Students in the Television Production Company class in the School of Communication and Media are getting real-life experience thanks to a collaboration with the highly regarded Montclair concert series Outpost in the Burbs.
Outpost has been bringing national touring music acts to the First Congregational Church of Montclair since 1987, when a group of young creative types decided to open a coffeehouse in the church to enjoy great music, find friends and foster “personal growth opportunities through volunteerism and community service.”
Now, through a confluence of town and gown connections, Montclair State University students are filming and interviewing Outpost artists and producing live concert segments for the student-run Carpe Diem show each semester.
The students got started during the spring 2019 semester, producing two episodes of Carpe Diem featuring live Outpost performances, both at the church and in-studio, plus artist interviews.
SCM Professor David Sanders taught the Television Production Company class last spring with Patricia Piroh, executive producer of Carpe Diem. Since Piroh was promoted in fall 2019 to director of production services and technology, Broadcast and Media Operations, Sanders is now teaching the class with fellow SCM Professor Stuart MacLelland.
“The show includes a taping of a live concert performance, a backstage interview with the headline artist, a studio performance of an upcoming act, and a studio interview with that act — so that the students get the experience of doing a live concert recording, a backstage field interview, a studio interview, and a three-camera studio shoot of a musical artist,” says Sanders.
“It’s an incredible experience for our students to not only produce the show but to work with Outpost and with big-name artists who are expecting a professional experience,” says Piroh. “The students need to do their research and be extremely prepared when they interview these artists.”
Montclair State and Outpost in the Burbs have cross-pollinated numerous times over the past three decades. Sanders notes that Outpost President David Amlen, founder of Sound on Sound Studios, “does light and sound for Outpost and he teaches music recording and mixing at Montclair State.” Outpost Trustee Robert Halper has worked as an assistant professor of Television and Digital Media at Montclair State. Another Outpost Trustee, Al Mercuro ’74, has been booking bands since his days at Montclair State and is excited to see students from his alma mater participating in the series: “I think it’s a natural,” says Mercuro, “having the students work the concerts.”
The students agree: Jennifer Wagner produced one of the 2019 Carpe Diem Outpost episodes. “My involvement with Outpost in the Burbs was my first off-campus student project,” says Wagner. “It really taught me that preparation is one of the most important things in any production. With the help of David Sanders and [School of Communication and Media News Producer] Steve McCarthy, we were able to create a piece that highlights a great cause and music that is sure to make you feel good. My overall experience was incredible and I’m so glad to have been a part of it.”
Beyond the technical skills that students can learn and practice, Outpost Trustee Gail Prusslin says there’s more to the relationship: “The collaboration is central to the mission of our organization to build community through volunteerism, service, partnerships and live music. The partnership not only gives the students an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in many facets of broadcasting and production, but it also offers them a unique experience to work with a local nonprofit, all-volunteer organization.”
John Hammond, head of marketing and digital for Missing Piece Group, books the acts at Outpost and put the collaboration together. “Our goal was to tie into the production and journalism talent within the School of Communication and Media to develop great content and features on some Outpost performers.”
“These days it’s super important to have an ongoing flow of content across different channels and media,” explains Hammond. “As a volunteer, nonprofit organization, we’ve been looking to build out our YouTube channel specifically and these first couple of productions from last season definitely achieved the goals we were looking to hit.”
Both Hammond and Prusslin were impressed by SCM students.
“The production crews who worked on the different shoots last spring were professional and talented, easy to work with and ready to roll with the punches of working with different artists, temperaments and schedules,” says Hammond. “I hope they also valued the experience they got in producing these pieces. I think everyone sees the value in building a great, varied portfolio of different pieces when they get into the professional world.”
“It is an absolute delight to work with the students,” says Prusslin, noting their professionalism and preparedness. “We are thrilled to be able to provide them with an opportunity and we look forward to future collaborations.”
Story by Mary Barr Mann
CARPE DIEM: Outpost in the Burbs — Part 1. Performances and interviews featuring David Bromberg and The Campfire Flies.
CARPE DIEM: Outpost in the Burbs — Part 2. Performances and interviews with Strawbs and Amy Rigby.