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Issue #111

Weekly Newsletter

by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

Student Successes

Introducing CONNECTED
Hosted by multi-GRAMMY-winner IZ (Usher, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan). Get the 411 on the best jobs in music/film/broadcasting. Get to know your favorite artists. Connect! Don’t miss out on opportunity. Sign up for next week’s Connected Hangout with DJ IZ now!

‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.

All about personality: Radio Connection student Ryan McChesney finds his own voice

To be successful as an on-air radio host, personality is key—and unlike television or stage, you have to evoke that personality based on voice alone. Few people understand this better than Radio Connection student Ryan McChesney, who enrolled in the program with a dream of developing his on-air chops and hopefully producing his own show. Coming from a background of theatre, improv and stand-up comedy, he already knew a thing or two about having a public persona, but as you’ll see below, apprenticing at the Radio Connection has given him a fresh respect for how that personality needs to come through over the microphone.   Ryan currently apprentices with radio personality Steve Serrano at Mix 93.3-FM in Kansas City, MO. In the conversation below, he chats with us about how he made the move from stand-up into radio and what he’s learning in the process. Enjoy!   
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Radio Connection student Ryan McChesney

RRFC: So you’ve previously done stand-up comedy. At what point did you begin to feel you wanted to transition from stand-up to radio?   Ryan McChesney: Well, I’ve always enjoyed radio. I don’t know if it was a transition, but just what I liked about radio is I used to do improv in Chicago, improv comedy. Our improv group…started our own online radio show. Essentially, every week we’d write, produce our own radio show and it would be really great. It would be a lot of fun experience. We did comedy bits, we did talking bits, we had our friends come in and perform music and I thought, “This is really cool.” We got to a lot of people, we could still be creative…that was probably the time when I thought, “I probably want to do more of this.”   RRFC: So coming from the background of stand-up comedy, just being able to use your voice to get a reaction out of an audience, how does that lend itself to radio?   Ryan: The personality, you have to be entertaining and witty. Probably, I would say the most important thing that I learned from stand-up, and also mostly learning in radio, is that there has to be a likability there. There has to be kind of a charm and a likability…you can have, in stand-up, the best shows in the world, but if people don’t like you and you have this kind of standoffish or put-offish persona, you’re not going to be successful. That’s probably the most important thing that I learned with other comedians.   RRFC: What steps did you start taking to sort of educate yourself in the world of radio, and how did you end up at the Radio Connection?   Ryan: Doing our online show, I kind of got the feel of how everything worked. It’s like I had to move back to Kansas City, where I was originally from, because of health reasons and family reasons, and then everything kind of hit the fan for me, and then I realized that I need to make a change… I wanted to do something within the radio industry, and that’s when I started to do research on different programs and that’s when I fell into the Radio Connection. That’s when I saw you guys.   RRFC: People often wonder how we have locations in so many cities, not realizing that we’re actually training them in real radio facilities in their area. Did it surprise you that you could get an education in radio in your hometown, or at least not have to drive so far?   Ryan: Yeah…I don’t know if I was skeptical, but I was like, “How is this gonna work?” It did surprise me, but I also enjoyed that though. It’s been cool.   RRFC: Tell us about meeting your mentor for the first time and what it was like walking into the radio station.   Ryan: I’d never been to Mix [before], but meeting Steve, he was a really cool guy and seemed really laid back, really chill, and I liked him…Then the more I got to hang out with him, he’s very funny, and he’s really good at what he does on the air to the point where it’s just like you almost forget that…because he’s been doing it so long that you’re like, Okay, this is the baby steps that you have to take…I respect how good he is at what he does.   RRFC: Cool. All in all, what makes him a great mentor to learn from?   Ryan: His feedback is good. For instance, I did a commercial a few weeks ago, produced a commercial…He listened to it and immediately gave me really good feedback about it, like, “What would make this better would be if you cut the music here and put a new one” or “Your voice needed to be the same tone throughout,” and just giving me direction on that…That’s what he really excels at.   RRFC: What has your apprenticeship taught you as far as improving on what you do?   Ryan: Well…I came from the theater background. [At first] I really tried to overdo it as far as acting with my voice, and just sounded so cheesy. It sounded so bad, and so [Steve’s] direction was, “Yeah, don’t ever do it like that again,” and I was like, “I won’t” [laughs]. I started doing it more like my own [voice]. For instance…we were doing a Chief’s commercial for Rally House here in Kansas City, and I read…at first I kind of read it, — what they gave me, rewrote it — and then read it. It was kind of okay, but then they told me to add my own personality to it. That’s when I started to kind of…I felt like it set me apart, you know? That’s when I felt like, okay, this is good. It was entertaining, it was energetic, and that was probably a breakthrough for me when I got to add my own little personality and just have fun with it.   RRFC: Now that you’ve worked in both areas, radio and podcasting, how has it sort of changed your opinion or respect for radio?   Ryan: It’s not as easy as it looks. It looks like it’s fun, but you’re on a time crunch, and you have to hit certain spots…It’s a discipline and you have to keep working on it to get good, but yeah, it is very…there’s a newfound respect there.   RRFC: What kind of show would you like to ultimately produce for yourself if someone gave you full range?   Ryan: That’s a great question. I feel like I would want to do…like a talk show, almost like a Howard Stern-ish kind of like comedy, but also interviews and whatnot.   RRFC: Do you think that some of the more successful kind of shock jocks or whatever that can talk about essentially nonsense for three or four hours, do you think they do that by essentially playing a caricature of themselves?   Ryan: Yeah, and that’s kind of what we discussed, too, with Steve. You have to find your voice, and it is about finding your voice and it is about playing your character but dialed up a notch. It goes with improv, too. It’s like playing Ryan, but also there’s this weird persona that I have…just this weirdness, but entertaining factor about it you have to develop and just kind of go with it, go with your persona and play the character, and know that you’re also there for entertainment.   RRFC: Where you want to see yourself down the road in a little bit in radio?   Ryan: Doing my own show with my friend, Gabe. We did podcasting and improv together in Chicago. I would like to do a show with him, produce a show with him.   
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Jocelyne Berumen and Mentor Jimmy Degroot Jocelyne Berumen (Green Bay, WI) has been on a number of commercial shoots recently. Here, her mentor Jimmy Degroot is showing her how he wants her to grab BTS footage. During a recent shoot for commercial client Ho-Chunk, Jocelyne was reminded of how the unexpected is always a possibility while filming:   
Mentor Jimmy and grip on Ho-Chunk shoot

