Attending a sound check of a big-name musician can be an extraordinary experience in and of itself, but being invited to join the team sounded like an implausible dream to one midwestern college student.
For senior Carson Emeigh, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this dream was brought to reality by country music star Garth Brooks.
During Brooks’ stadium tour in Lincoln on Aug. 14, he held a private soundcheck the previous night inviting UNL students and staff to partake in what Carson said would end up being a night to remember. Throughout the soundcheck, Brooks allowed the guests to ask a large variety of questions.
“There were a lot of really great questions, but I decided to raise my hand and ask him what his crew does and how they make a show like this possible,” Carson said. “Because of that, he offered me a job for the night.”
According to Carson, Brooks responded by asking him if he would be attending the concert the next day. Though he wanted to, Carson said he unfortunately wouldn’t because he didn’t have a ticket. Brooks asked him once again if he could, telling Carson that if he could make it, they would hire him tomorrow. Carson, a lover of live music, had four concerts lined up the week of the Garth Brooks concert, but made sure he would make time to work the Brooks concert.
“I was pretty happy; I didn’t know how to react,” Carson said. “I was very starstruck just because he’s a big name. I was kind of in a daze, I guess, just really happy.”
Carson attended the soundcheck with his dad, Wes Emeigh.
“I think [my dad] was extremely excited for me because he knows that I've been wanting to do this for such a long time,” Carson said. “He's also a super big fan of live music, so I think he kind of got to live out one of his dreams through me.”
Wes said he has been a fan of Brooks since the 1990s.
“I kind of knew the magnitude of Garth Brooks, and I think Carson somewhat understood it, but it was such an exciting time for it to happen and knowing how big he is,” Wes said.
Prior to the soundcheck, Carson has been working in a research lab studying microfluidic devices. Carson said these types of devices control fluids at the microscopic level, allowing him to study how bone growth works. His original plans were to pursue a doctorate degree to continue these studies.
“After my experience with Garth Brooks, I’ve definitely taken a little bit more time to think about if I wanted to go into that industry at all,” Carson said.
On Saturday before the concert, Carson began working in a field he was more familiar with, the audio department. He said the day began with tweaking amps and subwoofers to make sure everything sounded correct.
“I worked with another audio engineer where we focused solely on the instruments, making sure the instruments sounded well and that the people playing the instruments could hear the proper cues that they needed to hear,” Carson said.
After finishing, Carson started to learn how to properly mix with the audio engineers.
“[Mixing] is where you can tweak each part to make each song sound like it should. As well as with the shape of the stadium, you have to control how and when the sound reaches there,” Carson said. “If you’re in the very back, the sound coming from the stage takes longer to reach you than the speakers closer to you. So it was doing adjustments to make sure that you were hearing the same sounds from the same speakers all at the same time.”
The preparations ended with lighting effects, videography for the big screen and production. Throughout the actual concert, Carson said he helped with the mixing board on the audio side to see the process in live action. In addition, Carson said that he was also allowed to utilize the mixing board while no one was there to see how each part worked.
Wes said he was glad Carson got an actual learning experience from it.
“I was hoping it wasn’t one of those situations where it’s a ‘feel-good’ story and he met with the sound engineers and all the techs and they basically just had him stand behind and watch. I was afraid that was going to happen, but that did not happen,” Wes said. “He really learned something from that, and that’s what I hoping for.”
During the concert, Brooks spent time introducing all of his band members and the head engineer working that night. He made sure to invite Carson onto the stage as well, and the over 90,000 fans cheered on the young Nebraskan.
“It felt good to have the spotlight for just one second,” Carson said. “Being up on stage, it was really loud as well as really bright. I think that helped though, because then I couldn’t really hear anything or see any of the people out there.”
Although it was a one time thing for now, Carson said that he still received many contacts from companies around the nation.
“I got to do something that not many people get to do ever, as well as it was something that I had been dreaming of for a really long time. It was really cool to check off that bucket list item and be able to see how all that works,” Carson said.
In addition to working with technicians at the concert, Carson said he was also given eye-opening ideas of future job possibilities.
“For a really long time I just felt like I was in a singular path and nothing could deviate from that, but I feel like this has kind of broadened my range,” Carson said.
Carson plans on graduating next fall, but his plans are still up in the air. He said he’s interested in working in the sound engineering field, but doesn’t see a traveling job for the rest of his life. At some point, he wants to continue pursuing further education in engineering.
One thing for sure is that Carson’s simple question at one meager sound check has opened the floodgates to a world of possibilities.
“I think the biggest thing that I've learned from my experiences through college are to ask questions, because if you don't ask the answer's always no,” Carson said. “You might as well give it a shot, and worst case scenario, you're right back to where you are now.”