RedNet Connects Students To A Music Production Future

Essex County Schools of Technology. 

In September 2018, the Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology opened in Newark, NJ, as the latest facility under the umbrella of New Jersey's progressive Essex County Schools of Technology (ECST) District. The Payne school blends traditional high school coursework with vocational and technology instruction, and has sophisticated, well-equipped facilities in which it provides instruction in over 30 career and technical clusters. The state-of-the-art music production facility uses a Dante® infrastructure to move audio around the campus, with Focusrite Red and RedNet interfaces providing I/O duties in several sites across campus.

“It's a $165 million facility that looks like a college campus," says music and entertainment production technology teacher Mark Beckett. “My classroom is well over 40 by 40 feet. In one half of the class I have 24 iMac workstations with Pro Tools, where students learn their music production skills. In the other half of my classroom, I have a 12- by 16-foot stage where students can do live performances and learn live mixing." Beckett's students are in 9th through 12th grade (14-17 years old) with roughly 40 students being taught daily. “Right down the hall from us," Beckett continues, “we have the video broadcast production course and our digital filmmaking course — we're in a cluster together." Dante-enabled Focusrite RedNet gear is used to link these spaces on a common Audio-over-IP network.

Even before moving into the new facility, Beckett had embraced RedNet technology. “It's clean and it's quick," he shares. “A few years ago, I experienced a Focusrite broadcast from a college university. 'Wow,' I thought, 'this is interesting how we can just travel with the RedNet 4 interfaces, connect them together and record from one room to the other. This is great!'" A portable rack equipped with RedNet interfaces lets production capabilities move where needed within the facility, and link back to his classroom. “With Focusrite, we can get music anywhere, from my station to a student's station to their friend's station. Moving from the RedNet 4 to the Red 4Pre and now to the Red 16 Line. I'm excited to see what's next."

In the music production coursework, says Beckett, “I find myself teaching them everything from the beginning, and I do it in steps which is pretty simple. It's like building blocks. Focusrite has been a help with that. Students learn signal flow and then we apply it to the technology of Audio-over-IP."The campus, says Beckett, is “a public county school, but students do have to test into the school. Then, since it's a career and technical education school, they have to decide what kind of career they want to go into. When they say music as freshmen, we put them in a rotation cluster of arts programs, and by 10th grade, they actually choose music theory, music production, digital film or broadcasting and video.Once they're in, they see the technology behind the music. I'm trying to get them to understand that there's more than just being on stage, there's so much that makes it happen from behind the stage."

Getting the school auditorium on the RedNet network is a near-term goal, says Beckett. “And we're looking to be able to connect all our venues together," he notes. The ability to add video to the same network with Audinate's recent release of Dante AV is another anticipated step. “One of the things that we're trying to do in the next two years is to take a school bus and change it into a remote recording studio," Beckett adds looking forward. Based on the dividends paid by the school's investment in Focusrite RedNet networked gear to date, Focusrite hardware and software will be integral to ongoing expansion in the program's future.

For more information about the school, visit their website: