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VOL. 129 | NO. 149 | Friday, August 01, 2014

Visible College Basement Opens New Opportunities

By Andy Meek

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There was a time, in the years surrounding the bankruptcy of the Stax Records label decades ago, when the vault of the old C&I Bank Building Downtown housed masters from the label.

That symbolism is not lost on Ken Steorts, president and founder of Visible Music College. Visible operates today in that same building, and where the building once had a vault in the basement that housed storied record label masters, soon that underground portion of the building will include a suite of music classrooms and control and tracking rooms.

Visible Music College is close to having the underground portion of its Downtown Memphis facility open and ready for classes.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Since its groundbreaking, Visible has made significant progress, Steorts says, toward the completion of what it’s calling “Music Industry Underground,” the basement warren at Visible’s 200 Madison Ave. campus where music business and music production bachelor’s degree programs also will be housed starting this fall. It’s part of the vision Steorts has long had of bringing substantive infrastructure to the Downtown area that will support the emergence of the area as a recording hub.

“Music Industry Underground will be a resource for more than 30 producers, many of whom are students,” he said. “We’ll be recording new music constantly in the heart of Downtown Memphis, and training and equipping a new generation of producers and engineers.”

When it’s finished, the Visible basement also will be home to Madison Line Records, which has vacated its space at 287 Madison and will move in once construction at Visible is finished in the fall. The idea is to give students a complete learning lab in which their music education can thrive, fully integrating Madison Line with the music business and music production degrees Visible currently offers.

Students will then have a hands-on environment in which they can work on actual label releases from pre-production to engineering, mixing and mastering, all the way to distribution, promotion, booking and management.

It’s another step in the evolution of Visible, which moved into its Downtown campus in late summer 2011. At 200 Madison, Visible has four floors of performance, practice, classroom and administrative space.

In recent days, Visible also scored a win with the announcement that former major label artist and 2014 Independent Country Music Association Awards nominee Jason McKinney is joining the college as chairman of the music business department, leaving Nashville to do so.

In addition to recording and releasing nine studio albums, he’s played with everyone from Katy Perry to Jars of Clay. A two-time nationally signed artist, he holds a doctorate in leadership and professional practice from Trevecca Nazarene University, as well as degrees in music performance.

Even as it’s working on transforming its Downtown Memphis space, the school also has made and is continuing to make a push beyond the city.

STEORTS

This fall, Visible will welcome its first class of freshmen to a new Chicago satellite campus. Next year, Visible also will have a new presence in Dallas.

There, the college has solidified plans to launch a teaching site in the fall of 2015. In March, members of the college leadership team visited the city and made the partnership official.

Steorts founded Visible in 2000 with a goal of the school training and equipping musicians, technicians and business professionals for service in the music industry and in the church.

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