College partners with songwriting mecca
Pictured at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville are (left to right), Megan Zarling, Nashville Songwriters Association International Executive Director Bart Herbison, Dr. Tod Allen Farmer, country music artist Rhett Akins, Nan Kingsley, Erica Nichols, 88.5 “The Coyote” General Manager Dave Cowley, Karleen Watt and 615 Leverage + Strategy President John Zarling.
By Brandi Addison
Through a unique partnership established in honor of the late Bob Kingsley—a renowned radio personality—a one-of-a-kind opportunity to digitize nearly 40 years of archived performances at the Bluebird Cafe is underway at Weatherford College.
Arranged by Kingsley’s wife, Nan, the partnership showcases Kingsley’s passion for both the Parker County area and music education.
“After Bob’s passing there was never any question in my mind that Bluestem Studios, where Bob recorded for 25 years, should be in the possession of Weatherford College,” said Nan Kingsley, wife of Bob, when announcing the partnership. “The Parker County community became Bob’s adopted hometown, and I know he would be overjoyed to know that present and future generations will learn the art of engineering and audio production in Weatherford.”
The Bluebird Cafe, located in Nashville, is known for discovering many up-and-coming music artists, laying the foundation for Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks, who auditioned there in the late 1980s.
For 40 years, The Bluebird has recorded nearly every performance and audition that’s occurred there—and now has hundreds upon hundreds of boxes containing tapes, CDs and cassettes. General Manager Erika Nichols said they’ve wanted to catalog these performances for a while but couldn’t do it on their own. Then, the opportunity with WC arose unexpectedly and fell into place so perfectly, it was impossible to say no.
“We knew this was an opportunity for this to do what the Bluebird does, which is to get young people involved in the music business—whether that’s people coming into the club as budding publishers or up-and-coming songwriters or we have student interns,” Nichols said. “We just really felt like this was a full-circle kind of moment to get Weatherford College involved on the ground, where Bob used to live, and utilizing his studio.
“I just feel like he [Kingsley] would be smiling on this project,” Nichols added.
WC Dean of Fine Arts Duane Durrett is grateful for the educational opportunity, which he said is irreplaceable for students seeking a career in the music industry—especially those pursuing audio engineering.
Students digitize the works onto computers over several class periods, Durrett said. In doing so, they gain a new understanding of the industry that many people may never obtain.
“We’re getting all this information—these CDs and cassettes—that were created over the last 40 years by songwriters that wrote hits or songs on the radio, and our students get to hear them in their initial form,” Durrett said. “It’s different because they see this music from birth—before it became a hit or popular song on the radio.”
In addition to the distinguished educational resources it provides, Durrett said he also believes the partnership will open new doors for some of WC’s singer-songwriters students since some students will have already established a relationship with the famed venue.
“Getting the opportunity to digitize work for them is major, and we certainly get the bragging rights for that,” Durrett said. “There are all kinds of ideas and visions going on between Weatherford College and the Bluebird, and even other folks in Nashville’s music scene.”
Learn more about WC’s audio engineering associate degree and certificate at https://wc.edu/programs/all-programs/audioengineering_degree/index.php.