Technology, TV & Video Production

In the mix

Lawo’s mixing console powers the Aspen Music Festival and School.

The Aspen Music Festival and School, for decades the presenters of one of the world’s most renowned orchestral music festivals, celebrated its 68th year in 2017. The Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) encompasses eight weeks every summer, with more than 400 concert events to delight classical music enthusiasts, many of which are broadcast to audiences worldwide. Therefore, sound quality is paramount, which is why Lawo has chosen to help sponsor the event in years past.
“Lawo’s commitment to the arts fits perfectly with the caliber of creativity that is nurtured by Aspen,” said Lawo
North America sales representative Michael Mueller. “That is why we wanted to make a contribution to this prestigious music festival.”

Music Is Their Mission
The mission of AMFS is to train and educate students for a professional career in Classical music; the annual festival is an outgrowth of that mission. Each festival season, the AMFS presents as many as 400 performances at locations both on campus and off-site, as well as at various symposiums and master classes.
But the centerpiece of the festival is the 2,050-seat Benedict Music Tent, which is described as combining the acoustics of a concert hall with the ambience of an open-air tent. This is also where AMFS’ Lawo mc256 mixing console plays an indispensable role, delivering a broadcast-quality stereo mix and simultaneous 5.1 surround mix of each performance. These mixes are digitally recorded and archived by the school’s Edgar Stanton Audio Recording Center (ESARC) for later use by broadcasting partners such as American Public Media, SiriusXM, Colorado Public Radio, Aspen Public Radio’s KAJX-FM, and the European Broadcast Union.
All this activity in just eight short weeks meant the audio engineering staff has very little downtime. “We have 13 audio engineers,” said ESARC Chief Audio Engineer Scott Wynne, “including director of audio production Lisa Nigris, head media engineer Dan Gonko, four senior audio engineers, three recording engineers, and three assistant engineers. Every concert requires a minimum of two engineers for recording and a third for live sound mixing, but for a major production–say, a concert by Renée Fleming–all hands are on deck!”

Console Of Choice
Thanks to contributions from a generous benefactor, AMFS entered a lease-to-own agreement with Lawo for a 32-fader mc256 MkII mixing console with a Lawo DALLIS frame. “A couple of years ago, our old board died mid-season. You can imagine the stress that caused,” recalled Lisa Nigris, Aspen’s director of audio production. “With our unique mix of 5.1 and stereo recording needs, finding another console that could handle our requirements was really challenging. We had spoken with the Lawo folks, and a few other manufacturers, the previous year at AES so when the convention came around again, discussions became serious and Lawo the focus.”
As Wynne explained, AMFS’ recording needs are unique due to their mix of live sound, audio archiving, and broadcast activities. “We don’t do a surround mix and then downmix it to stereo,” he said. “We construct discrete mixes on separate console layers, so any moves on one layer must be linked to the other. Many consoles are not capable of this kind of work, but the Lawo is.”
“We went to the AES show in New York and talked to many companies, but once we saw the Lawo console in action at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, we realized that this was the desk for us. Lawo didn’t have to tell us ‘sure, we can make our console do what you need’ — the capabilities we needed were already built in.”
“During our interview process, being able to tout the use of the Lawo console was very enticing to prospective engineers,” added Nigris. “Who wouldn’t want to learn to use the same board used by The Tonight Show and the Olympics?”
Head Media Engineer Dan Gonko, said that one of the mc2’s best features is its flexibility. “There’s a lot of depth to the console, but it’s laid out in a very understandable way. For a dozen mixing engineers to have a one-hour training session and then be able to fully customise each individual board layout in just 30 minutes speaks volumes about Lawo’s ease of use.

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