BANGOR, Maine — Country music fans have reason to be envious of seven New England School of Communications seniors who recently were surrounded by some of the best the genre has to offer.
The group returned this week from an immersive weeklong cruise, where country music was a constant companion. While nearly 2,400 adoring country music fans took in more than 100 live performances, NESCom students worked behind the scenes to make sure the shows went on without a hitch.
The idea to bring the students onboard came from Tim Cabral, a 1990 NESCom graduate, who started Florida-based Cruise Production, a company that organizes cruises featuring music from artists ranging from Tim McGraw and Lynyrd Skynyrd to KISS and New Kids on the Block.
The roster on the Norwegian “Pearl” as it visited the Caribbean Oct. 14-21 included headliner Blake Shelton, and country stars Trace Adkins, Lee Brice, Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, Jerrod Niemann and Neal McCoy along with 17 up-and-coming country acts.
“This was the best of the best, I swear half of Nashville was there,” said Eric Ferguson, interim director of Audio Engineering at NESCom who went with the students.
Cabral reached out to NESCom to offer an opportunity for seniors in the school’s Live Sound Technology program to work as stage crew on board the ship during its week at sea.
Cabral’s company covered plane tickets and other travel expenses and gave the students rooms on the ship in exchange for their work setting up shows, according to Ferguson.
“It was actually kind of thrown in my lap,” Ferguson said.
He said some of his students hadn’t flown before, and one had never left the state. One thing all students had in common is a passion for music and desire to work in the industry.
“Being on the ship really opened up the eyes of all of us,” said Chris Daniels, a 21-year-old NESCom student from Exeter, N.H., who worked on the cruise. He said students worked long days setting up equipment for performers around the ship. The group ran wires and set up amplifiers, microphones and other equipment for various musicians who played on stages across the ship, including poolside, Daniels said.
“We worked with an outstanding crew who really knew their stuff,” Daniels said.
While Daniels said he and his classmates aren’t huge fans of country music, they appreciate any genre and are just happy to have the opportunity to get involved in the music industry and meet artists and potential future employers.
“We all have a great skillset coming from the sound program [at NESCom],” Daniels said.
Ferguson said the trip was a success. Every student came away with offers for summer freelance work in the music industry, he said.
“They shined, the students did so well,” Ferguson said, adding that he fielded compliments from performers, crew members and other staff on the ship, who lauded the students for their hard work and strong understanding of audio technology.
“It was an outstanding experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Daniels said.
Cabral has cruises booked through 2015 and has told the school he’s likely to invite more seniors to come help out in the future and learn more about what goes on behind the curtain in the music industry, Ferguson said.
NESCom will host an open house from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, for anyone who might be interested in attending the school for any of its programs, according to Ferguson.