This week, I had the privilege to sit in on a high school broadcasting course at Clarke Road Secondary School in London, ON.
Under the tutelage of Brent Bissell, veteran radio broadcaster turned inspiring mentor of young minds, these teens are exploring careers in creative fields such as broadcast for television, radio, sound editing and film.
When I first asked Brent Bissell if I could come to visit his high school “Broadcasting Communications” class at Clarke Road Secondary School, I knew that I was very much looking forward to being there, but I can tell you with all sincerity that I had no idea just how excited the students were to have me come in to see them.
The moment I walked in, I was treated to a guided tour of the communications classrooms and was privy to the school’s daily broadcast, fed live each day to various rooms in the building including the cafeteria and for those sitting in wait at the guidance counselor’s office.
I’d never been so “behind the scenes” before and it was intriguing to see how the green screens worked when graphics were added to give the appearance of a professional network studio during the televised broadcast. I also got to watch the students, who were all responsible for different things, operate the teleprompter, cameras, and even be news anchors behind the desk.
Technology being used in the classroom includes an assortment of editing tools such as Adobe Audition for audio, a Shure microphone modeled in the 50s style, a dynamic microphone for the radio announcer, linear and non-linear editing capabilities, and my favorite, the Shure 819 boundary microphone that was used to pick up the voices of the news anchors during the Clarke Road televised daily broadcast which lays flat on the table and picks up the presenters effortlessly. Brent, or Mr. Bissell as he was called in class by his students, revealed that the surface that the mic rests on, in this case, the table, acts as a diaphragm.
On this particular day I was visiting with the senior students in the eleventh grade. The class this semester consists of 18 extremely bright, motivated and charismatic students.
It was obvious that over the last four months of class, they knew exactly what to do, when to do it, and were comfortable with their roles in full knowledge that during a live broadcast, they were all reliant upon each other to work as a team in order to achieve a successful program.
Throughout the taping, Brent was able to give me a play-by-play of the station operations which I greatly appreciated. Brent Bissell, a name you might remember from his years on FM96 in London, ON, has a zest for education mapped in his DNA. As Broadcaster of the Year from Fanshawe College’s Broadcasting program, Brent went on to spend 16 years in Radio and TV as an announcer and journalist. Following his years in broadcast, Brent took on his calling to become a teacher and has been teaching at his current post at Clarke Road for two years, instituting one of the best high school broadcast and communications classes in the city.
It was under his direction that a daily broadcast schedule was added to the curriculum, a decision that has helped to propel the destinies of several students who have since decided to seek post-secondary education at institutions the likes of Fanshawe College’s Broadcast program, Conestoga, audio recording at OIART, and the Toronto Film School. Many students in Brent’s class this semester are taking co-ops at local television and radio stations such as Rogers Television in London and radio station CJBK.
As Brent still maintains connections with FM96, a number of students have had the opportunity to record liners, promos and commercials for the radio station that called for teenage voices. One commercial we discussed was for a local store called Bud Gowan Formal Wear, a store famous for its tuxedo rentals. Voice over does factor in quite a bit in this course. The students edit video and are also able to record their own voice overs using Adobe Audition employing the use of a dynamic Behringer C1 microphone.
Today, I received a couple of emails from the students (I asked them to write so that we could keep in touch) and here’s a sampling for you. “Thank you so much for coming in! It was very inspiring to see that you have become so successful in the business that I hope to make it in. I have made an account on voices.com, and I finally have a demo up now!”
“Thank you for coming into our class, I found it very interesting and I am looking forward to taking advantage of this opportunity.”
I’d love to go back in and see the students to talk to them about voice acting. According to Brent, the class was intrigued by my visit and already more of them are signing up for Guest memberships so that they can learn more and grow in what may become their voice over career. Today, they watched the “Five Men in a Limo” video on YouTube featuring Don LaFontaine, Nick Tate, John Leader, Mark Elliott and Al Chalk, and learned more about voices, from which I’m told was sparked by their interest in our meeting yesterday.
The future of voice acting is now and it’s happening in high school classrooms across the continent guided by teachers with a passion for communications and mission to help raise up tomorrow’s talent today.