Liberty’s Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music Brings Nashville to Lynchburg »Liberty News

Producer Ben Shive speaks to students before a recording session in the Liberty School of Music recording studio (Photos by Eva Soderstrom)

Last week, Liberty University students had the privilege of learning from some of Nashville’s top recording session musicians who brought their wealth of industry knowledge to the classrooms and studios of the Center for Music and the Worship Arts.

The three-day tour was facilitated by Liberty’s Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music. The center was launched in 2019 and aims to provide students with connections to the professional music industry. The center regularly hosts visiting musicians, including Smith himself.

Drummer Dan Needham helps a music school student tune the drums in the recording studio

Liberty welcomed producer Ben Shive, who received the GMA Dove Award for Christmas Album of the Year in 2008 for his production on Brandon Heath’s “Christmas is Here” and is also known for his work on the album “When I Was Younger” by Colony House. ; guitarist Dave Cleveland, a world-renowned guitarist who has played on over 45,000 radio tracks for Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman and others; Danny O’Lannerghty, a well-known bassist in the Christian music industry who has recorded with David Phelps, Newsong, Jacki Velasquez, Anthony Evans, Amy Grant, Michael Card and many more; and drummer Dan Needham, who has recorded with Garth Brooks, Nick Jonas, Nick Lachey, Josh Groban, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Jeremy Camp, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Israel Houston, Marc Broussard, CeCe Winans, and Chris Tomlin among others.

Cleveland said not only is the caliber of Liberty students impressive, but so are the experiences the Center for Commercial Music provides them.

“I’ve been able to help some Liberty students get really good jobs in Nashville because I have so much faith in what they’re teaching them here,” he said. “I really believe in what they are doing. If I trust and believe in someone, I will be their biggest fan.

Cleveland said Liberty’s School of Music is focused on giving students hands-on experience before graduation.

Dave Cleveland (middle) and Ben Shive (right) look on as Associate Professor of Audio Engineering and Music Production and Director of Audio Production Nathan Zwald (left) works on a student’s track from a studio music school.

“I think (the music school) has a real vision to not only give them a degree, but to give them the opportunity to pursue their dream through the music industry,” he said. . “I think everything they do is bigger than the piece of paper. It’s really for the life experience, so they can leave this area and be as prepared as possible for whatever is to come.

In addition to speaking in class, the professionals worked with the students in Liberty’s recording studio and offered advice on the students’ own demos. Students were also allowed to sit in the recording studio to observe how musicians approached a recording session, using student demos as projects.

“It was really cool to see my song come to life with them because they have so many years of experience,” said first-year graduate student in Music Education – Performance, Elizabeth Rajok. His song “Polished” was one of the tracks Associate Professor of Audio Engineering and Music Production and Director of Audio Production Nathan Zwald chose for guest musicians to take artistic liberties with as they taught students. “It was really exciting because I do a lot of stuff on my own with the production. So it was fun to hear their perspectives on that and bring (to the table) things that I don’t know about. never thought of before.

Senior recording, engineering and production student Adam Belcher said it was exciting to see his friend’s song being reviewed by some of the best in the business.

“They’ve dedicated their 10,000 hours and they can help take his song even higher,” he said. “It’s already amazing and now it’s even better.”

Danny O’Lannerghty (left) advises a student practicing bass

O’Lannerghty, marveled at the center’s willingness to help students succeed.

“I’m always impressed with what Liberty does to give students a boost to get out there and do what they’re doing in the world,” he said. “I am always amazed every time I come here.”

O’Lannerghty encourages students to get hands-on experience outside of the classroom, such as performing live whenever they get the chance, so they can learn more about themselves as musicians .

“We all have to fall to learn how to get back up,” he said. “Whether professionally, as an engineer, bassist, teacher or otherwise. You have to sort of find out for yourself what works for you because we are all different.

In the process of gaining experience, O’Lannerghty said one doesn’t always know what the Lord will do with one’s life and which direction within the industry He can lead them.

“That’s a whole other part of it, because God wastes nothing,” he said.

The next guest students can expect to work with will be Smith himself, when he visits the School of Music in November.

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