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Mountains, music and RMPBS

A student and recent alumnus assist in producing a special for public television

Amber Whisman had never heard of Gypsy Jazz before she traveled to Crested Butte, Colorado, last summer to help produce a public television special about it.

But she was hooked from the first notes of the lively and, at times, tear-jerking music genre that originated in France in the 1930s. She was also hooked on her career choice. The experience of chronicling the Crested Butte Music Festival’s Gypsy Jazz series cemented her desire for a career in film and television production.

“It was so great getting hands-on experience,” said the senior CMU mass communication major. “I feel much more prepared after doing that.”

Whisman and Ethan Ball, who graduated from CMU in December, worked as production assistants for Dan Garrison, Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting System (RMPBS) Producer-in-Residence at CMU. Through a unique partnership between the public station and the university, Garrison has been producing segments for the “Arts District” and “Colorado Experience” shows for the past three years. And he has been involving students in those productions.

RMPBS producer dan garrison interviewing a musician

“They are so ready and so eager to do this. That’s important. With their own ways of looking at the world, they are able to teach me as I’m teaching them,” Garrison said.

In Crested Butte, Garrison and his production assistants did on-camera interviews with world-famous Gypsy Jazz musicians and recorded the scene and the sound at performances, classes and impromptu street-corner concerts.

Whisman worked with a camera and did sound-checking. Ball, whose degree is in filmmaking, animation and motion design, handled lighting and electrical equipment.

alumnus ethan ball and student amber whisman filming in Crested Butte

Ball said the highlight of the experience for him was interacting with the musicians.

“It was really cool to meet people in that realm and to hear their stories,” he said.

Whisman said prior to working as an assistant to Garrison, she had done some production work at the campus TV station, CMU-TV, and for Grand Junction Rockies games. Producing for RMPBS put her at a new level, she said.

Ball was able to leave CMU ready for the world of filmmaking. He is currently working as a photographer and videographer for a trio of manufacturing companies in Grand Junction. He is also involved in filming a local movie about dragons and is helping to organize the Grand Junction Film Festival. He has done film work for the Discovery Channel and for Hoptocopter Films.

Garrison and student interns have produced other segments for RMPBS. They include pieces about the sheep and cattle range wars on the West Slope, the history of sugar beets in the Grand Valley, art quilters in Gateway, marble carving in Marble and the symphonic rock and roll orchestra, Grand Junction Rockestra. •

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Written by Nancy Lofholm