The Star-News


The classroom backstage

Sat, Sep 03 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite

Talk about the school of rock.

Sound technology students enrolled in John McCourt's class at Chula Vista High School are hitting more than just the books in class.

McCourt's style of teaching allows students to apply what they learned at live concerts.

McCourt, 47, and nine of his students worked backstage at a sold-out Go-Gos concert recently, helping out with sound mixing, set-up and break- down of the stage.

McCourt teaches sound technology, sound engineering and a beginning guitar class at Chula Vista High School. He started the sound technology program with now Olympian High School teacher Eric Mabrey, who teaches students about live sound technology, recording, work ethic, interviewing and social skills.

For the past eight years he has been working with the Go-Gos as a stage sound manager and guitar technician when the group goes on tour.

This year, the band's tour coincided with summer break so he hit the road with the band. When the group stopped in Temecula he called his students to see firsthand what a full-scale sound tech job is really like.

Students can put the experience from working the Go-Gos concert on their rŽsumŽs.

Lindsey Bull, 16, is a junior in the program and is taking the class for the third time.

She said taking a stage technician course her freshman year laid the foundation for her desire to continue in sound technology and engineering.

"Being able to apply what I've learned in a professional setting is a really good opportunity," she said.

After graduating from Bonita Vista High School, McCourt moved to Hollywood with bands that were trying to make it big.

Several years later he went to school for his credential and began teaching in Chula Vista High's School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Many of the students in McCourt's class work campus events, setting up the stage for sound production, and participating in events to meet community service requirements, such as open houses and even the homecoming ceremony.

John Ray, a retired physics teacher at Chula Vista High, volunteers his time with McCourt's class and helps coordinate day-long trips to Los Angeles for students to use what they've learned during shows.

"These are the top kids in school," Ray said. "They are very serious students looking to develop skills for a future job."

Oscar Mendoza is a former student of McCourt's and has worked at the Del Mar Fairgrounds & Racetrack as an audio/visual technician for more than 10 years.

Mendoza, 28, graduated from Chula Vista High School in 2001.

"He's the one who taught me everything," Mendoza said. "From turning knobs to dealing with clients."


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