Known to Cleveland locals simply as “Tri-C”, Cuyahoga Community College is the oldest and largest community college in Ohio. But to jazz aficionados, it is also known as the host site of the renowned Tri-C JazzFest, which recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary.
One of the primary venues for the 10-day annual event is the 800-seat Tri-C Metro Auditorium, an intimate hall originally designed and built in 1971 for the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra. With minimal fixed PA in the room, the school would typically rent a sound reinforcement system for JazzFest each year – usually an L-Acoustics dV-DOSC/ARCS package from Woodsy’s Music in Kent.
This year the college finally realized its goal of installing an L-Acoustics system of its own.
The new loudspeaker setup, which was installed just a week prior to this year’s festival in late-April, now features left and right arrays each comprised of six KARA line source elements flown beneath two SB18 subs. A center cluster of four ARCS II enclosures is hung in a horizontal configuration directly above center stage while LA8 amplified controllers power and process the entire rig.
According to Tri-C Metro Campus Theater Arts Technical Director Jeff Donnelly and Theatre Sound/Recording Arts Instructor Tim Kennedy, Esperanza Spalding’s sold-out JazzFest opening night performance was the first event to premiere the college’s new system.
“An act like Esperanza can be quite challenging for any system seeing that she showcases a wide variety of instrumentation,” notes Kennedy, who also serves as the auditorium’s chief sound engineer. “Aside from switching back and forth between acoustic and electric basses, she tours with a keyboardist, guitarist, drummer, two backup singers and a seven-piece horn section.
“But the sound, even on that first show, was so incredible. The audience heard everything perfectly – the sizzle of the cymbals, the nuances of her bass, and every subtlety of the vocals. The L-Acoustics system absolutely sang. It was beautiful.”
Donnelly is quick to point out that the new system will also get plenty of use outside of JazzFest.
“Over the years, we’ve steadily been increasing the number of reinforced events we stage here as well as seen the technical requirements for those shows become increasingly demanding,” he says. “With Cleveland having such a huge ethnic diversity, we’ve hosted everything from traveling Chinese dramatists to Indian raga bands and hip-hop artists. And even though the expectation for great sound reinforcement here is quite high, the new system has impressed everyone.”
Tri-C’s Recording Arts and Technology program ranks as the college’s sixth largest program, which is fairly significant considering that the school’s total enrollment exceeds 30,000 students.
“Live sound engineering has been growing in popularity and is now a solid part of the curriculum,” Donnelly adds. “When Tim designed the auditorium’s new system, he was looking to purchase something that would be very rider-friendly to give students real-world experience with a true concert sound rig.
“So we’re celebrating the fact that our L-Acoustics system will not only be used on some amazing performances here but also be a significant part of our students’ education as well.”