Early this September, dozens of men and women, converged on a hot, dry and sprawling church campus in Dallas-Fort Worth(DFW), Texas. The church is Gateway Church, a mutli-site mega-church, and the students are this year's crop of those wanting to take part in “all things technical” at Gateway's flourishing School of Technical Arts.
Of more than fifty students, only five or six originate from Gateway Church itself. Others have driven, flown in and even relocated from other parts of the country to study live production taught by technically acclaimed church leaders and industry professionals.
Even though the school has not been running long enough to graduate a trainee from its two-year program, students have already been scoped-out and scooped-up for employment by churches as well as secular companies in the industry.
Recently Worship Facilities had the opportunity to sit down with school director, Lee Varian who shared news with our readers on this leading-edge program.
Worship Facilities This is an exciting option for people who are looking towards production as a career, a ministry or both. What kind of response are you hearing from students?
Lee Varian: Response has been great from students in general, the vast majority of the feedback has indicated courses have met or exceeded expectations. While most students have taken courses “a-la-cart,” many others are enrolled in the two-year program and are working through the courses required to complete their track. We are happy to meet the needs of students regardless of whether they just want to take one class, pick and choose as they please, or enroll in a program to work towards a certificate.
WF: What is the student/teacher ratio for classes?
LV: I don’t have actual student/teacher ratios figured out at this point but it's intentionally very low. Our introductory classes are limited to a range of eight to twenty-four students and advanced courses are smaller—most with only four or five. Of our current courses, Live Audio 101 has twenty-four students, Live Video 101 eighteen students, Stage Lighting eight students, and Audio 201 Advanced Mixing has five students. Each one of those courses is taught by a team of three to six instructors and outside clinicians that we bring in to augment our staff and expose students to a cross section of the industry.
WF: What developments have occurred since last semester in regards to class selections?
LV: Our live production courses have expanded to include advanced classes in mixing, video directing, AVL networking, and systems integration this year. As for gear, students are currently utilizing and exploring newer tools and technologies like 4k video and virtual audio mixing with Digico’s MGB and UBMADI.
Next Fall we will be offering a huge new audio production track for students interested in studio skills. The audio production courses will include ProTools certification and music production. Students will get hands-on experience at our state-of-the-art recording studio set to open next spring. That facility will feature two rooms with API 1608 consoles. Also, we are also working on a video production track for those looking toward a career in the video arena.
WF: It's safe to say that students are exceedingly pleased with the curriculum. Are you hearing any feedback from churches or the industry in general to your Technical Arts School?
LV: We have had many inquiries from both churches and AVL companies interested in hiring graduates, but all of our students are currently still in progress. LMG (the national AVL Company) in particular has expressed interest in being the first in line to interview our graduates. A half-dozen or so students (that we know of) have been hired to full-time positions before finishing their studies. All of those have gone into church positions.
WF: We know the school is currently working towards accreditation. Can you explain the partnership between The School of Tech Arts School and King's University, also located on Gateway's campus?
LV: We have partnered with the King’s University to allow their students to attend our courses as the technology portion of their degree requirements. Students whose degree plans require audio, video or lighting studies attend our 101 series courses for credit. It helps us in that those courses are now accredited through King’s for students who want to receive college credit as well as a certificate from the School of Tech Arts. We are also conducting most of our courses on the King’s University campus, utilizing their wonderful new facilities; high tech lecture rooms,16 station iMac Lab, rehearsal rooms, and a 1000 seat venue equipped with Digico, Meyer, Grand MA, Martin, Grass Valley, etc.
WF: What do you see in the future for the Tech Arts School?
LV: The next big step for us will be offering courses online and we hope to pilot that next spring with Live Audio 101. This will allow students to take our courses without relocating or traveling weekly to the DFW area. A distance learning option will open up our courses to a large number of people looking for affordable professional training, so we’re excited about the possibilities. For fall ‘15 we hope to accommodate up to 150 students on campus and an additional 100 students through online offerings of our foundational courses.