Written by: Lauren Vukicevich
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many opportunities to go to concerts, and I have always been mesmerized by them. But until I put on my own concert, I never fully understood everything that went into making shows run the way they do. Cal Poly’s music program includes a sound design series, including a class which has come to be known as “RSVP” (that I took this Spring). In the spirit of Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” motto, the class designs, prepares, and executes every detail about the show in one 10-week quarter.
The first order of business is assigning roles to each person (yes, I mean roles, as in plural). Dividing up many, many roles among 8 people can be challenging, but we had a good group this year and everyone stepped up right away. The roles I had this year were: composer, recordist/mixer, poet, stage manager, and reception coordinator. In addition to these, there were tasks that we all contributed to, such as stage construction and hanging lights (LOTS of them).
This process also involves promoting the show with posters, through social media, by coordinating with Cal Poly’s journalism department (mainly KCPR radio and Mustang News). We also went out and physically sold tickets to fellow music students, our friends, teachers, and bosses (Music Motive director, and my awesome boss, Steve Hilstein was kind enough to come support us and see the show!).
Meanwhile, we were composing songs, learning to play them, and rehearsing with our groups. The show was meant to feature a variety of different types of music, but we still had to make sure each movement was cohesive. Though the styles of composition vary between each student, as well as the styles of the songs themselves, we worked to maintain a common thread in each piece. We decided on a “theme” phrase for the show early on, and while writing each song, each student seemed to include this theme. When it came time to record some of these songs, we noticed that we all had that same idea. It was pretty amazing!
In the week prior to the performances, we had FULL days. We created a plan for the lighting and other visual effects (such as videos and fog machines) that would be included in the show. We rehearsed with the dancers and musicians, making sure we had all of the audio lined up correctly, and making any necessary changes. We added final touches to recorded songs, and everyone practiced their pieces on their own, as well as on the stage.
This year’s show, RSVP XIX: Vox Balaena, was about the lives and songs of Baleen whales. There were four movements, each meant to be from a different perspective. The first was a view of whales from an early human perspective: the thought that whales are monsters from the sea (“Leviathan”). Next was from the perspective of whales themselves. The third movement was a depiction of the horrors of whaling, and the reality of this problem in our world today. Lastly, we finished with a movement of hope and possibility; the idea that all creatures are related, and that we can take care of each other.
Although this show was more work than the average class, it was definitely worth it. I learned so much from this experience and I can honestly say that I will never forget the people I worked so closely with. Music just has a way of fixing memories into our minds!
For more information, you can visit the Performing Arts Center website here.