A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Laying Down Tracks

By Jamie Rogers on October 28, 2016


In a recording studio on the main floor of the Music/Theater Building last spring, students from the student recording company Mason Noise wrapped up production of a full-length studio album and began mastering the tracks.

Mason Noise had full run of the studio, complete with mixing board and sound booth, to record and produce the album The Uglies by English major Michelle Pepino, who records under the name The Gem Fragments.

Michelle Pepino writes and sings songs for The Gem Fragments who is working with fellow music technology students to mix, master, produce, and distribute an original album. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Michelle Pepino writes and sings songs for The Gem Fragments who is working with fellow music technology students to mix, master, produce, and distribute an original album. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Each semester Mason Noise selects a student music artist and then records, mixes, engineers, produces, and distributes a full-length album. Pepino was chosen from about 10 applicants who submitted cover letters and demo recordings to a student executive board, says music major Thomas Routon, co-founder and president of Mason Noise.

About 30 Mason students are involved with the project. The recording company, made up mostly of music technology majors, is arranged into teams. Some work as producers—scheduling recording sessions, working with talent, and guiding the creative process behind the project. Others work as sound engineers—mixing songs and recording tracks.

Pepino wrote all the songs for the album over the span of about five years. Turning her work over to the Mason Noise crew was a big step for her because she really doesn’t share much of her inner thoughts with others, Pepino says.

“Each song is about fear, love, and uncertainty,” she says. “They are about people who have struggled in their own lives.”

As a new artist, Pepino says she didn’t find the album-making process stressful, but it was more work than she thought it would be. She plays acoustic guitar, but her album features background instrumentation from a string quartet, guitarists, a drummer, and a pianist who volunteered to work on the project.

It was nice to see students come into the recording studio and use the skills they’ve learned in their music technology classes to work on the projects, says Jesse Guessford, director of Mason’s music technology program and a professor of music technology and composition.

For this second student album, the more experienced students helped mentor the newer ones. The first album produced by Mason Noise was the debut self-titled album Marijke for indie pop singer and Mason music major Marijke Boers. That album is available for free on CDBaby.com.


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