Nestled in the quiet woods of north Mobile County, the University of Mobile has maintained a rich and thriving music program associated with the institution’s School of Worship Leadership. Currently, this program boasts 22 musical ensembles, including The Voices of Mobile, The University of Mobile Jazz Band, Exit 13 and Sofré.
These groups have been heard from Carnegie Hall to Notre Dame Cathedral. While this may seem impressive in itself, the School of Worship Leadership has added another extraordinary element to their music program. In late February, the University of Mobile dedicated the Fisher-Brewer Recording Studio.
This cutting-edge studio employs Pro Tools 11 recording software, as well as a 32-track Avid HD interface, Apple Mac Pro computer with Mavericks OS, HD technology DAW plugins for mixing and mastering audio, and numerous industry-standard microphones, pre-amps and compressors. Additionally, several isolation rooms for recording tracks surround the main room.
For those who are not familiar with the inner workings of a recording environment, the Fisher-Brewer Recording Studio is on par with some of the finest studios worldwide, and it could be considered one of the most impressive studios in the Southeast.
“When you walk into it, you forget that you’re on a college campus,” said Artist-In-Residence Jason Breland. “We’ve had producers and musicians in the studio that have played in some of the finest studios in the country, from Los Angeles to Sony Music to Nashville. Those musicians and producers state that, without question, it’s comparable to any of those studios that they’ve been in.”
This studio was conceived over two years ago by Breland, adjunct professor Jeff Quimby (formerly of Integrity Music) and several others. This group wanted to create an educational environment dedicated to creating, developing and recording the plethora of musical talent on the University of Mobile’s campus.
For Quimby, the studio also meant that students earning a Worship Leadership degree would have an edge when they entered their profession. Modern churches have become more media savvy. This new, modern aspect means that many churches have become interested in building studios and creating recordings. After graduation, the studio experience that the university’s students receive creates more options for them.
“The idea is that if they learn the basics of the computer recording software and the techniques of recording and do it the right way, when they end up in an interview at a church for a job and they’re like, ‘We want to record music,’” Quimby explained. “They’ve been taught the foundational elements of how to do that.”
With a vision in mind, the university was left with financing this facility, which was not going to be cheap. Breland explained that a “miracle” brought the monetary funds to build the studio.
This miracle is partially owed to The Voices of Mobile singing ensemble. Over the years, this touring ensemble has made the First Baptist Church in Odessa a regular stop. Through their performances, Executive Dean of the Center for the Performing Roger Breland Arts (Jason Breland’s father) began to develop a close relationship with the church’s minister, Curtis Brewer. Eventually, Brewer was asked to joining the Dean’s Council for the Center for the Performing Arts.
“Curtis Brewer is the bridge that introduced Joyce Fisher to the university,” said the younger Breland. “She’s had The Voice of Mobile to her home on many occasions to sing around her piano. She loves our students. When she was made aware of the need and opportunity, she wanted to be a part of it.”
With the financing complete, Quimby went to work compiling a wish-list of equipment and creating designs for the studio. Not only was Quimby tasked with designing the studio and selecting the gear, but he was also in charge of installing the gear. Construction began in late 2013 and was completed at the end of January 2014. With the facility built, Quimby began preparing the recording environment for students.
“Everything had to be installed from the ground up,” Quimby said. “We were opening boxes for everything. It was weird. Usually in the studio, you buy one thing new and you open it. We were opening everything new. It took about three weeks to complete everything.”
With the Fisher-Brewer Studio open for student use, Quimby quickly began to employ this unique learning environment. This studio pro began putting students behind the console and in front of mics for an extensive studio experience that cannot be matched at other post-secondary schools. Class assignments were taken to the next level with students interested in performing, songwriting and engineering, and the campus has been reaping the benefits.
“When I came to school here, it was a dream,” said student Trevor Bennett. “This program is what brought me to school here. To have this here is awesome.”
“I think that it’s a cool thing to have in our Worship Leadership Department,” added student Daniel Moore. “No other school around here, or even in America, has a place like this. It’s a very exclusive thing for our school.”
The Fisher-Brewer Studio has not only fueled interest in the program, but it has also complemented two new and exciting groups at University of Mobile. Named for the 880 acres on which the college rests, 8Eighty Records has been created as a distribution outlet for the abundant amount of music produced by current students and alumni.
The studio has also inspired the creation of University of Mobile Publishing. This music publishing company will foster the talents of campus songwriters with original material. Students like Shannon Powers are taking advantage of these new musical entities. Her band River (along with Jordan Pinkston) has already been signed to 8Eighty Records. Since then, the label has released the group’s debut album “Steady.”
As far as the future of the Fisher-Brewer Studio, Breland and Quimby have a new vision. They want to see the studio compete with other studios, as far as equipment is concerned. They also want their current students to be the studio’s future engineers and producers. Finally, they want to see the studio produce music on the same quality level as anything in the world of mainstream music.
As far as public use, Breland explained that those opportunities will be available. However, non-students who wish to record at the Fisher-Brewer studio will have to wait in line. Students and alumni are a priority, and Breland advised that summer would be the best time to inquire.