WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA, August 31, 2015 — Everybody likes a great deal, but non-profit organizations, especially, really have to make every dollar stretch. For Grace Community Church, with campuses in Texas and California, a nearly 10-year relationship with Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro), the outside sales division of Guitar Center that focuses on the needs of professional users, works within their budget and makes it stretch, with the right A/V solutions for the present, and also through thoughtful planning for the future.
Melqui Alvarez, Audio Director for Grace Community Church, has been working with Troy Hanchett, GC Pro Account Manager at the division’s Houston, Texas location, since 2006. “Troy and I sit down and we talk,” says Alvarez, who has also been in charge of the church’s technical department since January 2015. “He sets aside the time so we can make the wiser choices for our facility and for our organization. We’re a church, a non-profit, so we don’t have all the funds in the world. Every dollar has to go a long way.”
The pair were working together even before Alvarez joined the staff fulltime at the church’s main campus in southeast Houston about six years ago. While the focus is on Grace Community Church, which also has its Woodlands campus to the north of Houston plus two near San Diego, in Oceanside and San Marcos, California, they also work with other churches. “We see each other two or three times a week. We’re always working on some kind of a project together,” says Hanchett. “Not to mention, a lot of people reach out to Melqui from other ministries.”
Most recently, the church underwent a significant upgrade at its main Houston campus, replacing the monitor console and audio distribution system and also outfitting a studio through GC Pro. The 86-acre campus, constructed in 2004, includes a gymnasium, classrooms and other amenities with a worship center accommodating 10,000 people.
Alvarez switched out the Avid SC48 monitor desk for a new 64-input Profile, taking out the old fiber-optic snake and replacing it with MADI distribution. From a single Avid Stage Rack, 80 inputs feed the D-Show FOH console, which has been fitted with a MADI option card, allowing Alvarez to select 48 inputs plus 16 other channels to send via an RME MADI Bridge to the new Profile monitor board. The D-Show is also fitted with a Pro Tools HDX card, enabling him to do virtual soundchecks.
The alternative to the setup would have been to install a second Stage Rack and an analog splitter system. “So Troy was able to save us some money there,” he says.
From the monitor desk, continues Alvarez, “We send MADI out to another system that we upgraded through GC Pro, an Allen & Heath ME-U, the brains of the personal monitor mix system.” The ME-U feeds eight ME-1 Personal Mixers for the praise band. Expanding the church’s previous monitor system would have been more costly, he says, and more limited, handling only 16 sources instead of the A&H system’s 40 channels.
“Going that route made more sense to us and was based off of the information that Troy gave me. Allen & Heath is a console company; this is a digital console, and it’s going to sound nicer than our previous system, he said. That was a very important upgrade for us,” he says.
The RME MADI Bridge in the monitor room feeds 64 inputs from the onstage Avid Venue preamps optically via MADI to a 12-core Apple Mac Pro computer, fitted with an RME HDSPe MADI FX card, in a studio upstairs. Live mixdowns are performed using the TotalMix software that comes with the computer’s RME card. A Lynx Aurora 16 converter system manages inputs from the studio’s newly expanded collection of analog preamps, which now includes four dual-channel BAE 1073MP units and a Daking MicPre 4. “We also have an API 3124. So we’ve got some really nice preamps,” says Alvarez. The mic preamps are fed from an assortment of Audix, Earthworks, Sennheiser and Shure dynamic microphones, plus a Royer ribbon mic and a Yamaha Subkick. The room also features a pair of Equator Audio D8 near field monitors. A Dangerous Music Monitor ST provides comprehensive monitor control.
Grace Community Church is very happy about the new live and recording equipment, he adds. “All credit to GC Pro. Troy has been a very important part of our operation. He goes above and beyond; he’s a good guy and really takes care of us. We’re really happy with GC—we’re family.”