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Mason student Michelle Pepino at microphone in recording studio

Michelle Pepino writes and records as The Gem Fragments as part of the Mason Noise project, in which music technology students mix, master, produce, and distribute original albums.

Mason Record Company Is Run by Student Artists, Engineers, and Producers

In a recording studio on the main floor of the Music/Theater Building, students in Mason Noise are wrapping up production on a full-length studio album and getting ready to begin mastering the tracks.

Mason Noise has full run of the studio, complete with mixing board and sound booth, to record and produce the album The Uglies, created by Michelle Pepino. The senior English major from Virginia Beach records under the name The Gem Fragments, which she said conveys the notion that it’s a collaborative project.

Mason Noise selects a student music artist each semester, then records, mixes, engineers, produces, and distributes a full-length album. Pepino was chosen from about 10 applicants who submitted cover letters and demo recordings to a student executive board, said Thomas Routon, student co-founder and president of Mason Noise.

About 30 Mason students are involved with the project. The recording company, composed primarily of music technology majors, is arranged into teams. Some work as producers—scheduling recording sessions, working with talent and guiding the creative process behind the project, he said. Others work as sound engineers—mixing songs and recording tracks. A Mason Noise art department, also made up of students, was formed to design the album’s cover art.

The Uglies is the second student album created by Mason Noise, which first produced the debut self-titled album Marijke for indie pop singer Marijke Boers, a music student at Mason. The album is available free on

It’s nice to see students come into the recording studio and use the skills they’ve learned in their music technology classes to work on the projects, said Mason music profoessor Jesse Guessford, director of Mason’s Music Technology Program. “We’re trying to create a culture where there are positions students aspire for.”