Topic: College of Fine Arts

February 24, 2016

Music media production majors Alex Rodriguez and Allison Swingley and professor Robert Willey use a mixing board inside the Music Instruction Building. Producers of “The Song” sought Ball State based in large part on its top-notch recording studios.

A new musical reality show, “The Song,” is putting a twist on karaoke-style singing contests by focusing on songwriters performing original works in front of judges.

This March, its pilot episode will be filmed on campus with the help of Ball State students.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to be involved in a full-blown commercial production like this,” said Robert Willey, director of the School of Music’s music media production and industry sequence. “Our students are ready for this kind of professional work, and we’re eager to show it.”

Producers of “The Song” sought out Muncie because of its Middletown reputation and Ball State because of its top-notch recording studios. “You have a great department, and your facilities are on par with any commercial facility I’ve seen in New York or anywhere else,” said Chris Pati, founder of IndiMusic TV, a social streaming network that broadcasts independent music videos.

Pati toured Ball State during the show’s planning phase, when its production was slated to be Internet-based. He worked to bring “The Song” to Muncie alongside a team that includes local attorney Eric Welch and Michael Braverman, a Muncie native and executive producer with A. Smith & Co., the production company responsible for reality TV hits such as “America Ninja Warrior” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Artists to perform in front of celebrity judges

Filming for “The Song” begins March 9, when 15 songwriters selected from an applicant pool of several thousand arrive in Muncie.

Their first objective: surviving performances in front of celebrity judges including country artist Darius Rucker (of Hootie and the Blowfish fame); Skip Bishop, former Sony Music executive; and Drew Copeland, member of the band Sister Hazel.

The final two artists to make it out of the two judging rounds will have 48 hours to convert their original composition into a professional arrangement ready for national release. Their musical “boot camp” experience will take them from the recording studios of Ball State’s Music Instruction Building to center stage, where they’ll perform during a concert for the Ball State and Muncie communities at 7 p.m. March 12 in Pruis Hall.

See 'The Song' on March 12

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In addition to revealing the show’s winner, who will receive a cash prize and recording contract, the concert will feature performances by musical guests Daya (“Hideaway”); Ryan Star (“Breathe,” “Stay Awhile”); and newcomers Tryon, a pop duo whose debut single, “Somebody to Love Me,” releases Feb. 29. Tickets available now.

‘The Song’ to test students involved

Willey said that helping professional musicians as they record, edit and mix tracks in such a compressed time period will be an eye-opening experience for the 10-12 Ball State music production and telecommunications students he anticipates being hired as assistants for the show’s recording and film work.

“Our students are ready for this kind of professional work, and we’re eager to show it.”

Robert Willey
director of music media production and industry

Junior music media production major Alex Rodriguez said the chance to work on the show plays to his career interests.

“Everything I might be able to help these artists with is what I want to do after I graduate. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come to Muncie every day, so I’m excited I’ll be here over spring break to take part.”

Fellow music media production major Allison Swingley agreed. “It’s the kind of experience that goes on your resume,” the senior said, “so I’m really looking forward to it.”

‘Not your typical basement studio’

Filming of “The Song” at Ball State is yet another example of external audiences seeking out the university as host of a national or international music competition or performance.

In November 2015, the school held preliminary auditions in Sursa Hall for the Hasting International Piano Competition. This May, the first Ball State University-Sursa American Organ Competition will be held there in partnership with the Moscow Conservatory.

“Any time we have a chance to showcase the talent of our faculty and students, along with the Music Instruction Building and its state-of-the-art facilities, is an entrepreneurial opportunity we take seriously,” said Ryan Hourigan, director of the School of Music.

Willey said producers of the show want to capture artists’ reactions as they enter Ball State’s recording spaces. “These aren’t your typical basement studios where you hope the foam isn’t coming off the walls. These songwriters are going to be wowed by what we have to offer.”

Welch said several cable networks have committed to “The Song,” provided its pilot “lives up to the treatment we’ve promised.”

“That’s the good news,” he said, “and I think the even better news is if we can deliver, then the series could get a home on broadcast television in fall 2016.”

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