From the sound system and lights, to the communication between the venues and artists, the flow of a concert or music festival is a domino effect of execution. San Antonio College’s music program arms students with the necessary tools to handle all the various aspects of a successful music event.
Fredstock serves as a real world example of the instruction students receive. The festival is named after Fred Weiss, who headed the music program at SAC and was a professor of the Radio, Television and Film Department for more than 20 years.
To be clear, Fredstock is not an extracurricular-activity, it's a large part of the students final grade said Donnie Meals, the music business program coordinator at SAC.
Students from several different courses participated in the event. The music business and talent management course “planned a theme or a vibe and booked certain bands to create a cohesive package,” said Meals. “For each musician there’s six other people working in some other capacity to bring it all together.”
Students in the audio production course operated the sound system and managed the stage. Radio, Television and Broadcasting students also take part by designing the concert poster, promotional material like t-shirts and managing web content.
Headlined by San Antonio’s Los #3 Dinners and Cryin’ DT Buffkin, Fredstock 2014 hosted bands with a variety of roots in blues or rock like G-Man Blues and Cool Cat Charlie Cruz. The audience slowly grew as the S.A. Blue Cats kicked off the afternoon with their set of swingin’ blues, complete with horns, keys and a harmonica. Without a cloud in the sky, the audience mostly congregated where shade was provided.
Students and Meals himself would take to the stage to help set up the next the bands' instruments between performances.
The students ran the sound booth and were also on stage helping the musicians sound check. There were arts and craft vendors and food provided by Insane Eats.
San Antonio’s growth downtown will require educated and experienced staff to handle our growing arts and entertainment industry. Meals said students have gone on to work for various companies around San Antonio including Sea World and Fiesta Texas.
As a performer myself, I can’t tell you how invaluable this preparation can be. A lot of musicians and artists undergo on-the-job training during live performances. To walk out on a stage with a sense of order and direction makes a world of difference. It allows the musicians to focus on their music and not have to spend time on stage involved with technical aspects of the sound system.
With a few solid locations downtown, San Antonio’s music infrastructure exists throughout our city, but besides available facilities and sound systems, success in live music stems from the whole experience of everyone involved. And as festival season shifts into full gear around the country, San Antonio examines the state of it’s own local music business.
“Does SA need a major festival? Probably not," Meals said. Would it be fun and beneficial? Sure. But keep in mind ... Austin didn’t get involved with a specific event, they laid the ground work for an environment” for events like South By Southwest and Austin City Limits to flourish.
The experience students gain through this event and the instruction they receive in the classroom provide a more complete picture of the music industry for students.
“Some clients of mine,” Meals said referring to customers of his recording studio, “don’t understand there’s more to the music business besides recording an album and that’s what we teach our students.”
Though Fredstock has hosted more blues bands over the past four years of the festival, Fred Weiss wasn’t a necessarily a blues guy.
“He was music guy,” he said. “And he would love what we’ve done with Fredstock.”
*Featured/top image: The S.A. Blue Cats kicked off Fredstock 2014 at SAC with a style of up-tempo swinging blues, led by two vocalists and a saxophone player. Photo by Miles Terracina.