Shawnigan Lake School Students Get Creative with Industry-Leading Avid Tools

By in Education, Music Creation, Pro Mixing

The Bradley Family Foundation integrates Avid technology into its work supporting youth education, starting with Shawnigan Lake School

Some 500 students from 36 countries at Shawnigan Lake School in British Columbia owe a lot to entrepreneur, philanthropist and former sound engineer Carl Bradley. Carl’s own experiences as a student at the school, coupled with his successes into adulthood, shaped his life and inspired him to give back. Fortunately for the co-ed private boarding school, an ongoing matching grant gift from the Bradley Family Foundation—along with the efforts of school headmaster David Robertson—led to a state-of the-art video and audio production facility on the sprawling 300-acre campus.

Carl was always into music and played drums. While a student at Shawnigan an inspirational music teacher exposed him to a professional audio studio, another life-changing experience. “When I got into the control room, it changed my life,” he says. After graduation, Carl pursued an audio engineering career, securing a second engineer position at Pinewood Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he started working with automation. In the late 80’s Carl began experimenting with Pro Tools and all manner of digital sound design.

Carl directly credits the creative process with his business and life success. He speaks passionately about the importance of creative exploration to developing young minds. “It all started behind a console,” he says. “Being creative gave me the confidence to take risks.” So when he set up his foundation in 2007, he knew he wanted to help make a difference at the place that made such an impact on his life.

Learning on the best tools in the business

Carl had learned firsthand how professional equipment and tools can inspire and motivate curious minds. So he enlisted the help of Steve Smith, a longtime audio professional and instructor at Northwest University, to help him realize his vision for a fully equipped professional audio/visual facility and curriculum at Shawnigan.

After scouring the campus for the perfect site, they chose the music building, which was being used primarily for music rehearsals. After a full renovation of the building, the world-class music and video production facility was completed in January 2016. It’s now one of the busiest spaces on campus – bustling with energy and with everything students need to experiment and bring their creative visions to life.

Students work extensively on the Pro Tools | S6 control surface, which brings a world of professional mixing capabilities to students’ fingertips. They also have access to Pro Tools digital audio workstations, the very same tool used by the world’s most acclaimed musicians, producers, mixers, engineers and sound designers. Now with Avid Cloud Collaboration, Pro Tools allows students to share tracks and work on projects long after the school day is over.

For visual storytelling, industry-standard Media Composer video editing workstations are available to students for the school’s newly established film program. With this professional system, students can work with content in virtually any format or resolution, including 4K and 8K.

Carl and Steve also chose an Avid NEXIS storage system for the facility. The world’s first software-defined storage platform enables true storage virtualization for any media application and gives Shawnigan students easy on-demand access to a shared pool of storage.

Creativity breeds success

“All the teachable moments this facility gives the kids are amazing,” says Carl. “To see 12-13 year-olds flying their fingers across an S6 console is incredible. You can literally see the changes – in their grades, their posture and their confidence level and it’s immediate. It’s tremendously gratifying and very clearly lets us know what we’re doing is making a difference.”

Steve and Carl wanted to give students access to the very best tools, then remove all the rules and give them the freedom to explore. He sees applications for the studio tools for everything from robotics to journalism, envisioning a day when all Shawnigan’s content—on the website and in brochures and videos—is produced at the school by students.

The control room—Pro Tools and Pro Tools | S6 in particular—serves as an extension of academic classes. And it’s not just for fine arts, drama, music production and broadcast journalism. It’s also playing a role in the sciences, particularly physics, robotics and engineering.

Students can see, hear and even feel the concepts being taught. “Take a low frequency waveform,” Carl explains. “You manipulate it. Not only can you look at it, but you can also hear it and feel it to really understand it. It’s amplitude – math and science in full living color. You can see the wave form and feel the air blow your hair.” It’s experiential learning at its best and most engaging. Who knew physics could be so much fun?

Student visions realized

In the year and a half since its completion, the studio is already changing the lives of the young people that walk through its doors. Two seniors are taking their newfound skills and creative confidence to the next level.

Chandler Guzman knew she wanted to attend Shawnigan since she was eight years old. When she finally got her wish, a whole new world opened up to Chandler and to fellow student Jaxson Greig, who shares the same passion for creative expression and storytelling.

The opportunity to use professional Avid equipment was a completely new experience for both students. “Students don’t expect to have such good equipment,” she recounts. “It was intimidating, even for me, but either you act like a professional now or wait to be scared later. With these tools you have the best resources – and the same challenges. Whether you’re making a student film or a multimillion-dollar picture, you face the same challenges. You have to go in ready to tackle whatever is thrown at you.”

“I’m not cocky but I have the confidence to experiment,” adds Chandler. “From the minute I walked on the campus, we’ve been treated like professionals. From preproduction to post-production, we’ve been encouraged to experiment and not be afraid.” That kind of confidence is serving Chandler well as she heads off to the University of Southern California Film School in the fall. Her application to the highly competitive school included an experimental documentary produced at Shawnigan.

Jaxson Greig, who’s played music from a very young age, had an interest in the music program but no experience with tools. But once in front of the S6, which he found “intriguing” and “fun,” there was no turning back. While he’s spent time creating his own music, he now prefers mixing vocals and the engineering side. “Before I started working with this equipment, I thought I would be producing but I like experimenting with sounds, recording people and helping others realize their visions.”

Jaxson has already made the decision to pursue a career as an audio engineer and is looking at universities. But like Carl, he also speaks to the broader benefits of his creative exploration at Shawnigan. “I feel like the school and the studio have opened my eyes to new possibilities and what I can do,” he says. “It’s helped to shape my character and how I am with people. My public speaking and communication have gotten better.” The collaboration enabled by Avid tools has struck a creative chord. “I look forward to networking and building relationships with different people,” he says. “That’s how the best music is made.”

Continuing journeys

The studio and programs at Shawnigan are proof that it’s never too early to engage young minds and give them wings to fly. Some will gain digital media fluency and move on better prepared for careers within media and entertainment. Creative exploration may lead others to different but related areas. But the ultimate gift just might be more confident, risk-taking and enriched human beings, regardless of chosen career paths.

Carl’s journey is also far from over. He’s currently renovating the Kirkland Cannery in Kirkland Washington, building out the historic structure as an Idea and Innovation Center. Set to open in the spring of 2018, it will house state-of-the-art production facilities—everything from cameras to sound stages to editing bays—and programs for youngsters. He has a bold vision for the 11,000 sq. ft. building. Avid equipment will be at the center of the facility where youngsters who participate will produce all creative programming and drive how the center evolves over time.

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Don Rohrer is an accomplished technology professional in the Media and Entertainment industry with more than 19 years of sales and leadership experience. His positive attitude and excellent communication skills make him a great coach and mentor. Don has been responsible for introducing many new products and services into the M&E sector.