Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a small liberal arts college with a strong technical theatre program. For 15 years, Muhlenberg used ETC’s Expression®-family control consoles to handle their stage lighting. With a performance-heavy schedule, and tech students testing their lighting designs on a variety of shows, Muhlenberg has now graduated to ETC’s new Ion®.

According to Muhlenberg’s master electrician Paul Theisen, it took only a short time to acclimate to the new console. “We were impressed with how quickly we were able to get the board up and running and how smoothly it was to transition into a tracking console,” Theisen says. “Our students come to us with varying degrees of skill and interest in technical theatre. Any console we use can’t intimidate new students, but should still have the power that advanced students and professional guest designers want. We need a console that can be as simple to use as sliding a submaster, or as complex as any production might demand.”

In its first exam at Muhlenberg, Ion was used on a dance concert showcasing 10 student-choreographed pieces. The console’s powerful control of automated fixtures allowed Muhlenberg to add moving lights and scrollers on the show. “With two universes of DMX, we are able to control all of our conventional fixtures and still have more than enough DMX to control all the rented moving lights and scrollers we’d ever want,” adds Theisen.

Having Ion on the show meant a new level of production values: “The ease in which we could control the moving lights and color changers made the board more flexible for me as a designer,” says Theisen. “It allowed me to try things I wouldn’t have had the time to work out on our older console.”

Ion features, such as its virtual encoders, make the programming phase easier. Color matching is also a breeze with Ion’s unique color picker and swatch book. With tight changeover times between productions, speed is important. Notes Theisen: “The built-in moving-light fixture library made short work of what used to be a complex patching sequence. I would recommend Ion to any school that is interested in providing their students with the ability to program and control moving lights, without having to face the learning curve of a traditional rock-and-roll moving-light console.”

At only 19 inches wide, Ion offers another benefit for schools like Muhlenberg: it takes up minimal space in their smaller, student-jammed control rooms. “Its size is small enough that you could move it from venue to venue without much effort,” concludes Theisen.