Oklahoma City suburb school district sees the compact theater software-equipped consoles as an investment in the future of student careers
Bright Star, by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and Mamma Mia! are just a couple of the hit musicals that have shared the stages of both Broadway and the Theater Arts Departments of the Edmond, Oklahoma Public Schools District. Edmond is one of the fastest-growing districts in Oklahoma, serving more than 26,200 students with 19 elementary schools, six middle schools, three high schools: Edmond North High School, Edmond Memorial High School, and Santa Fe High School, each with its own Performing Arts Center. And each of those auditoriums share something else with Broadway—DiGiCo SD-Range consoles in the form of SD9T audio consoles at front of house, all fitted with DiGiCo’s theater software package.
Anthony Risi, the technical director at Edmond Memorial High School and a veteran theater-audio engineer and supervisor himself, has for years helped the schools make do with their previous set of audio consoles, all of which were in various stages of deterioration. But an encounter with the DiGiCo SD7T console at Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall several years ago convinced him that SD-Range desks would provide the high school venues with world-class audio performance while at the same time preparing students in the schools’ theater-arts programs for the mixing tool they would encounter at the university level—such as the DiGiCo console at the University of Central Oklahoma’s theater—and later in their professional careers.
“I had the pleasure of being able to spend some time working on the SD7T at the Civic Center, and I also got to talk to Broadway sound designers and touring professionals there, and it was clear that the SD-Range is the console platform of choice in theater,” he says. That ultimately resulted in the acquisition of three SD9T consoles, along with two D2-Racks per desk, one in the FOH position for connecting with the venue’s wireless microphones and one “rolling” rack deployed as needed.
These were sold through locally-based AVL Systems Design, which also updated the three auditoriums’ lighting and other audio systems over the course of the last two years, with the current school year the first in which all three locations had the same consoles.
“The DiGiCo consoles have been a great addition to the schools’ theater departments and the auditoriums,” he says. “The consoles themselves sound great and have so much functionality, but the ‘T’ theater software package is what really puts them over the top.”
Those “high school musicals” really do sound fantastic through the SD9T desks, but they’re also teaching platforms, and they shine just as brightly in that role as well, says Risi, who notes that after a brief training session with DiGiCo’s Matt Larson he was able, in turn, to train his colleagues at the other two high schools, McKeever Arnold and Chet Rogers, on them.
The students reportedly took to them just as easily, and, in some cases, even more quickly. “I had one student that I sat down with at the Santa Fe High School Performing Arts Center and briefly explained the basics of building a scene, which microphones need to be on and when in the scene and so on, and taught him basic programming of the console,” he recalls. “He took that and in an hour had built the entire show by himself! The console is that well laid out and intuitive.”
Risi has linked the console at Edmond Memorial High School to his iPad through the school’s Wi-Fi network, and says he plans to implement that in the other schools in the near future. And he’s happy that all of the schools now have an audio hub that will take them well into the next several decades at the same level as theater professionals already have. “The SD9Ts are a great investment for a school in so many ways,” he says. “The experience of using them will stay with many of these students for years to come.”