Cornish College Finds Great Sound Within Its Reach

Jul 12, 2016
Cornish College Mackie Reach

Although its name conjures mighty coastal cliffs and golden beaches in southwestern England, Seattle's Cornish College for the Arts is actually named for its founder, pianist and voice teacher Nellie Cornish. One of only three fully accredited private colleges in the U.S. dedicated to the performing and visual arts, it grants the Bachelor of Music degree and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in dance, theater, performance production, design, and fine art. 

Dance instruction, of course, requires musical accompaniment, and tap dancers make a lot of noise, so you need a PA that's loud, clear, and easy to use. As with most schools, budget is a factor. After working with various PAs for years, each with some level of compromise, tap dance professor Tim Hickey found an ideal solution that worked on all counts: Mackie's portable Reach™ Professional PA.

Setup time is a key factor in the classroom, observes Hickey, and Reach's Bluetooth wireless capability is a major attraction. "Typically, with a dance studio, you have to hook up cables to your laptop or iPod or whatever you're using to play the music, then take it all apart at the end of the class," he explains. "The Reach is dedicated to the tap dance studio, and it's a big relief. Now I just lay out my Mac laptop, pair it to the Reach via Bluetooth, take attendance, and start teaching-no wiring required."

Hickey uses his laptop for an assortment of chores before, during, and after class, so it's efficient to also use it as his music source. But he is aware that he can wirelessly stream music from his iPhone and control the Reach with the Mackie Connect™ app. "I just got my first iPhone, and I'm still learning to use it," he admits, "so I have not tried that yet. A student streamed a song I didn't have from his smartphone to the Reach, and it worked great."

Currently, Hickey has two tap classes with 16 students each. "Tap dancing can get pretty loud," he notes, "so we need a more powerful system than the ballet, jazz, and modern dance classes do. The Reach has 720W of amplification, and even with 16 tap students in a room with a wooden floor and walls lined with mirrors, it cuts through loud and clear."

Next fall, however, Hickey will have a class of 22 tap students. "That will be a lot louder," he confirms, "but the Reach has a Link Out that lets you attach another Reach or a powered speaker to expand the system. That's the kind of flexibility you just can't get with other systems."

The Reach's ARC™ technology delivers 150° of horizontal dispersion, so one Reach covers the entire width of the classroom. Hickey stays up front, where his laptop is located, and even though he's off axis to the Reach, he can hear fine, thanks to the Reach's EarShot™ personal monitoring system. EarShot provides side-facing, high-output, full-range monitor speakers. "I love the side monitors," he enthuses. "In fact, I can't wait to get a Reach for myself because between its clarity and power and the side monitors, it will be fantastic for my solo act. As you may have noticed, I am a Mackie guy; I have a lot of their products!"

Other dance instructors at the college and at the local dance club have taken note of Hickey's success with the Mackie Reach-and of the Reach's affordability. They want one for their classes, too, and they aren't the only ones who are interested. "The college's IT people want to know how we can get more of these," laughs the professor. "I told them we just need to go out and buy them!"