The Charger Blog

Students' In-Class Experience at Prestigious Recording Studio Rocks

The members of the band Zion's Blood are all Chargers who are studying in Nashville this semester. They – and their classmates – recently took part in a unique "metal" hands-on learning experience at Blackbird Studio as part of one of their classes.

April 24, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Zion's Blood with Prof. Steve Fishell.
The members of Zion’s Blood with Prof. Steve Fishell. All photos courtesy of Jaysen Velasco ’24

Carl Giannelli '24 is the rhythm guitarist and vocalist in a metal band. Earlier this semester, he told his professor, Steve Fishell, about the group's new Spotify release. Curious, Fishell checked it out that very evening. He was immediately impressed – so much so that he went to see the band perform.

This semester, the four members of Zion's Blood are studying in Nashville this semester as part of the University's Study Away program. Every semester, Fishell brings in two professional artists from the Nashville community to record for his "Music Production" class so that his students can gain hands-on experience participating in a real master recording session. This semester, he invited Zion's Blood to be one of those artists.

The band recently recorded at Blackbird Studio, the prestigious Nashville recording studio with which the University collaborates to offer the Study Away program. It was an exciting opportunity for the band members and for their classmates.

"Every staff member we interacted with on our recording day was very professional and easygoing, which made the recording process much easier," said Giannelli, a music industry major with a minor in business management. "It was beyond insightful to learn how a studio of that size functions from an artist's perspective, and I certainly will never forget it!"

'They rocked!'
Carl Giannelli ’24 and Alex Tardio ’24 in the studio
Carl Giannelli ’24, left, rhythm guitarist and vocalist for Zion’s Blood, and Alex Tardio ’24 in the studio.

While Fishell admits that metal is not his area of expertise, he is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and he is familiar with the genre. After he saw Zion's Blood perform in a Nashville club, he believed they would thrive in the studio with their classmates observing.

"Zion's Blood immediately impressed me with their performances, their songs, and their precise command of their instruments," said Fishell. "Everyone played together as a 'band,' something that is very important to me. Also, they sang very well, their pitch was perfect, and their grooves were airtight. In short: They rocked!"

Fishell's instincts were right. He calls their studio session a "great success." Not only did Zion's Blood record seven tracks, the band also laid the foundation for their next public release and excelled creatively.

'I could not be more excited'

The session was a remarkable learning experience for all the students – both members of the band and their classmates. Students observed and assisted with the setup, engineering, and making some production decisions. John Vota '24, who has been doing the mixing and engineering for the band since they formed, was excited to be a part of the session.

Isaiah-Welch Novels ’24 performing
Isaiah-Welch Novels ’24 performs during the recording session.

"Being a part of this recording session was a great experience for me because it was the first time I helped produce a band in a studio as nice as Blackbird," said Vota, a music and sound recording major. "This session helped give me confidence in knowing that I could man the desk in fast-paced working environments. Like most sessions, the musicians and the crew are acting quickly, and each person plays an important role in maintaining the workflow. I was able to manage this, and I found myself more relaxed than stressed."

The experience enabled students to participate in a recording process in a leading recording studio – in the same space that well-known artists such as Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Jack White, and Keith Urban have recorded. Vota is grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop his own skills at Blackbird – and in a city that offers so many exciting opportunities in the music industry.

"Being at Blackbird has been humbling for me, and it is very exciting getting to use this cutting-edge equipment," he said. "I sat in on a session with two well-known, Grammy award-winning artists and was able to see the workflow. Being in Nashville has opened my eyes to the industry and has shown me what I am going to be involved in, and I could not be more excited."

'When Zion's Blood is playing concert halls throughout America...'
Ryan Wall ’24
Ryan Wall ’24 drumming at Blackbird Studio.

Giannelli and his bandmates are also excited about what the industry has in store for them. The four band members – Giannelli, lead guitarist Alex Tardio '24, bassist Isaiah-Welch Novels '24, and drummer Ryan Wall '24 – all met as first-year students at the University. They formed Zion's Blood approximately a year ago.

In addition to performing in Nashville, Zion's Blood has also performed in East Haven, Conn. They're gearing up for more performances this summer – including across the East Coast. Giannelli says they're ready for a busy – and exciting – summer.

"The music we create is a big mix of all the different stuff that we listen to," he explains. "Our aggression comes from bands like Leeway, Mindforce, and Negative Approach, but we also really value the rhythmic emphasis of groups such as Fugazi and A Tribe Called Quest. We're grateful to Professor Fishell and Lucien Patton at Blackbird Studio for their support and wisdom, as well as all of our friends who helped us in the studio that day."

Adds Prof. Fishell, "My hope is that when Zion's Blood is playing concert halls throughout America someday, they will remember me when I knock on their bus door to say 'hello.'"

Zion’s Blood band photo
Zion’s Blood. Left to right: Alex Tardio ’24, Ryan Wall ’24, Carl Giannelli ’24, and Isaiah-Welch Novels ’24.