College offers 'entertainment technology' course

BRISTOL, Tenn. - How do you go about learning something new? If you're old-school you might read a book, or in the modern age look it up online.

But there are some things that are best learned from those who are involved. That's the idea behind a new class being offered in downtown Bristol featuring bluegrass hall-of-famer Doyle Lawson.

At a glance it certainly looks like an ordinary summer class at Northeast State Community College's new Bristol campus, but those attending are a wide variety of students that are all here to learn about the technical side of the entertainment business.

There's no real textbook per se, but a whole lot of knowledge from those who know all about it from spending years in the business. "My interest in it is for the last 25 years I have had a tremendously tough time finding technicians in this field. Academic theatre produces a certain kind of person but nobody was providing sort of entertainment technology," says Todd Hensley with Appalachain Light and Production.

The students themselves come to the class from different directions. "I've played bluegrass all my life and toured across the country with many bands, but I'm a complete idiot of any kind of sound production. I want to learn more about that," student Crystal Shipley says.

"I sing gospel music and my son plays bluegrass music. I like both them and it just seems like when I'm at an event the sound guy is always gone or the lighting guy is gone, and no one knows what to do. I thought it would be a good opportunity to educate myself," student Jay Richaradson adds.

It's also a great way for a young 14-year-old entrepreneur to learn new things. "When I was about eight I started by having my first sound system, a portable from Radio Shack. I enjoyed using it and seeing what I could go with it. Then I bought a more professional system and moved to a DJ business," student Austin Ramsey said.

A theatre manger with Lamplight Theatre is seeking new knowledge as well. "I've been with the [Lamplight] ministry 10 years now. I've done lighting, sound, costumes, set design, everything. So this is giving me the opportunity to learn the new things that are out there," says Mary McClure.

And what better way to learn than hands on from those who are in the business? "It's an accumulated years of experience that I can hopefully pass along to these folks here," Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Doyle Lawson said.

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