University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Turns to GC Pro to Equip Its New Digital Music Lab

Francisco Dean is a music instructor at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a pre-K-through-12 private school affiliated with the U of C. He’s also a long-time client of Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro), the business-to-business division of Guitar Center providing customized service for professional accounts. About two years ago, Dean made a trip to the nearby Hobart, Indiana Guitar Center location, which resulted in the store equipping the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools’ brand new Digital Music Lab with most of its gear – more than 100 items of equipment in all.

“About two years ago I needed a small MIDI controller and went to [GC Pro Account Manager] Ryan Nigh for assistance,” said Dean. “I got to talking to him, and when I told him I taught music technology to high school music students and was looking for gear for our not-yet-built Digital Music Lab, Ryan told me about GC Pro’s educational program. I knew then that it was just what we needed. The timing was perfect, as I was working on the school’s syllabus for the upcoming year and the planning for the lab.”

GC Pro works directly with people like Dean and offers special educational discounts. In addition, students can get the benefits of the GC Pro program, such as discounts and free shipping from their local store.

The U of C Laboratory Schools’ Digital Music Lab features 16 independent workstations where students can compose and record music. The workstations are equipped with AKAI Professional MPC249 Performance Keyboard Controllers, AKAI APC Mini Compact Ableton Live Controllers, Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 USB audio interfaces and more. Each workstation is linked to a central USB hub and their computers are linked to the Lab’s local area network via Ethernet. If desired, a single workstation can be moved to another location for remote recording.

Since live recording is a key focus of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools’ music program, GC Pro supplied a variety of dynamic and condenser mics from Sennheiser, Rode, AKG, Shure, SE Electronics and Electro Voice. “Our students learn how to mic and record everything from vocals to brass, woodwinds and percussion, so we needed to build a mic locker that would include mics for all applications,” said Dean. A selection of Sennheiser headphones, KRK Rokit powered studio monitors, cables and other gear rounds out the Digital Music Lab’s equipment complement.

“We were building the lab from scratch and had never done anything on this scale before,” noted Dean. “Ryan Nigh was invaluable in giving us the advice we needed regarding which products would be the best for our needs, and offering the tech support we needed to make everything work together. Usually I would just tell him what we needed in terms of what the products had to do, and Ryan would make recommendations based on which products would best serve our requirements.”

“In working with Ryan, I had the peace of mind that I was getting unbiased recommendations, not a sales pitch that would be forgotten the minute I walked out of the store. Because he’s in the field making recordings and doing mixing on his own, Ryan knows how equipment works in the real world.”

Dean likes to stop by his local Guitar Center frequently for the music supplies he requires for his classes. “Having Ryan around is like having my own personal tech support assistant. Ryan and GC Pro really made it as easy as possible for us to set up the Digital Music Lab in providing their expert assistance on this project.”