A few Hilliard juniors and seniors cut their spring break short Friday, March 28, to learn from a Grammy-winning record producer best known for his work with the heavy metal band Metallica.
About a dozen students from all three district high schools gathered at the McVey Innovative Learning Center to meet Flemming Rasmussen, a Danish producer, engineer and sound mixer who worked on the famous 1980s albums Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and ... And Justice for All.
Rasmussen also won a Grammy Award in 1989 for producing the Metallica single One.
Rasmussen was in central Ohio as part of the 2014 Music Technology Workshop at Capital University in Bexley. His visit to Bexley and Hilliard was funded by a Capital artist-in-residence grant.
Chad Loughrige, head of the music technology program and conservatory of music at Capital University, arranged for Rasmussen to visit the Hilliard students enrolled in the Project Rock class at the McVey Innovative Learning Center.
He suggested the arrangement to Shawn Malone, a Project Rock instructor, who also is a graduate of Capital University and played in a band with Loughrige at Capital.
Malone said the visit was well worth it.
"After (the students) took a few minutes getting over being star-struck ... there was a lot to learn," Malone said.
One student very familiar with Rasmussen's work was Keegan Davidson, a junior at Darby High School, who learned about Metallica as a 10-year-old playing Guitar Hero III.
Davidson said he invested more than a few hours trying to complete a level by successfully duplicating the guitar piece for One.
Davidson said he wanted to know more about the music he liked, including how it was made. That's how he learned Rasmussen played a significant role in creating the sound of the Metallica albums that largely defined the heavy metal genre in the 1980s.
"I brought my copy of the Japanese single CD of One for (Rasmussen) to sign and he said, 'I don't think even I have a copy of this,' " Davidson said.
Davidson credits Metallica with inspiring him to play guitar but he says Rasmussen made him aware of the craft and an awareness to improve how music is played and performed.
"Every air guitar I was doing back then ... I had in mind how he affected the sound," he said. "I had to know everything about the music I was listening to."
Some of Davidson's classmates said Rasmussen pointed out imperfections they did not hear in pieces of music.
"It was a great experience to see how (Rasmussen) works with a song," said Vince Coleman, a senior at Bradley High School.
Coleman, who said he wants to be a record producer, said Rasmussen's work included equalizing recordings by changing the compression and frequency, thus improving the sound.
Michael Thabet, a Bradley senior who plays the guitar and performs vocals, said it was enlightening to hear one of his original recordings after Rasmussen reworked it in the recording studio.
"I could hear a difference (and) it gives me some high hopes of becoming a better musician," Thabet said.
Lindsey Cassell, a Davidson High School senior and an aspiring vocalist who cites Norah Jones among her inspirations, said it was helpful to learn how to identify even miniscule flaws.
"It was cool to see what you thought was a good song ... become better by what was done with the recording," Cassell said.
Loughrige and Malone said the McVey Innovative Learning Center is unique in having a professional recording studio where Rasmussen could demonstrate his production methods.
"I think the students benefited from not only witnessing one of the best music producers ... but also seeing how much time goes into producing even one song," said Trevor Torrence, a music-video instructor for the Project Rock class.