Mentor Jimmy and grip on Ho-Chunk shoot

“The Ho-Chunk commercials are some of their most creative and entertaining pieces,” she says. “They certainly enjoy these the most, too. This shoot though, started out rather interesting. On our way to Wittenberg, the trailer’s wheel shredded completely. It felt like some sort of comical story we we’re a part of. To the mentors, it was more of a nightmare. They were afraid of falling out of schedule because we had been ahead so far, and the sunlight was very important for this shoot. After several runs around the area to find a new tire or a new solution, we finally made our way to our destination.”   
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Mentor News

Recording Connection mentor Charles Godfrey looks for the hunger in his students

   Situated on 2300 acres amidst a series of pecan orchards just outside El Paso, Texas, the world-renowned Sonic Ranch prides itself as the largest recording studio in the world. Not only does the sprawling complex house multiple rooms for recording and mixing, but there is also housing on-site for recording artists to stay and create in a retreat-like setting, sometimes for months at a time. Noted producer/engineer and Recording Connection mentor Charles Godfrey has spent more than a decade recording here at Sonic Ranch, with album credits that include Mudvayne, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime with Rome, Beach House and Portugal. The Man, to name a few.   As it turns out, Charles’ own story of how he became a successful engineer is a great example of how up-and-comers break into the industry: a combination of being in the right place at the right time, and being able to prove your skills when that moment arrives. It started, Charles says, with getting hired at the local Guitar Center…  
Charles Godfrey (Photo credit: Edmund Lozano)

