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Jacobs School of Music faculty and students lend their talents to new IU commercial

Sept. 7, 2016

If you’ve seen the newest Fulfilling the Promise commercial, you likely recognize Michael Uslan, producer of the Batman movies and an IU alum. What you might not know is that the music for the commercial was created and recorded right here on campus by faculty and students in the IU Jacobs School of Music.

The spot takes viewers back through time to illustrate how Uslan found his way to success. The music, which is evocative of the Batman theme, accompanies the narrative of the commercial.

uslan and pizzo

From left, Angelo Pizzo discusses filming the university's latest television commercial with fellow alumnus Michael Uslan, who produced the "Batman" movies. | PHOTO BY CHRIS MEYER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

When Konrad Strauss, chair of the Department of Audio Engineering and Sound Production in the Jacobs School of Music, was approached to help produce the music, he immediately thought of the unique opportunity this could give students. He reached out to his colleagues to make it happen, dubbing himself the “executive producer” of the project.

First up was working with Tom Wieligman, who organizes all of IU’s large instrumental ensembles, to secure student orchestra talent to perform the music. They were able to coordinate with the Summer Philharmonic Orchestra, which is composed of both undergraduate and graduate students.

“We love to ask our students to do something which will be asked of them in the profession,” Wieligman said. “There’s no rehearsal and no time to practice the music, and this is what the industry expects. We were thrilled for our students to have this same opportunity.”

Next, Strauss needed to find a student who was capable of writing and arranging the music. He worked with the school’s composition department to put a call out for Bloomington students who were interested in the task. Ari Fisher, a master’s student in composition at the Jacobs School of Music, was chosen as the student composer. He wrote the music in a week’s time, Strauss said.

Once the music was approved and ready to go, the next challenge was booking a date for the recording session. They had to work around not only the orchestra students’ varied schedules but also the Musical Arts Center’s booking schedule, because they knew that was the best place to record on campus. On the day of the recording session, the musicians spent an hour rehearsing and an hour recording the music for both a 30-second and a 60-second spot that would eventually run on television across the United States.

konrad strauss

Konrad Strauss | PHOTO BY JACOBS SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Strauss, who worked professionally as a recording engineer and producer in Chicago before coming to IU 16 years ago, completed the post-production solo, since his department didn’t have any student enrollment over the summer. This included editing and mixing the tracks in the studio. Strauss chose the best takes, often taking parts of each, and put them together to synchronize with the video images and make it sound like a film orchestra production.

“Collaborations like this are great,” Strauss said. “The most exciting thing about it is that because we have such a creative community here on the Bloomington campus, we are able to compete with the best of the professionals and have all of the resources here in the university to produce a professional-quality commercial like this. The fact that this project was homegrown through IU lends a credence and significance to the product: a commercial about one of our most successful grads, and the success he has is because of the work being done here at IU.”

For the students, this experience gave them the opportunity to create their own success, he said. Students had their hands on this project from the composition to the recording, and that is something that most definitely enriched their IU experiences.

“This gave me a wonderful insight into how a professional film recording session is set up,” said Walter Everton, an IU recording arts senior who served as the assistant engineer. “This experience gave me yet another tool to use on future recordings, and I am excited to have this in my personal arsenal of skills. This was an extremely exciting and fun opportunity to be a part of here at IU.”

“The fact that we can do these kinds of things in house makes the story behind Michael Uslan’s success even more significant, because now we have students in the business of making their own success through the process of showcasing his,” Strauss said.

If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, here it is.

The student involvement in performing the music for the latest Fulfilling the Promise commercial aligns with priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success.

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