In front of a few thousand University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, faculty and staff early Friday night at Memorial Stadium, Garth Brooks got up on the concert stage, tested out the sound equipment by playing a few songs and talked with the fans.
For Carson Emeigh, a senior in mechanical and materials engineering, it turned into the personal and professional experience of a lifetime.
“He did a little Q&A session. Toward the end, I gained enough confidence to say, ‘I’m interested in what a sound engineer does. How do I get started?’” Emeigh said.
On his most recent “Inside Studio G” show on Facebook Live, Brooks recalled the encounter with great delight:
“Carson raised his hands and goes, ‘I’m in sound engineering. Do you have any advice for me?’ … I said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow night?’ … ‘Are you coming to the show?’ He said, ‘Unfortunately not. I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘Because we’ll hire you if you want to come be a sound guy.’”
Emeigh, who had planned on attending other live music shows on Saturday, instead came to Memorial Stadium at noon and joined Brooks’ crew to help finalize preparations for the 7 p.m. concert. He worked with sound engineers, mixing board operators, and production, lighting and video crew, among others.
“After my time with Garth, I understand how signals work more, and I understand how to link those signals together to get one clean output,” Emeigh said. “I got a lot of lessons on kinematics with the rigging and how they get all that heavy stuff into positions that they need and how they hold it (there), as well as move the systems during the show.”
Gaining that hands-on experience is nothing new for Emeigh, who also works with microfluidic devices to study cells in the research lab of Sangjin Ryu, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering.
Part of that work, Emeigh said, includes presenting the research to an audience. That requires utilizing communications skills as emphasized in the College of Engineering’s Complete Engineer® initiative.
That experience in public speaking, he said, helped him work up the courage to ask Brooks one simple question. And it ended with a unique job-shadow opportunity and an invitation to join the country music legend on stage in front of 90,000 fans.
Emeigh, who previously worked for Nebraska Public Media setting up microphones in the Capitol and court rooms, said he was a little scared about getting up on stage.
“I’m used to being behind the camera, but it worked out. I got to go (on stage) twice – I got to shoot the confetti cannon and high-five Garth, and once when he introduced me. It’s really loud there,” Emeigh said.
That moment, Brooks said, was as loud as the crowd got that night.
“Being from Lincoln, Nebraska and going to the University of Nebraska, his response, his audience response was great,” Brooks said on Facebook Live. “In fact, I had to ask him, hey crew guys, you can go off the stage now. Crew guys, you can go. Because they (the crowd) just kept going. It was great. Sweet kid.”
And, Emeigh said, it was an experience made possible because he was willing to step outside of his comfort zone and ask a question. It’s something he’d advise fellow engineering students or prospective engineers to do more often.
“Put yourself out there. I know that’s generic and basic, but that’s what it comes down to,” Emeigh said. “People don’t know what you’re interested in and they’re willing to help you out.”
And sometimes, like Emeigh, you might even get to take home a “swag bag” that includes a few shirts and an event pass to add to your concert scrapbooks.
“I always knew with engineering I could do something that would interest me,” Emeigh said, “but I didn’t know it would be that cool.”
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