.

‘These workshops had a special meaning for me, as I was once a student at the school,’ he says. ‘During the first session we used images and footage of bands Sennheiser UK works with to demonstrate who we are as a company and our artist relations role.

‘For the second session I showed how a live gig gets put on at the Brixton Academy. It highlighted what time the day starts with the riggers coming in, crew setting the stage up, explaining the roles of the production manager, tour manager and sound engineer and how, through the course of the day, things had to take place to make the show happen. To make it more engaging we’d set it up so a few of the students assumed each role and they all really got into it.’

‘It was a fantastic educational visit for the students,’ says David Dwight. ‘Phil shared his experience and really brought to life the concepts and job roles the students have been studying in school. It was an invaluable “insider” insight into the demands of the music industry and the students’ dreams were given a healthy dose of realism about the hours and effort involved in really making a career in it.’

After Cummings’ talks, the students toured the BME: ‘It was engaging and well presented, with something for all ages and plenty of opportunity to learn about the music, music technology and the musical geography of the UK,’ Dwight says. ‘We will definitely be looking to bring new students to the BME in the future and the talk from Phil gave the day a real focus, demystifying the music industry for our students.’

Mixing courses

Four days later, the indefatigable Phil Cummings headed off to Bucks New University with Andrew Lillywhite, Sennheiser UK live sound specialist Dave Wooster and FOH/monitor engineer Jimmy Nicholson. Between them Dave and Jimmy have worked with artists including Peter Gabriel, the Ting Tings, Gary Moore, Van Morrison and Leona Lewis, so were ideally placed to give advice about the realities of the industry.

Nicholson had flown in that morning from Las Vegas, where he had been doing a show with the Ting Tings and Cee-lo Green, but he was more than happy to pass on his experience.

‘Dave and Jimmy passed on a lot of valuable advice about mixing shows and how they got to where they have in the industry,’ says Cummings. ‘We had an open Q&A between us and the students about how tough the industry can be, but also how rewarding it can be too. Despite a touch of jet lag, Jimmy said he found it very satisfying passing on his experience and the students really enjoyed it.’

‘The day went very well, it was good to pass on some real-life advice about the industry and the Q&A session showed that they had taken on board a lot of what had been discussed, as the students asked some very direct and thoughtful questions,’ adds Wooster. ‘It was refreshing to see that some of the students were already putting into practise what they were learning with a view to their future.’

Andy Reynolds, senior lecturer of live sound production at Bucks New Uni adds: ‘It is absolutely vital that students on our Audio & Music Production degree have access to the equipment and people that they will be bumping into in the real world. The team from Sennheiser not only have a huge depth of knowledge about their products and the use of RF, but are able to communicate real-world experience. This validates our teaching, helping us to turn out world-class touring engineers.’


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