Recording Mentor Charles Godfrey
(Photo credit: Edmund Lozano)

“I had my own recording studio,” he says, “and I basically was just starting to record bands here locally, and I got through about five or six projects just after high school. A Guitar Center was opening up over here, and at the time I was working in kitchens and doing just whatever I could to get by, and obviously just playing all the time and recording whoever I can in my spare time…I went and interviewed, and myself being a drummer, got hired into the drum department on the spot right there, actually.”   A few months later, Tony Rancich, the owner of Sonic Ranch, happened to walk into Guitar Center, and Charles struck up a conversation with him. It turned out Tony needed a new drum tech to tune drums in the studio, so Charles went out to the ranch after his shift. “I told him about how I had my studio and this is what I do,” says Charles, “and he’s like, ‘Well Charles Godfrey is a drum tech, he can already do this, and he’s into engineering.’ So it was just a shoo-in from that point.”   Understandably, Charles says because of the nature of the studio, he has to be pretty selective about who he takes on as an apprentice. “It’s really because the standards that we try to uphold here,” he says. “The people that we bring around our artists need to realize that this is the artist’s house, this is where they live for a certain duration of time. It’s very much getting into their personal lives, so I need to have people here who are sensitive to that.”   Even with the stringent standards, Charles is drawn to young people who are hungry to be successful in the industry. When Recording Connection student Mario Ramirez had his initial interview, Charles says the studio owner was reluctant at first. “Tony was kind of like, ‘I don’t know about it…But I felt a connection with him in some cool way,” he says.   Charles decided to take a chance on Mario. He had a five-week project going on in his own home studio, so he brought Mario into his home studio for the initial part of his training. “He was great,” says Charles. “I could tell he was hungry because the first week, he was there until the lights were turned off…He would get there bright and early in the morning asking me if I need anything, or if everything’s okay. He would know when not to talk, he would know when to talk, and then from there I was like, “Wow, it’s obvious at this point,’ because he was so good. And then from there, after that session, I brought him back to the Ranch for the last 15 weeks of his 20-week project, and it just worked so well, he just jumped right in.”   The risk paid off big time for Mario, who ultimately got hired as an assistant engineer at Sonic Ranch within a couple of weeks of graduating. Charles says he’s still doing great. “I can see him growing into being a producer and growing into whatever he sees fit,” he says.   Interestingly enough, Charles comes from a traditional education background. “I’m son to a teacher,” he says. She actually just retired from being a principal for years, and so I thoroughly believe in education and the process that comes with. My dad is also pursuing a doctorate at the age of 65 right now. So it’s always about learning.”   Needless to say, it means something that someone with Charles’ background chooses to educate Recording Connection students via the mentor-apprentice approach. “The Recording Connection definitely has a formula for the future of education,” he says. “There’s a really foundation education that people get when they come here, and it’s a world class education too…I think it’s worth more than any school can give you. That’s why I really like the Recording Connection, because it gets people in the environment, one-on-one with somebody who is doing it, knows about it and is able to illustrate it in every form and every detail to that one person and their attention span, instead of going into the education [with] a lot of people in a classroom.   “Unfortunately, most of the world looks for that piece of paper, that diploma,” Charles continues. “But that’s what I love about the music industry is that it’s not about that. It’s about the work you’ve done, the way you portray yourself.”   And that, he says, is one of the most important bits of advice he offers to up-and-comers in the industry. “The recommendation I would give to anybody in their first situation when it comes to their nerves or how they present themselves is you have to be yourself,” he says. “You have to be yourself, and that fits, or it doesn’t fit…The artist and the producer and engineer will know, because once again, we’re in the music industry…these people who are successful in the music industry are able to look deep inside their own hearts and expose things, and other people’s hearts and recognize and regard those things, since it is an artistic industry. You know, that’s just the nature of it. So if you’re not yourself, quite frankly, people are going to see right through it.”   Learn more about Charles Godfrey at www.GodfreyProductions.com.   
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or call (800) 755-7597