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South Plains College Music Program
by Bill Allen
South Plains CollegeMusic is playing everywhere on the campus. No, it’s not the radio. A look down any hall will likely reveal a young musician dreaming of making a career out of music. In every hallway, available practice room, or recording studio of this building, someone is picking a guitar, banjo, bass, fiddle, or even hitting a practice pad with a pair of sticks. In the rehearsal studios one can hear a bluegrass, top 40 or traditional country, rock, or western swing band rehearsing for their next performance. Someone is recording, what they hope to be, their first big hit in the Waylon Jennings studio. This is not a dream ladies and gentleman; this is South Plains College.

For over 30 years in the small town of Levelland, TX, South Plains College has been teaching musicians the ins and outs of performance, business, and anything else that involves music. The program and the building continue to grow more and more every day. SPC has recently completed a 13,000 square foot addition that now houses more classrooms, a new live sound lab, and more offices for the instructors who, by the way, always have an open door policy for each and every student.

“We’re here to help hone the students artistic craft and help further their careers in the music industry,” says Cary Banks, Director and Chairman of the SPC Music Department.

Aside from all of the technical aspects of SPC, such as four recording studios, countless live bands to join and hone performance techniques, and lessons on virtually any instrument one can think of, what brings students from all over the world to this prestigious school? It is obviously the people and the atmosphere. Not only can one get a degree or a certificate in entertainment, live sound, studio recording, video production, music business, and commercial music, it is more than possible to have fun doing it as well.

“SPC has taught students from Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Argentina, and Canada,” says Cary Banks.

Yes, it is true. People from all over the world come to SPC for their studies and now there are former students in every major market and aspect of the entertainment business across the globe that are proud to call SPC their alma mater.

Grammy and Country Music Association award winner LeeAnn Womack is an alum of SPC, and while there, joined the Country Caravan Band which toured the Southwest and Southern California. Another former student is Heath Wright of the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association award winning band Ricochet. Heath was recently honored at SPC with a plaque naming the Heath Wright Wing for his success. The plaque can be seen in the hallway where most of the students enjoy a session of “sittin’ and pickin’.”

Though I am not a famous artist or an award winner, I too can proudly say I had the pleasure of attending South Plains College. It was an experience I will never forget. Though the SPC music program is the first of it’s kind and was started as a country and bluegrass degree program by John Hartin, it has evolved immensely over the years. SPC now offers country, bluegrass, classic rock, hard rock, Celtic, praise and worship, and pretty much any other style of music one can think of.

Whether a beginner or a master of the craft, there is always something new to learn from the staff and students of SPC. These folks are not the bookworm, know it all, have never been out in the real world, types of people. They have experienced it all first hand. They, in some cases, not only teach for a living. Most of them are producers, engineers, and artist playing and working in the real world as well as bringing their outside experience and knowledge into the classrooms and labs.

Nashville recording artist and SPC alumnus Matt Bowlin says, “Normally, your typical time in any college is two to four years. When you’re a part of the SPC Commercial Music Program, you want to stay for at least ten. The staff and facilities are great and the talent that comes out of that school speaks for itself. I still call it home to this day.”

Home is a place that you feel comfortable, relaxed, and you know that family is always there for your support and growth. This is the feeling I got from South Plains College. I know I will always have an ongoing relationship with this extended family and I can take the knowledge that I have gained to further my career in the entertainment industry.

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