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New Trier tunes music to internet, TV audiences

Audio installation central to enhanced music education program

Their music is broadcast live on the internet and to 55,000 homes on cable TV. They mass duplicate their own CDs and plan to do the same with DVDs. They cover their performances with as many as eight cameras and up to 40 microphones. A professional orchestra working out of a New York recording studio? Think again. This state-of-the-art technology belongs to the musicians and chorale groups of New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois.

A visit to New Trier's Jazz Ensemble site (www.ntjazz.com) will convince you that this school has made an incredible commitment to the arts. That commitment is being paid back ten-fold in honors and awards. Three of New Trier's musical groups, the Symphony Orchestra, the Jazz Ensemble and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble were named as "Most Outstanding" for 1999 by Downbeat Magazine. This year, New Trier was a Grammy Signature School Gold Award winner for its commitment to music
education.
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The same commitment has recently brought new and better technology into the school's rehearsal rooms and recording studio, putting a new face on how instructors bring out students' creative talents. Last summer, United Visual significantly upgraded the music department's systems, wiring four rehearsal rooms, a concert hall and a recording studio together and adding various audio and video components. According to Jim Warrick, director of the school's Jazz Ensemble, instructors now can record or videotape students in any rehearsal room or the concert hall, then play back the results where they please, together with professional performances of the same piece. During concerts, instructors can play live audio and video from on-stage to groups waiting in the rehearsal rooms, so they know what's going on. United also hung new microphones from the front wall of each rehearsal room to enhance the recording quality and added EV speakers, equalizers and a subwoofer to each for a better listening experience. Finally, they added Sharp data projection to each room, making it possible to watch concert videos or PowerPoint or Internet presentations. Best of all, says Warrick, "it's really simple to do. We turn around, push a button and we're recording!"

All of this has allowed the music department not only to improve instruction, but to share their talents with the entire community. While the school can seat as many as 1600 people in its concert hall, they now reach a much larger audience. "We do eight live concerts a year, and we broadcast our recordings on the radio, cable TV and on the Internet" says Warrick. "Now the whole community sees and hears what we're doing here."