A ’90s jazz staple in downtown Knoxville was resurrected last year – and Pellissippi State students played an important role in its revival.
“Live at Lucille’s,” named for the now-defunct Lucille’s Jazz Club in the Old City, is a live concert series at East Tennessee PBS that was taped before a studio audience in the hopes of having it picked up for syndication like “Austin City Limits,” the longest running music series in American television history.
Pellissippi State students helped in the production of “Live at Lucille’s” in conjunction with East Tennessee PBS and the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. The College’s own Audio Production Engineering and Video Production Technology students worked tirelessly behind the scenes each month the concert was taped in both pre- and post-production.
“The goal is to bring in well-known jazz artists into this intimate, club-like atmosphere,” said Assistant Professor Mischa Goldman, program coordinator for Audio Production Engineering and technical director for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. “It’s like ‘Austin City Limits’ for jazz.”
“Live at Lucille’s” is the brainchild of East Tennessee PBS Production Manager Chris Smith, who bought the neon sign that hung in the window at the business’ estate sale after the club closed in 2001. Smith, who is an adjunct faculty member at Pellissippi State, also secured the rights to the name “Live at Lucille’s” in the hopes of one day being able to create something that built on that legacy, according to the “Live at Lucille’s” website.
“Lucille’s was a conduit for touring acts to come and play regular gigs while they were in Knoxville, reminiscent of Village Vanguard in New York City,” Goldman explained. “Whether you were an A-lister or a sophomore saxophonist, Lucille’s gave jazz musicians a chance to rub elbows.”
“Live at Lucille’s” also has roots in the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra’s monthly Jazz Lunch, which lasted several years after Lucille’s in the Old City closed, he added.
“What we’re finding is that audiences are eager to experience a live broadcast and taping,” Goldman said, noting that both the 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. tapings of “Live at Lucille’s,” each of which could seat 90 guests, quickly sold out.
The six-concert series kicked off in September and ended in April. The day before each taping, Pellissippi State students took over the PBS studio, located conveniently across the street from the College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus, to get everything ready to go.
“There are four elements our APE students are learning: live sound, capture recording, broadcast audio and audio for video; this gives them firsthand experience in producing,” explained Goldman, noting that 2018-19 was the first year APE was a standalone degree program at Pellissippi State. “Meanwhile, our VPT students are helping with camera work and stagehand duties.”
“Live at Lucille’s” provided a safe, controlled environment for students to put their education into practice, he added. Last fall, 10 Pellissippi State students bustled around the East Tennessee PBS studio, doing everything from setting up microphones and putting cables into place to arranging the stage and getting the curtains just right.
“It’s the audio, the set, the staging, the backline equipment, the video cameras …,” Goldman said, listing off the tasks the students need to complete before “Live at Lucille’s” each month. “For every minute on stage, there’s at least 60 minutes of pre-production work that goes into it.”
“It was exciting,” said Angela Schopmann, a VPT student who interned with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and graduated from Pellissippi State in December 2018. “I was a little nervous the first show, but everything went smoothly. I got to shadow the guy in the control room.”
“This is real-world, hands-on experience into actually setting up and putting everything together for a TV show,” Goldman stressed. “They all had a great time.”
Johnny Dotson, an APE student who previously had worked for East Tennessee PBS, committed himself to working all the “Live at Lucille’s” tapings, and he followed Goldman’s advice to “be proactive and find things to do.”
“Tomorrow night I’m going to make sure the sound’s all good, and then I’m going to help with security and merchandise,” he said. “My professors here are awesome because they’ve been in the industry forever, and it’s great that we can do things like this instead of sitting in class all day.”
“Working on ‘Live at Lucille’s’ is a great experience, and Mischa is a great teacher who makes it interesting,” she said. “We are learning everything hands-on, and it has really broadened my horizons.”
“Live at Lucille’s” will air on East Tennessee PBS soon. It also has been picked up by other PBS affiliates throughout Tennessee.
Knoxville is wired for sound
Knoxville is one of the largest video production markets in the nation, and area media production employees are clamoring for
highly trained employees. Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program is educating Audio Production Engineering and Video
Production Technology graduates to meet that demand.
Because media technology changes rapidly, however, equipment and software must be updated regularly to give Pellissippi State students the real-world experience that gives them an edge in this competitive market. This year’s capital campaign seeks to raise $800,000 to expand Pellissippi State’s Audio Production Engineering program by adding fully equipped studio spaces on the Hardin Valley and Magnolia Avenue campuses.
Having up-to-date equipment is of utmost importance, says Matt Caldwell, a 2011 Pellissippi State graduate and co-founder of FlashPoint Creative.
“The equipment students use at Pellissippi State is what you’d work with in a professional environment,” he says. “If you had to learn the equipment on the job, it would be difficult. Getting hands-on experience with industry standard equipment is a big deal.”
Ross K. Bagwell Sr., president of Bagwell Entertainment, agrees.
“As the production companies grow, they will need personnel trained on the type of equipment all of us use in the production industry,” he says.