Recording studio up and running at LCHS

  • Music teacher Radford Windham shows student Brendan Diehl some of the many functions of a soundboard, purchased with money donated by Mike and Lynn Cottrell.
    Music teacher Radford Windham shows student Brendan Diehl some of the many functions of a soundboard, purchased with money donated by Mike and Lynn Cottrell.

Lumpkin County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rob Brown said he was ready to give a quick “no” when high school Principal Billy Kirk told him one of his teachers wanted to talk to him about a new program.
“I was thinking about the cost of any new program,” he said. “But Radford [Windham] came to me with a vision, and a plan, and partners … and excitement. Me saying no turned into me trying to figure out how to make it happen.”
What happened was a new career pathway for students interested in the music industry, housed in a beautifully crafted studio complete with a recording booth, mixing boards, sound lab with 36 digital audio workstations, guitars, a grand piano and more—all at no cost to the school system.
Windham said he has a genuine love of teaching and his home town. He has been an instructor at LCHS for 15 years, and said he “has no desire to go anywhere else.”
He does, however, have another passion—music. He plays and teaches guitar and leads the popular local band Step Back Cadillac. He’s had the idea for the music industry pathway for several years.
‘It’s always been a passion of mine to do this,” he said.
Mike and Lynn Cottrell caught Windham’s passion about two years ago. The couple hosted Step Back Cadillac’s album release party in November 2017.
“After the release we got to talking and he told us about this project,” said Lynn.
“The Cottrells were the first to jump on board when they heard about it,” Windham said.
“I’ve always been a music lover—all kinds of music. It soothes the soul. But this wouldn’t have happened without a dream, and the inspiration of a teacher for his kids,” Lynn said.
The couple provided the materials to renovate the old Audio-Video lab and build the recording booth. Lynn also lent a hand with the decorating, Windham said.
Others who believed in the project soon followed. Windham’s long-time friend and hometown recording artist Zac Brown was quick to jump on board. His studio, Southern Ground Nashville, shipped “a truckload of equipment to get the program off the ground,” Windham said.
Another friend and home grown musician, Shawn Mullins, auctioned two of his guitars to raise money for the project. Former state representative and local resident Amos Amerson donated a grand piano and many others donated instruments to the cause.
“Every guitar, mandolin—every instrument in here was donated, and every one is touched every day,” Windham said.
The 36 computers were already school property, and are used as a sound lab where students can create and record their own music.
“Each computer is set up as a Digital Audio Workstation. Students use an Audio Interface to record real instruments,” Windham said. “We are blessed to have the support of the administration, Board of Education and so many people in the community.”
Windham is teaching Music Technology and Guitar Techniques to students in the 9th-12th grade. He incorporates the fundamentals of music industry standards into both classes.
Music Technology teaches students all aspects of a recording session from recording to mixing and mastering a tape. They also learn online distribution, which, Windham said, may enable them the begin earning money from their original work.
Guitar Techniques teaches rhythmic strumming patterns, chord structures, use of alternative tunings, finger-style playing and lead guitar techniques, as well as music composition and lyric writing.
Windham’s hope is that these classes will enable students to work in the music industry right after graduation, whether in a recording studio or on stage.
Many of his past guitar students (he taught a class at LCHS for four years in the early 2000s) have done just that. Trygve Myers and the late Zak McConnell of the Fiddleheads, Jason Kenny and Spencer Durham are some examples of former students who continued on to being paid for their love of music. The Fiddleheads even made it the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent.
McConnell, for whom one of the studios is named, took Windham’s first guitar class at LCHS in 2003.
“Zak was a phenomenal musician who was focused on quality and work ethic,” he said. “[He] tragically died from a heart attack in 2013 at the age of 26. Zak’s contributions to music impacted many people in our community. Zak taught several students in [my] current guitar class when they were children.”
Another of Windham’s goals for the class is to create a working studio where students actually record music artists at a discounted price, master the recording and give the artist a finished product. Five professional musicians have taken advantage of the offer, including Betsy Franck, studio musician and performer with both digital and physical albums to her credit; Chuck Bell, worship leader and consultant in the United Methodist Church and owner of Chuck Bell Music; bass player Trygve Myers of Fiddlehead fame; and homegrown musicians and recording artists Jason Kenny and Kurt Thomas.
And of course, Windham said, “We’ve had numerous students recording in the studio since it opened in early August. I’m looking forward to the music that comes out of our program.”
Chris Sherrer from Zac Brown Collective who worked with Windham in setting up the studio, said, “These kids are about to drop into the industry already creating. They can do it all—take an idea and put it out in 20 minutes, and this is the playground for them to do that.”