The John Lennon Educational Bus pulled into the lot between the 200 and 1000 buildings to bring music technology to Orange County.
It was Fullerton College’s first time recording in the five million dollar mobile studio: seven Fullerton music students, past and present, as well as faculty advisor Bruce Babad, wrote, recorded, and produced an original composition in the morning, topping off with a four hour high-definition video shoot.
“Thanks to [music instructor] Marcus Berger, who has helped our department tremendously, we were able to get this connection with a great organization,” said Dean of Fine Arts Bob Jensen.
This newest bus, which is “less than a month old,” is to travel cross-continent 60,000 miles this year, making 250 stops, ten months out of the year. The Bus has been running since 1998.
“This program was started by started by Brian Rothchild, who wanted to bring Lennon’s dream of songwriting and performance to children everywhere,” said Fine Arts Public Relations Director Mary Law. “[Lennon’s wife] Yoko Ono didn’t start it, but she led the vision into something great.
Jensen and Law both said that they are trying work to coordinate next year’s Jazz festival with another Bus stop, to increase the 300 visitor turnout.
Saxophonist and composer, Fullerton College student Steve Horist, wrote the performed composition, “Never Could Be.”
“I love music,” said Horist. “I’ve been composing since sixth grade.”
Horist worked with seven “close friends” on this project, which he says captured his them of lost love. However, this project wasn’t about that.
“We do this for fun,” said Jacob Voelzke, one of the Bus’s three producer engineers. “We hope to show students everywhere how to creatively express themselves.”
Voelzke’s favorite piece of gear, if not including the three-studio bus itself, is the Sony PMW-EX1, a $6500 card based high definition pro video camera, free-of-charge thanks to sponsors.
“[The sponsors like Sony, Apple, and Roland] give us free products to use, everything from 17-inch MacBook pros for each of us to high-def video cameras and dSLRs.”
Voelske said that all of the equipment, including the software on the computers, is state-of-the-art and top of the line for professionals.
“We have a video/graphics studio in the front, a mixing studio in the middle, and a vocal studio and green screen studio in the back, where we sleep,” said Voelske. During the break, some of the performing group and production crew came outside to discuss some legacy of the Bus’s former members.
“Yeah, the Doritos girl [Kina Grannis] recorded with [the Bus in March of 2007 at USC,]” said Tyler Winick, another Bus production engineer. “We were stoked to see her in [Sunday’s] Super Bowl.”
“It just goes to show you what the Bus can do for some people,” said Winick.
Alyssa Maddock is a vocalist currently in several campus groups, including “Bravo,” “J-Train,” the Concert Choir, and the Applied Music program, in which students have private advanced solo courses geared toward the student’s needs and interests. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said vocalist Maddock, who had never recorded before the Bus. “We got to create everything.”
The creative juices floated along like Lennon’s “Yellow Submarine”: during breaks, the musicians kept a creative vibe flowing. During one break, a few of the performers chatted about potential band names, as several of the musicians involves are also band mates. It was agreed they needed a name for their ‘gig’ on February 18 at the Mint Jazz Club in Los Angeles.
“I’m not sure [of a name], but that cloud sure does look like a dragon,” laughed Fullerton College student cellist and vocalist Julia Wood.
“We should be BBW,” said bassist Alex Balderson. “[Drummer Jonathan] Bradley, Balderson and [guitarist Andy] Waddell, plus we can tell people we’re big beautiful women.”
The group laughed and declared that BBW was the name pro tempore, despite not including keyboardist Sam Jensen. On the next break, Balderson continued the artsy comedy.
When asked if Lennon inspired anything recorded on the Bus, Balderson replied that the producers “secretly had John Lennon’s corpse in the vocal booth,” while he motioned like a grim zombie.
The joyful group continued as Bradley and Jensen exchanged business cards.
“[Bradley]’s business card is so him,” laughed Sam. “All colorful and shiny.”
Horist then declared the musical instrument known as an EWI, which he describes as an “electronic saxophone,” the greatest instrument ever.
Despite such antics, there are several professionals in the group.
Balderson, who plays a 1830’s ¾ scale upright bass “older than jazz,” currently works as a music instructor at Fullerton’s West Coast Conservatory, as well as a private tutor and “doing the occasional gig.”
Waddell is a professional guitarist, who gave up “the crummy instrument known as the trombone.” He says everything from the sound it makes to the name trombone is crummy, unlike his passionate guitar.
Wood said she recently recorded with her cello in Nashville with Tiana Star, a local Folk singer and guitarist.
“Music is my life,” Wood said. “This is what I do.”
“Those who work on the bus work sometimes 32 days straight,” producer Winick explained. “We don’t know what day it is but we never lose track of what time it is – and we become addicted to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the road.”
The bus, which left Monday evening, prepared for its next stop at USC, where they first met “Doritos Girl” Grannis.
“This is what we do,” said Winick. “We eat, breathe, laugh, and cry music.”