When mentor Josh Denhardt first became a Recording Connection student, he recalls immediately bonding with his mentor—Ryan Conway of Conway Sound
in Denver, Colorado.
“After meeting him I quickly knew that he was definitely going to be the person I wanted to learn from,” says Josh, “because of his background and personality and everything. Everything kind of clicked really fast, like that, and I kind of had a good feeling from the start…We basically just hit it off right away.”
From there, Josh says he spent so much time at the studio that he worked himself into a job. “Once I got there, I just kind of never left, and he just got tired of kicking me out of the studio,” he quips. “Eventually he said, ‘Well, you can just keep working here, I guess.’”
Today, that working relationship is developing into more. Now a Recording Connection mentor himself, Josh is partnering with Ryan on a huge studio expansion for Conway Sound, including a pilot EDM training program that Josh will ultimately oversee!
“It’s really exciting because it’s a brand-new location,” he says. “It’s going to be a bigger studio… There’s going to be extra control rooms. Multiple engineers can work, but there’s also going to be a wing with a large production suite for students and a live setup to practice DJ’ing live…[I want to] to take the excitement of classes and things to a whole other level.”
Control Room in Conway Sound
As the program develops, Josh says he envisions the new wing as an incubator of sorts for up-and-coming electronic musicians. “People could have little, mini pre-concerts to practice playing live with a group of friends in the live area, and have all the equipment to use, Ableton or DJ controllers of their choice,” he says.
It’s a timely move for Conway Sound and for Josh, as Denver is experiencing a huge boon in its EDM scene. “The EDM industry is huge in Denver,” he explains. “It is becoming the place that the big artists want to come through because there are multiple venues where they can set up two to three day raves and basically have, you know, the places they can sell out are selling out…There are just a whole bunch of different smaller companies that are fully on board with the EDM scene…especially in the past 10 years it’s exploded out here.”
Josh’s personal journey into music, and eventually to the Recording Connection, is success story all its own. After dropping out of college at age 19 due to lack of direction and high expenses, he eventually became a self-described “ski bum,” tending bar and guiding snowmobile expeditions along the Continental Divide in the Rockies. When he received news that he was going to have a son, he says it was a wake-up call, and he decided to figure out a longer-term career for himself.
“I had looked at all the traditional [route], like well, I could go back and finish my business degree and sit in a cubicle,” he says, “but I had never fit in a cubicle my entire life…I read some books on some people that were very successful, and a lot of the things pointed to, if you do what you love, the money will come in time…Looking at the things I was most passionate about, [it was] music. I had DJ’d for a long time doing the local ladies’ night thing and just very involved and loving music.”
From his prior knowledge of recording schools, however, Josh wasn’t impressed with the results for the high tuition rates. “The people that I met that went to school…none of them were using that degree,” he says. “They were all working in different fields, and sure, they had home studios and things they learned knowledge-wise, but not one of them was directly in the field that they paid all that money for. So I thought there was something kind of wrong with that system right off the bat. That’s why I started looking at other options besides going that route. That’s how I found the Recording Connection.”
Not only did the one-on-one training in the studio pay off for him personally—Josh’s own passion for his new career is paying off in huge ways. He’s carved out a bit of a niche for himself at Conway Sound, focusing on using and teaching Ableton while his former mentor focuses on Pro Tools. Now teaching multiple apprentices of his own—particularly those interested in EDM and electronic music production—Josh has developed a unique approach to teaching them, as well.
“I am going to be treating them like they’re an artist on my recording label,” he says. “I ask all my students to get them on deadlines that they’re going to finish an album as their graduation present, which is something that I do. For free, I help them mix and master their songs so their graduation is not only the completion and certification of Ableton, but it is their graduation CD of three to 10 tracks that is their expression and demonstration of everything they’ve learned, and I help put the professional polish on at the end so they can have something to show.”
Josh says this process also gives his students a before-and-after picture so they can see how far they’ve come. “I consider a student that goes from not being able to produce, [to] finish a song, start to finish that they enjoy in a month, to being able to produce three songs from start to finish in a week,” he says. “Everybody that starts, I have their first song that’s called ‘Day One.’ And when everyone graduates we go back and open up their very first song that they tried to write, ‘Day One,’ and then we have a little chuckle about it, and then we go ahead and master their graduation album.
“To really appreciate things you need to give yourself credit,” he adds. “Really take a step back and see where the journey began and where it ended. It gives you better perspective, honestly.”
* * * * *