Nickel Mines

Claire Trevor Theatre
University of California, Irvine

An Amish elder (Derrick Gaffney) passes by the ghosts of the Nickel Mines shooting victims


Nickel Mines, an original musical created, directed, and choreographed by Andrew Palermo, creatively retells the story of an historical school shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Anchored in Amish culture, Nickel Mines utilizes both historical and interpretive text, music, and movement to provoke a dialogue on how violence, faith, forgiveness and justice converge. The next evolution of Nickel Mines is being produced at the 2016 New York Musical Festival.

Sound Design Concept

Because it was performed in a non-conventional seating arrangement, Nickel Mines required complex technology to make the sound reinforcement transparent. Our challenge was to maintain consistent voice imaging when singers were moving into, out of, through, and around the audience. Utilizing a Meyer Sound Matrix3 system, our sound team developed a series of “zones” on stage, where delay times and relative volumes were programmed to change with the dynamic movement of singers throughout the set and around the audience. This technique, in conjunction with a complex speaker plot, allowed us to hypnotically immerse the audience in the singing while supporting the movement-based storytelling.

Sound System

The Team

Director/Choreographer: Andrew Palermo
Musical Director: Dennis Castellano
Sound Designer: Brian Svoboda
Assistant Sound Designer: Kelsi Halverson
Mix Engineer: Matt Eckstein
Scenic Designer: Eric Barker
Lighting Designer: Brady King
Costume Designer: Sera Bourgeau
Photography: Paul Kennedy

Sound Samples

For the best listening experience, please use high quality headphones or speakers. Audio files are in uncompressed WAV format.

Listen to Me

by Brian Svoboda | Nickel Mines

The male singers, functioning as narrators, sing a religious hymn as a warning to anyone who might stray from the Lord’s path. I had this song mixed with a heavier hand than the other songs in the show. A louder volume and more dynamic approach to the mix paralleled the song’s percussive instrumentation and helped to connect the audience with the theme of God’s ultimate power. These hymns were interspersed throughout the musical. Each time they resurfaced, they would jolt the audience out of their comfort zone.

Psalm of Samuel

by Brian Svoboda | Nickel Mines

Because the murderer killed someone he was in love with, Samuel’s mentality on forgiveness is different from that of his friend and family. He grapples with his inability to forgive in the same way as others but risks dissolving his relationships. We mixed this song with an energy that paralleled Samuel’s expressed feelings. In moments of emotional intensification, we used mixing to exaggerate percussive rhythms and melodic crescendos in the score. During times of quiet introspection, we understated the orchestra mix.

Charles Roberts

by Brian Svoboda | Nickel Mines

The patriarchs of the Amish community make a case that the murderer is similar to those in the community, leading an average life with his wife and children. The song focuses on God’s forgiveness of someone whose “mind went wrong” as an alternative to condemnation. The music felt “soaring” and “driving” to me in its composition. As such, we gave the reinforced orchestra space to breathe in the mix while still ensuring that it sounded full and hearty. Punching voice in the mix to fully understand the narrative became paramount.

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