Just down the road from Lipscomb University on Belmont Boulevard, the Sound Emporium holds a deep music history — a history that Lipscomb is now privileged to be a part of, too.
Last month, the Sound Emporium was given to Lipscomb by former Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn as part of his $15 million donation to Lipscomb, the largest in school history. Lipscomb’s College of Entertainment and the Arts now bears Shinn’s name: the George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts.
The Sound Emporium has housed acclaimed artists varying from Johnny Cash to Trisha Yearwood to Kenny Chesney. Lipscomb’s School of Music Academic Chair, Donna King, hopes this rich history will benefit Lipscomb students as they integrate into the workings of the studio this fall.
“It’s kind of a pioneering venture,” King said, “because Lipscomb is not taking over the running of a studio and turning it into a Lipscomb studio and a student studio. I think what we’re doing is actually better; we’re sort of coming into partnership with this historic, active studio that is still very actively making recordings.”
Lipscomb’s contemporary music program is just in its third year of existence, and King said a gift of this magnitude was never expected so early on in the program. Charlie Peacock, the school of music director, is an active Nashville songwriter and producer and has been for several decades. Peacock is currently on leave, but will be directing Lipscomb’s integration with the studio for the upcoming school year.
“It’s very difficult for a young program like ours . . . we would be thinking far down the road in terms of thinking of building up our own studio and integrating professionals into it,” King said. “To have a studio like that suddenly available for our students — for Lipscomb students — to have that possibility of that placed with us the third year of the program, we could not possibly have anticipated. It’s terribly exciting.”
Delaney, Zach and Erika Daves, members of the sibling trio Daves Highway, are each contemporary music majors at Lipscomb and will be just three of the students at Lipscomb who will have the opportunity to record and be involved in production at the Sound Emporium.
Incoming junior Erika Daves said she is looking forward to exploring the rich history the Sound Emporium has to offer, and she and her siblings feel blessed to have the opportunity to make their own mark in the Sound Emporium.
“The benefits are endless,” Daves said. “It has such a creative vibe, and the musical history is unbelievable. You can tell when you walk in the room . . . you’re standing where legends stood.”
The Sound Emporium’s history is significant indeed. Jack “Cowboy Jack” Clement, a singer-songwriter and producer, founded the studio in 1969. It was the first recording studio of its kind in Nashville and has survived for over half a century, having had many notable artists walk through its doors.
King also noted this history, saying just looking at the walls with all of the recognizable, respected records is incredible, and she believes it will greatly benefit Lipscomb students, specifically in that they will be able to work alongside professional artists in the Sound Emporium rather than apart.
“I think coming alongside of them and partnering with them is really much better than our just taking over a studio,” King said. “What that’s going to mean is we’re not going to run in and have students constantly taking over studio time to record, as we are respectful of the artists, and the people who work there. We want to observe them; we want to encourage and support the creative work that’s already going on there. And at the same time, we want to find places for students who are ready in their program to participate in that.”
Incoming senior Delaney Daves expressed that she, too, feels honored to have the opportunity to record in such a “legendary place” and be able to work alongside professional artists in the unique atmosphere the Sound Emporium has to offer.
“It’s an honor to even be able to step foot in this building, much less have it gifted to us,” Daves said. “We are so blessed to have access to the studio and to learn from some of the best in the music business.”
Zach Daves, the sole brother in the sibling trio Daves Highway and an incoming Lipscomb junior, said that the gift was a complete surprise to students, but he is, of course, looking forward to utilizing Lipscomb’s new resource along with his fellow students.
“We’re getting a new performance space, which opens up a world of opportunity for the students to learn and grow as musicians,” Daves noted.
While it was a surprise to students up until its announcement, King said faculty did know the monumental gift was coming, but only a few weeks before it was officially announced, and never did they anticipate that Shinn’s $15 million dollar donation at the Imagine Conference last April would include a studio with a half-century of history and the privilege to preserve it.
In regards to how students will be able to interact with the actively-operating, professional studio is still slightly up in the air, but students will for sure be using the studio to learn this upcoming fall semester, according to King, although the student recording sessions still may not immediately begin in September. While hours haven’t been completely decided on, in terms of when students will have access to the studio, it is King’s expectation that students will be there learning in September.
Thanks to a plethora of musicians in Music City, the state-of-the-art recording studio shouldn’t be at a loss for professional artists that students will have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from.
“One of the things I’ve learned as we’re beginning our third year of the contemporary/commercial music program, and one of the things that has been a great blessing for us, is that it’s been very apparent that there are many creative artists in Nashville who want to give back,” King said. “They want to work with students; they want to work with young people. Not because we can pay them enough . . . but because they really enjoy working with the next generation of artists.”
Ultimately, the big picture for students is that the Sound Emporium will soon be a place for them to record. It will be a place for students to learn about production. And it will be a place that will give students opportunities for internships in production, music business and more. These internships may even be open to business students as well.
Although it has not yet been decided, King believes students outside of Lipscomb music majors will have access to the recording studio, although first priority will be given to students within the College of Arts and Entertainment.
Fundamentally, the department’s focus is on mentoring students, and King said the Sound Emporium will provide an access to mentor/mentee relationships outside of Lipscomb, as students will work with professional artists in Nashville.
“This is Lipscomb’s practice,” King said. “It is mentoring students into a practice where they can serve. It allows us to do that side-by-side with a professional, real-world lab — and a pretty high-impact one right away. Students don’t have to wait seven or eight years to figure out what it’s like to work in a studio like this. We can help them navigate the complexities of that at the beginning. So I think in terms of career preparation, to be a career professional, to serve as a Christian artist . . . I think it raises our ability to do that exponentially.
“That’s what we really want to do — put students in places where they can be successful.”
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb University