Lou Gross to teach live audio basics workshop

Kelly NorrellOur Town Arts

Ever wish you could engineer live sound for a concert or speaking event?

Jubilee Community Arts (JCA), the nonprofit that runs the Laurel Theater, 1538 Laurel Ave., wants to help you learn.

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, longtime volunteer sound engineer Dr. Lou Gross will teach an introductory workshop on live sound mixing at the Laurel Theater from 6-9 p.m.  The class is free and all are welcome, but participants are asked to pre-register and volunteer six hours at the Laurel Theater in the next year. Call 865-522-5851 or email [email protected] to register.

Now in its 26th year, the workshop typically draws high school students who are in a band, established musicians, and volunteer sound engineers from churches and nonprofits, said Gross.

Use of the mixing board allows the sound engineer to adjust sound levels and quality.

At the Laurel Theater, which celebrates and preserves the traditional arts of the southern Appalachians, echoes of great musicians seep from the walls while fresh new music and dancing take place there every week.

“There is an art to how you combine the sounds onstage so that the audience hears what the artist wants them to hear. It is not like you are sitting next to a musician and hearing them acoustically,” Gross said.

He will instruct workshop participants on how to collect sound from performers via numerous microphones onstage, run sound to a mixing board, and then present it to both the audience and back to the performers through speakers and amplifiers.

Gross authored a widely-used technical guide, Basic Introduction to Concert Sound Engineering, that you can download for free on the JCA website. He suggested that participants take a look at it before the workshop.

In his more than 30 years with JCA, Gross has run sound for performers such as Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, Allison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Beausoliel, Steep Canyon Rangers, and the late Ralph Stanley, whose solo song, “O Death,” in “O Brother, Where Art Thou” won a Grammy award.

Workshop participants will learn about audio set-up and sound mixing. Volunteers Paul Laudeman and Lou Gross (back) recently mixed sound for old time band, the Hellgamites: Frank Bronson (fiddle), Larry Holt (fiddle), Ronda Foust (banjo), and John Mahaffy (guitar).

Gross figures that he has run sound for 800 concerts for JCA plus “maybe another 200 events.” You can keep up with upcoming events, such as concerts by Tennessee Stifflegs, Bryan Bowers, and John McCutcheon, on the JCA calendar at www.jubileearts.org.

“My job is to have the collection of instruments onstage not be overwhelmed by one or the other and that you can hear each in the mix,” he said.  For example, when old-time band The Hellgramites warmed up for a recent Thursday evening square dance, Gross ran the sound at the mixing board.

“More banjo,” responded band members, as they listened to the speakers onstage. Gross upped the banjo sound and the band was off and running.

Gross, a distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics at the University of Tennessee, said he is no musician himself.

“I enjoy music and dancing. Sound engineering is my way of contributing.”

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