June 29, 2012 12:00AM
For one day, the bright lights of Hollywood shone on current and former members of Pittsburg State University’s Pride of the Plains Marching Band. The musicians came together Wednesday in the midst of summer to rehearse and record music for a major Hollywood film, starring Will Farrell.
“This is an incredible opportunity for the students and alumni,” said Doug Whitten, director of athletics bands at PSU. “It is very unusual for bands outside of California to get an opportunity like this.”
That rare experience came about because of Whitten’s longtime friendship with Chris Fogel, an award winning recording engineer and producer.
“Chris and I grew up together in California,” Whitten said. “We both moved to Reno at the same time and went to high school and college together.”
So it was natural that Fogel would turn to his old friend when the director of the film that Fogel was working on needed a marching band sound.
Fogel, Whitten said, has had a highly successful career. He has worked on more than 75 movies and dozens of albums. His movie credits include “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Little Black Book,” “Blue Streak,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Fun with Dick and Jane,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Marley and Me,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Arthur.” In 2012, Fogel won the Cinema Audio Society Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Movies and a Mini-Series.
In return for recording music for the movie, the marching band got a professional recording made of the PSU Fight Song.
Most of Wednesday’s recording took place in Pittsburg’s Memorial Auditorium.
After each take, Whitten and the band would wait as the audio file was transmitted to Los Angeles where the director and others listened and sent back instructions for tweaks. Ever the teacher, Whitten used the experience to show those who are or hope to be high school band instructors how they can use some of the same techniques to improve their own bands.
In the afternoon, the focus shifted to the PSU Oval where the Fogel recorded the band outdoors to get a more natural sound.
After the recording was finished, Fogel had good things to say about the band and also about his friend.
“It’s a great band,” Fogel said. “They’re very well taught, very well disciplined and good players. Even the producers in Los Angeles remarked about how good the quality was. It was very good.”
Although he has known Whitten for 35 years, Fogel said he saw something in his visit to Pittsburg that surprised him.
“He’s very professional and one of the most musical guys I know,” Fogel said of Whitten. “Has an absolute love for not only his instrument, but all instruments. (But) he also has a love for teaching. I never saw that when we were in high school. I never saw the love for students and the love for teaching, but it’s plain that the students respect him and he respects them.”