Madison Media Institute expands

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Posted by on January 01, 2010 at 12:05:29:

Madison Media Institute expands to keep up with technology evolution

By JUDY NEWMAN | Wednesday, December 30, 2009 4:00 pm

Madison Media Institute used to be known as the place to go to learn how to be a disc jockey on the radio or to study production techniques for television.

But today, the definition of media goes far beyond radio and TV, and Madison Media Institute, 2702 Agriculture Drive, has expanded along with that, offering training in careers that may include website design, 3D animation, music production and video production.

Since this summer, the school has added:

� Associate degree programs in game art and animation and in media systems technology.

� Its first bachelor of science degree, in entertainment and media business.

� A building across the street from its main campus, with a 45-seat theater.

In February, a branch of Madison Media Institute will open in Edina, Minn.

�Our mission is to be in media arts � everything from creating media to delivering it,� said President Christopher Hutchings. The school bills itself as �a community of artistic, imaginative and tech-savvy people.�

When the school was started in 1969 in Wausau by Ray Szmanda � known as the Menards pitchman � it focused on radio announcing and production. Hutchings� father, Edward, bought the school in 1986 and moved it to Madison two years later. Hutchings family members owned it until 2007, and still own the main building.

Madison Media Institute�s current owner is New York-based American Higher Education Development Corp., which also owns Rockford Career College in Rockford, Ill., and career training schools in Ohio and Michigan.

Hutchings, 56, has been the school�s director for 23 years, adding the title of president in 2002.

Even in a down economy, some media-related industries have been chugging along, he said. �The big, driving force being the Internet, and mobile (communication) continues to be strong. There�s always new content being produced for TV programs, commercials, new game releases and new movies,� Hutchings said.

Tuition at Madison Media Institute is $14,000 a year, significantly higher than at UW-Madison, where Wisconsin residents pay about $7,300 in tuition this fall or at Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College), which charges $101 to $136 per credit. Most classes at Madison College are two or three credits, and classes such as graphic design, animation and visual communications have waiting lists.

Hutchings said Madison Media Institute only competes �to a small extent� with UW-Madison and Madison College. �We�re a very focused school,� he said.

This fall, 400 students were enrolled in Madison Media Institute, about 50 more than last year.

�Young people today, I think, like to be in charge of their careers, and have accepted, probably more than ever, the idea that regardless of what the norm is or what everybody else does, they want to do something that they enjoy,� Hutchings said.

So, the new game art curriculum prepares students for the �artistic part of game production� while media systems technology trains them to install home theaters, audio-visual systems, lighting equipment, and security and fire protection systems.

�We sat down as a management group and looked for niches that we�re not currently serving and niches that will provide the most benefit to our students,� Hutchings said.

The bachelor of science program will let students who have completed a two-year associate degree learn more about the business side of the entertainment industry, including potential positions such as managing artists and music publishing, he said. Courses cover issues such as marketing, accounting and entertainment law.

Fourteen students are enrolled in the first class of the two-year bachelor of science program, which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, a private, nonprofit, independent crediting agency.

The new building, at 2758 Dairy Drive, houses game art and computer labs in addition to the theater. The theater serves to train media systems students in using audio-visual and lighting equipment. It will also be used for lectures, presentations and for school film festivals, Hutchings said.

Madison Media Institute also is branching out and will open a similar school in the Minneapolis area, leasing studios that had been operated by high-profile music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

�It was an opportunity for us to open a campus very quickly and start offering our recording and music program,� Hutchings said. The school will be called Minneapolis Media Institute.

Hutchings said the school would like to open more branches, �to serve that niche on an expanding geographic basis.�

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