Insight from The Cove Church’s, Michael Conda

The first time I went to The Cove Church  I was blown away by the lighting.  The team was worshiping to the song called The Way.  In the middle of this song, there is a great musical break and then a BAMP moment when the band kicks back in.   The song was great, but the lighting that went with the song just make the experience all the more impactful.  Great lighting does this!  At that moment, I knew I had to meet the guy who programed this lighting show.  Let’s get plugged into leadership and meet the man behind the show and get some insight from him.  

Michael Conda is 26 years old and the Production Coordinator, and Lighting Designer, for The Cove Church Mooresville Campus. When he isn’t glued to a lighting console, or his computer screen, he spends time riding rollercoasters, consuming too much caffeine and seeing whats currently in movie theaters.  Michael is the guy that you met, and just can’t wait to hang out with him again.  He was nice enough to give us some insight on his role, thought process, and keys to lighting success. 

1. Mike can you give the readers a brief overview of what your role is at the Cove?

Well that’s a great question, my role at The Cove has shifted and gotten so much bigger in recent years. Currently, I am the Mooresville Campus Production Team Coordinator; which basically means that I get to coordinate an incredible team of about 60 volunteers, I work my hardest during the week to resource and equip them so that they can lead and create awesome environments for our guests on the weekend. More specifically, I am constantly working with a great team of people to always improve the experience at our Mooresville campus, Mooresville is our broadcast location on the weekends. In addition I’m in charge of the creation of ProPresenter files for our six regional campuses. I also create monthly pre-service mixes for distribution at all six locations. Lastly, I get to program lighting for Mooresville each week and providing general direction for the other locations to ensure consistent and excellent environments. I’m also on a few creative teams that are responsible for the planning of services, events and other creative elements.

2. What are some of the ways you’re leveraging lighting and its effects in worship?

At The Cove we have always embraced technology and it’s role in the modern worship environment. Lighting is such a powerful tool and we love having the ability to use it to create environments where people can come in and encounter God. We strongly use lighting to enhance the worship elements inside of our services. Color is probably one of my favorite tools to use during worship, if you ever see one of my shows you’ll notice that I enjoy strong vibrant colors and effects that involve colors changing. Whenever I first hear a song color is always the first thing to jump out at me, I can tell you if a song is a “red song”, “blue song” or “purple song.” Colors are highly attached to emotion and bringing the emotion of a song to life is a huge win for lighting. There are so many other effects that modern lighting rigs have to offer, each effect is another opportunity to connect a guest to what’s happening in your auditorium.

3. When you sit down to program a lighting show for the weekend service, what are somethings you keep in mind?

Well the first thing that I always do it practice with the music. Some people think that practicing is just for the band, but I would strongly disagree. When a new service flow comes out I try to listen to it on repeat, for days. When I listen I trying to find the emotion of each song, or element, and find the best way to express it visually. From there I then look at all of the elements as a whole and find the common threads of emotion and concept. That makes sitting at the console so much easier.

When I sit down to program I already have incredible concepts in my head of what I want the room to look like, and then what I want guests to experience during those moments.

Some great things I like to remember while programming are:

A) – Lighting is fun, it’s creative and it’s personal…so let it be fun, creative and personal.

B) – Lighting is just one tool in a huge toolbox of things we use to create engaging environments for our guests.

C) – Enhancing the environment is the goal, anytime we steal the show we may have missed the vision. 

D) – Don’t be afraid to mess up & don’t be afraid to recycle something good.

E) – More most certainly does not equal better, that goes for fixtures and number of cues.

4.  How do you judge your lighting shows? Crowd response, feedback from the pastor, or something else?

Judging my own work is always the hardest thing to do. I’ve struggled for many years on what the best way of evaluating my own work was, but I found a good method for me. 

A) – I always set a time to STOP TWEAKING THE SHOW! This happens after the final run through before our first weekend service. It’s impossible to get good feedback from yourself, or others, if each show is different.

B) – I often try and catch peoples faces, or heads, to see what their experiencing during a show. If they’re stuck watching a fixture move, or a gobo on the back wall, or covering their eyes completely, etc. I know I’ve probably misses the mark. 

C) – What I don’t do often is solicit feedback from random people. While that seems like a mistake it goes back to the idea that lighting is personal, it’s a form of art, and so sometimes it can be misunderstood. Getting those random pieces of feedback, either by conversation or commutation card, can often just lead to frustration and personal disappointment. Instead, I work with an incredible team of people, whom I trust to be honest for better or worse, that provide me with consistent personal feedback as well as crowd evaluation. 

D) – Review, Review, Review. In addition to running the show ad nauseum before guests ever see it, once the weekend is over I also go back and review some archive footage from each location to see how we did. Reviewing myself can sometimes be painful, but it always produces progress. 

Once I’ve figured out how I feel about a show I either save it for re-use or minor tweaking or I trash it. It’s simple, recycle the good stuff and trash the junk.

5. How does having a great relationship with the worship leader help you succeed?

Having a good line of communication with the worship leader, or person driving creative arts at your location, is HUGELY important. One of the quickest ways to frustration is to have to different people, with different expectations, in the same room and not communicating. During our weekly creative team meetings I’m always able to take feedback, and vision, from the worship leader and apply it to the environment I’ll be creating for the weekend. It’s during this time we are able to ask questions, make requests and really solidify what’s happening this weekend before it happens. When everyone is on the same page, pushing towards the same vision, everything just seems to slide into place. Occasionally we will have a mishap here or there, but a well maintained level of relationship allows you to move quickly through issues and onto to correcting and improving.

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