Because Columbia College Chicago specializes in arts and media, its commencement exercises at the Chicago Theatre and the outdoor arts festival showcase preceding it are characterized by a wide variety of musical styles, ensembles and performances.
This is the 16th year Technotrix of Calumet City, IL has provided audio, stage and lighting for the graduation festivities, utilizing Martin Audio loudspeakers and subwoofers to reproduce the music with the accuracy, audio quality and even coverage demanded by the different events.
Held the day before commencement, the Manifest Urban Arts Festival is a showcase for all graduating students on three stages at various locations near the campus in the downtown Chicago Loop. The outdoor stages host jazz orchestras, rock bands, performance arts groups, musical theater, stage combat and more. Each has a Martin Audio-headed system run by students who function as front of house and monitors engineers and stage technicians.
Set up under a tent, the main stage was outfitted withfive Martin Audio W8LC enclosures a side with 12 ground-stacked WSX subwoofers, three W8C, two WS218X and one WS18X for side fill, and 10 LE12JB stage monitors. Stage 2, also under in a tent, utilized two W8C and two WSX subs a side, with six LE12JB stage monitors. The smallest stage was set up in an outdoor garden area with two Martin Audio WT3, two WS218X subs and four LE12JB stage wedges.
Kevin Kiefer of Technotrix says, “We’ve been doing the Manifest event for a number of years with a formula that just keeps getting bigger and more complex over the years as they add more bands, musicians and different types of music. The college is very happy with the sound we provide using our Martin Audio system. In fact, they said this year was the best it’s ever been. We just try to raise the bar every time out.”
The graduation ceremony takes place the next day in the 3,600-seat capacity Chicago Theatre. Featuring two small stages stacked one on top of the other stage left and right with different ensembles, and a 25-piece jazz orchestra and 20-piece gospel choir set up in the pit, coordinating and reproducing all of the music is challenging, to say the least.
“We were up to just over 100 channels of audio this year with the jazz ensembles, commencement choir and all of the small stages,” Kiefer explains. “We’d have singers and a horn section on the upper level and keyboards and rhythm section on the lower level, and they all do a variety of different numbers – a constant challenge in terms of the onstage sound. Fortunately, we had a Martin Audio monitor system to help us stay on top of the mix.
“We’ve been using Martin Audio for a long time because it differentiates us from our competitors,” he concludes. “Martin Audio speakers have a unique voice that allows us to achieve a better end result in terms of audio quality and coverage. Their speakers are accurate and consistent, which is important for events like the commencement and festival where there are so many different types of bands ranging through every type of program material. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been doing this for 16 years.”