John Lennon Bus serves as mobile recording studio
The outside of The John Lennon Education Tour Bus is painted to resemble a bright blue sky dotted with clouds. Fans may recognize John Lennon’s famous self-portrait floating between the wheels. The inside of the bus is a recording artist’s dream and a songwriter’s wish, but above all, it’s a place for the creative mind.
The tour bus was parked at the south end of the Parade Grounds in front of the Union on June 4 and 5. LSU was one of many stops the bus has and will make this year. According to Seamus Harte, a producer onboard, the bus travels to schools and events 10 months out of the year.
According to the bus’ Web site, www.lennonbus.org, the bus launched in 1998 and has offered recording, songwriting, and musical opportunities at each stop, serving as a non-profit recording studio on wheels.
Harte said bus co-founder Brian Rothschild pitched the idea to Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow.
“He wanted to create a hands-on opportunity for students,” Harte said. “This opens doors for those who have never seen a studio or may not know what kinds of jobs are available for musicians. All in the name of creativity.”
Although the bus stops at schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and battles of the bands, students aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the mobile studio.
“The Black Eyed Peas have recorded here,” Harte said. “Yoko has done some songs here, and Natasha Bedingfield. This summer we will be stopping at Warped Tour, working with those artists.”
Anyone who steps on the bus can see it is fully equipped for a professional, a student, or even the musically challenged. The bus walls are lined with flat-screen televisions—nearly 10 in total. Apple, Sony, and Maxell are just a few of the sponsors that generously decked out the tour bus.
The bus is divided into three parts: the front studio, rear studio, and Chromakey studio. The front studio is primarily used for audio and visual production. It is equipped with a computer, televisions, a keyboard, and several speakers. Cameras hang from the ceiling in every corner of the room.
The rear studio is for audio production. The room has a sound system, a keyboard, a drum set, monitors, and computers. The rear studio is separated by a soundproof sliding glass door that shades with the flip of a switch.
The Chromakey studio is where the producers sleep—in bunks built into the walls. This studio can also be used in making music videos, with the use of the green screen.
Harte said the current bus is much more advanced when it comes to the technology onboard. He said the bus has improved in its equipment since its start nearly 12 years ago.
While technology is a prominent part of the tour bus, personal items are scattered throughout the vehicle, giving the place a cozy feel. A shelf near the entrance is home to a Rubik’s Cube, a foam head of Mr. Spock, and a string of buckeye Mardi Gras beads.
Across from the entrance is an item close to Ono—a replica of the Imagine Peace Tower. According to its Web site, www.imaginepeace.com, the original tower is a piece of artwork created by Ono in memory of Lennon. The tower produces a strong beam of light and is powered solely by Geothermal Energy.
Harte said the Imagine Peace Tower gave off its first beam of light October 9, 2007—what would have been Lennon’s 67th birthday. The tower is located in Reykjavik, Iceland, an address where people worldwide are encouraged to send their hopes and dreams, Harte said.
The tower’s replica aboard the bus wraps up a constant message from Lennon, Ono, and even the bus’ producers and engineers who all wear black shirts that read “Imagine Peace” across the chest. The message stems from Ono and Lennon’s constant pursuit of world peace, but also from Lennon’s song “Imagine” in which he sings, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
While on campus, the bus opened its doors to students and visitors for general tours on the first day in Baton Rouge. The second day, however, was saved for students in LSU’s School of Music. Approximately eight students were recommended by their professors to board the bus and receive the opportunity of a lifetime.
Students spent the day writing an original song, recording it to a CD, and making a music video all aboard the bus. This opportunity was a joint effort between the music school and faculty from an upcoming minor in digital media for undergraduates.
The minor, Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies, and Research, known as AVATAR, would provide students with a broad knowledge of technology and art that is related to digital media.
Stephen David Beck, professor of composition and computer music and the Project Lead for AVATAR, said the minor will have something to offer everyone.
“It will give students a foundation of how to work in teams and collaborate,” Beck said. “It’s for people using digital technology in their career, people in humanities can use it for research, or scientists using it for visualization.”
Beck said the group for AVATAR will present their ideas to the Courses and Curriculum Committee in the fall. If the program is approved, they hope to open the minor to students in January 2010.
“There’s not many careers that don’t involve this kind of knowledge,” said Lea Anne Couvillion, AVATAR coordinator. “Digital media is so popular now; it really is the gamer’s minor but it also goes beyond games.”
The work done by students on the Lennon Bus is just one of the many projects that will promote a digital media program. The work produced on the tour bus is also consistent with Rothschild’s and Ono’s original idea, Harte said.
“It’s something Yoko felt John would be behind,” Harte said. “It keeps his name and energy alive, but it’s also headed into the future.”
Holly Ann Phillips | Writer | Communications & University Relations