Producing Excellence

Michael Dumas Features, Learning, Spring 2022

The University of Mobile’s Production Technologies program combines technical sciences and artistry to create worship experiences for people around the world, while preparing graduates for a broad range of careers in a variety of faith-based and corporate settings. The program in the Alabama School of the Arts is one of the largest of its kind in the nation among Christian universities and offers comprehensive training in all aspects of production, including audio, video, and lighting.

Nearly all who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Production Technologies are hired before they graduate. And while each student receives a broad education in all things related to production, faculty and staff are always evaluating where a student’s passion may lay, which allows them to specialize students’ experiences as they learn. For Perry Stone’21, that desire was to use the artistry of production design to enhance the worship experience.

He is technical director at Praise Family Church in Mobile and specializes in lighting. He was responsible for lighting in the university’s outdoor 2021 Spring Spectacular. In November 2021 he served as the lighting designer for the university’s signature Christmas Spectacular, a multi-night extravaganza that attracts audiences of nearly 10,000.

“I know that in using my God-given talents and abilities in the technical fields, especially lighting, I have the ability to greatly influence the atmosphere in which worship is taking place,” Stone said. “If I am doing my job well, what you are hearing lyrically and seeing visually will complement each other greatly, providing a welcoming environment for worshipers.”

The results during Christmas Spectacular were captivating, and provided the same amalgamation of faith and technical proficiency Perry experiences every day as he pursues his calling at Praise Family Church. That level of training and experience that produces job-ready graduates is intentional. Students in Production Technologies start with a survey of technology in the arts, which introduces them to all of the primary elements of production, from microphones and cables to integral software and large-scale equipment. In the high- tech Mixing and Visualization Lab in Martin Hall, they learn advanced audio, video and lighting system design on systems they will use in their careers, Due to the production technology program’s integration within ASOTA, student technicians quickly move toward the practical applications of the tools they’ve learned. For example, ASOTA traveling ensembles are on the road most weekends of the school year, and all travel with a dedicated technician.

It is all part of the University of Mobile’s overall philosophy of experiential learning, where students apply knowledge they gain in the classroom to real-world situations that prepare them for future careers.

“That way, they’re working in different environments within the production values of what we do with our high visibility theater, opera and musicals,” said Dr. Steve Bowersox, chair of the Worship Leadership & Production Technology departments.

Those environments include different indoor/outdoor venues, different churches, different denominations, different settings — all the aspects that come into what a person would be doing with this kind of a degree.

“As with Perry Stone’s experience, the program’s seven full-time and adjunct faculty members are always helping develop each student’s specific passion. For Stone it was lighting, and in the case of May 2022 graduate Katie West, her passion was photography and videography, where she also excelled.

During her time at UM, West was able to do contract work for a major production house that had her working on a cruise ship for the restaurant giant Chick-fil-A. It was this type of opportunity afield that illustrated to her the value of experiential learning within the Production Technologies program.

“This school has not only set me up for success outside of college by teaching me in the classroom, but it has given me the opportunity to meet and connect with people in the industry,” West wrote in an article for the university. “While classrooms are great, it is connections that are made and opportunities that are given through our school that set us, students at the University of Mobile, up for success.”

When students such as Stone and West discover their true passion and purpose working on events outside the school, it validates what everyone inside ASOTA is doing, said Jeremy Harford, who created, and now directs, the Production Technologies program.

“By getting the hands-on training in different environments where they’re having to adjust and” “modify, our students are that much more of an asset with so much experience in a wide plethora of aspects of production,” Harford said. “As well as these people being a light in the world, they’re also going into concert tours, going into production houses, going into installation-and-design companies. And they’re all hired basically before they graduate, which is incredible.”

Depending on their focus, graduates can earn valuable accreditations in production, such as a Dante Certification for audio/visual networking, and become an Avid Certified User for Pro Tools, an
industry standard digital audio software, among other certifications. The technical training and industry certifications are tremendous assets that give UM graduates an edge as they compete with graduates of other schools which cost far more and lack the spiritual component that is so important at UM.

“It’s the natural course of expressing your worship and showing forth His praise with all of these different skill sets, and then having the opportunity to perform them anywhere in the world,” Bowersox said. “We’ve combined the elements of art and being an artist, creating an experience that people can engage with so they can worship the Lord.”

About the Author

Michael Dumas