“Hi, you guys, welcome back,” Marshall says as she enters the studio. “Hey, thanks,” they respond, more or less in unison. “Great to be back.”
“We’re ready when y’all are,” Chris Thile calls to the sound engineers in the adjacent control room. Thile—the band’s founder, mandolin player, and lead singer—runs down the set list for Marshall, who’ll be interviewing the group between songs: “‘Movement and Location,’ ‘Patchwork Girlfriend,’” he says, “and ‘New York City,’ because, well, here we are.”
Fordham undergraduate Claire Donovan stands just inside the studio, a few feet behind Marshall. “I’m really excited for this,” she says.
The Fordham junior is not simply a fan of the band’s music, though. She’s one of three videographers who will be documenting the live session for the station. “This is going to be great for video,” she says, eyes scanning the room, where her classmates and WFUV colleagues Erica Talbott and Patrick Moore stand behind their cameras, ready to roll. “All the string instruments just photograph so beautifully.”
Since joining WFUV as interns in March 2011, Donovan, Talbott, and Moore—all communication and media studies majors at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH)—have helped the station produce scores of videos featuring many of the artists who perform live in Studio A.
Led by graduate students Tim Teeling and Tim Pierson, FCRH ’11, and Gabelli School of Business junior Daniel Hodd, the station’s small but productive video team has recorded artists such as Ingrid Michaelson, Ryan Adams, Beirut, and others. They’ve also worked at WFUV marquee concerts, capturing performances by Kathleen Edwards at Tarrytown Music Hall, Nada Surf at Rockwood Music Hall, and Dar Williams at City Winery, to name a few. In March, a small crew went to Austin, Texas, to cover the South by Southwest conference, including another performance by the Punch Brothers.
The team shoots, on average, three to five sessions per week. Students handle the entire production, from lighting the studio and working out the best camera angles to editing and posting the music videos on one of WFUV’s YouTube channels:youtube.com/wfuvradio and youtube.com/thealternateside907. As of early April, the station’s 800-plus videos have received more than 5.5 million views. What’s more, the videos are featured prominently on the station’s newly redesigned website, wfuv.org.
“This is new territory for us. It’s one of the ways WFUV has been evolving quickly from a 20th-century radio station into a 21st-century public media service,” says Chuck Singleton, the station’s interim general manager. “And that car has been driven by our students. They’ve led the way. They’ve said we need to be here.”
Joe Grimaldi, FCRH ’06, started working at WFUV eight years ago, when he was an undergraduate majoring in philosophy at Fordham. Today, as assistant director of technical operations at the station, he’s responsibile for supervising and training the video team.
“It’s not just kids with flip cameras,” Grimaldi says. “A big part of our goal is to train students in professional production techniques. They’re being asked to carry a professional workload. And they’re held to a professional standard in spite of the fact that they’re students.”
Rita Houston, WFUV’s music director and leading tastemaker, says the video effort is about reaching listeners and music fans where they live.
“There’s been a change in the expectations of music fans in how they’re going to discover music, and a big part of that includes a video or a visual,” she says. “There’s a certain magic to seeing artists perform live in the studio.” And artists tend to thrive on the authenticity and immediacy of it all. “When those cameras are rolling, they’re giving you that much more.”
Case in point: Gary Clark Jr. The 28-year-old blues guitarist has been drawing favorable comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Ben Harper. As Rolling Stone put it last year, he’s “fixing to blast himself out of the barrooms and onto bigger stages.” When he brought his band to Studio A in mid-December, members of the video team knew they were capturing something special.
“We felt really good about that one,” says Tim Teeling, who edited the videos and helped shoot them with Donovan and Moore. The team’s video for “Bright Lights” has garnered 63,000-plus hits and counting. In early February, YouTube made the clip one of the featured videos on its homepage. “In one day,” Teeling says, “we had a surge of 30,000 hits.”
The Gary Clark Jr. videos are among Houston’s favorites. “You’re practically on the neck of his guitar with him,” she says. “It’s very organic. We hit record, the video guys hit record, and boom, we went. It happened in half an hour.”
Houston says there’s a part of her that “still hang[s]onto this notion that video killed the radio star,” but she’s a convert. “We’re creating such unique content in Studio A that the opportunity to share it through video is such a natural,” she says. “One of the key things that sets us apart from the radio world right now is the commitment coming from our students in delivering top-notch quality content.”
Tim Pierson, who helps produce not only the videos and live-music sessions but also The Whole Wide World with Rita Houston, says he and his fellow student-colleagues at WFUV are grateful for the hands-on training they receive at the station. After graduating from Fordham in May 2011, Pierson enrolled in the master’s degree program in public communications at Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and (along with Tim Teeling) earned a competitive graduate assistantship to work at the station.
“I’ll be graduating with a master’s degree in August and then looking for another job,” he says, “but I have a skill set and a mindset that makes me marketable—owed 100 percent to my time here at WFUV.”
Watch the Punch Brothers perform “New York City” live in Studio A.