Yellow Sub…er, bus

By Heather Scroering

Tour buses containing music equipment worth millions of dollars are fairly common. However, a multi-million dollar recording studio within a tour bus is a different story.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus offered public tours at Columbia’s Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St., on Sept. 14.

“We travel the country giving students hands-on opportunities to come on this bus and do something they would probably never be able to do, which is make full use of a multi-million-dollar recording facility,” said Hans Tanner, 24, one of three producers and engineers on the Lennon Bus.

Navigating the country for 10 months out of the year, the Lennon Bus teaches kids, mostly in middle and high school, to create original songs, record them and shoot a music video, all in eight hours.

The concept was created by Brian Rothschild in 1997, according to Ryan L’Esperance, 25, engineer and producer. Rothschild, now an executive director, pitched the idea to Yoko Ono, who was very supportive. L’Esperance said Ono wanted to name it after Lennon to continue his legacy.

“It gives [kids] something they can take away, something that’s tangible that they can say, ‘I created this,’ whether or not they have music[al] experience,” L’Esperance said.

The bus makes stops at schools that have requested it via They generally work with a group of four to eight school-selected students at middle schools, high schools and colleges.

“A lot of times it’s completely random,” said Kyle Baudour, 24, producer and engineer. “Some of them have never played music, and they get on the bus and we have to introduce them to one another, and it’s jocks, goths, punk kids and cheerleaders working on a song together. Those are the best days because at the end of the day, after spending eight hours working on a song with someone, you become friends.”

The primary goal of the bus is to educate children rather than help kids get famous, Tanner said.

“It’s not a traveling ‘American Idol’ at all,” Tanner said. “That would kind of defeat the purpose of giving these kids, who would otherwise never get to do this, [a chance].”

The bus also stops at festivals and conventions, such as the Vans Warped Tour, a touring music and extreme sports festival, and the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala.

According to Baudour, artists at the festival record their own songs on the bus but also work with kids writing and recording music.

“So it’s like, ‘Didn’t I tell you you’re going to be working on a song? Oh yeah, and Tom from Against Me! is going to be helping you with the guitar parts,’” Baudour said. “[Festivals give] us an opportunity to have the artists and kids interact.”

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit organization, and all of the equipment on board is donated by Avid, Apple, Sony and Gibson, according to Baudour. Some of the equipment is similar to the software Columbia uses in the classroom.

For audio recording, the studio on wheels uses Avid Pro Tools, Baudour said. The bus is also equipped with a Gibson HD.6X-PRO Guitar System with a full selection of microphones, acoustic, electric and bass guitars, as well as a Roland electric drum kit and piano, according to Baudour.

“Anything you find in a recording studio that’s in Los Angeles or Nashville, we can on the bus,” he said. “We can do it all.”

According to Baudour, the bus uses only Apple computers. For audio producing, the bus uses Avid Media Composer and for video production, the Sony EX1 and EX3 cameras. It also has a green screen area if the music video is shot in the bus, Baudour said.

Some Columbia students and professors who toured the bus were impressed with the equipment.

“It’s top-notch [equipment],” said Frank Waln, junior audio arts and acoustics major. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen. It’s the best studio I’ve ever stepped into.”

Bonita Winer, professor in the Film and Video Department, found the bus to be inspiring.

“It’s great in the younger grades because it introduces and inspires kids to think about it what’s possible in their lives,” Winer said. “That was most impressive to me, these kids who don’t have access to equipment or instruments who now can play with them.”

She believes the name of the bus also draws a lot of attention.

According to Baudour, approximately 300 students, faculty and staff members toured the Bus.

From the opportunities it gives to children to the high-tech, completely donated equipment on board, this is a one-of-a-kind recording studio on wheels, according to Tanner.

“I think it’s brilliant to see that [kids are] able to be exposed to this kind of recording arts technology,” said Nick Berstein, freshman art, entertainment media management major. “I think it’s really good to get kids learning how to do all [of] that. If I knew how to master my own tracks when I was 10, life would be awesome.”