It’s easy to assume that as an audio engineer or music producer, there wouldn’t be enough to keep you busy in a place like Bozeman, Montana. And you’d also probably assume it wouldn’t be a great place to learn the music industry.
But apparently, Recording Connection mentor Jeremiah Slovarp
never got that memo. A guy with a strong business sense and work ethic, he’s managed to build not one, but two successful studios: Jereco Studios
and Peach Street Studios.
He’s also become the go-to guy in the area for sound recording, post-production, location sound and live audio, running one of the region’s busiest post-production houses for TV and film. He works with more celebrities and bands than he cares to name, and he’s won four Emmy Awards for his post-production audio work both regionally and nationally. And best of all, he loves to teach his students the secrets of his success!
Yes. Just to be clear, we’re talking Bozeman, Montana
, not L.A.
So how did a kid at Montana State University-Bozeman wind up being one of the area’s most successful audio engineers? Like so many in this profession, it started with music.
“I was a singer in a filthy dirty rock band,”
says Jeremiah. “No one in the band cared about sound, and I did, and so I started dealing with the sound at all the concerts and the shows.”
Being business minded didn’t hurt, either. While studying economics at the university, his continued interest in sound led him to take an elective course in film sound, and while working on some post-production projects, his instructor gave him some advice.
“He motivated me and said, ‘You know, there is good market for this in this area, you should really think about this,'”
Jeremiah recalls. “Because I was business minded, and none of his other students were. All his other students were just film and TV minded and none of them were going to go off and start a business-they were going to go to LA and try to find a job. And I wanted to start a business, and I didn’t want to look for a job.”
It turned out there was a good market for post-production sound—a surprisingly good market for such a rural area. And Jeremiah decided to tap into it, by focusing on commercial audio work. “Because we are a commercial location, we’ve excelled at attracting commercial clientele, and it only made sense,”
he says. “Yeah, you know, we still record music and we compete for the music market in the area, but the commercial clientele has really come to us naturally because of the way we do business and having [a] commercial clientele location.”
And it’s not just in and around Bozeman, either. Jeremiah says he gets post audio work from major productions around the world, for a surprisingly simple reason: Montana is a favorite hotspot for the actors who do the audio. “The actors and actresses that are stars in the film, they either live here or, you know, this is a vacation place for them,”
says Jeremiah. “[They] don’t want to fly to L.A. to interrupt a vacation with their family, or because they live here flat out. Like Jeff Bridges and Michael Keaton…they live a matter of minutes from where I’m sitting right now, full-time, year-round, and they are not going to fly to L.A. to go to work.”
This dynamic (along with talent, of course) is in part what led to Jeremiah’s Emmy Awards. “We were a little town out of Montana that happens to have a huge production film and television and music production community,”
he says, “going into major markets like Seattle and stealing their award because we competed with the best market.”
As far as his success goes, Jeremiah tells his Recording Connection apprentices that the key to succeeding in professional audio in a place like Montana is diversity.
“My students get a unique opportunity in [Bozeman] versus a very large, densely populated city,”
he says. “Because Montana is such a vast area to work in, we are not doing the same thing every day. I don’t just record bands. If a student comes to me and he’s like, ‘I’m going to be a music producer,’ I say, “Hey hang on, if you are going to live in Montana, you better not just be a music producer because you’ll never make it.” You could produce music and you could also do some other things that are using the same skill set and do very well for yourself. You can work on a live concert. You can work on a TV show. You can work on corporate gig for someone at a hotel and do AV work. You can do installation work when this people are installing home studios…a diverse set of jobs recycling the same skill set…When they are with me, that is what they are getting.”
One great example of how Jeremiah uses this diversity to show his Recording Connection students how to “recycle” their skill sets: using his live audio events to teach them about building a studio.
“When people need sound for a concert, I’m always one of the contractors that gets the bid on the job,”
he says. “So I make these guys work on live concerts with me because on the night of concerts, they are plugging everything in, and then they are plugging it back in and then unplugging and plugging it back in. When you walk into a recording studio, you don’t learn anything [about that] because you are not behind the desk looking at the wires…I think it’s a disservice to a student to walk into a recording studio and not be able to understand how the recording studio is built. Okay, so let’s flip this now. We take them on a live concert; it’s the same gear. We got a mixing console, we got mic pre’s, we got in, we got out, we got speakers, we got monitors…They are building it from the ground up at the beginning of the show, and then they have to tear the whole thing down and wrap cables at the end of the show, and then tomorrow that is what we do: we build the whole thing again. And through that repetition, they are able to learn and solidify the stuff that they see in the white papers.”
Jeremiah not only sees this kind of experience as important for his students, but he also sees it as something that can’t be gotten in a classroom—which is one of the reasons he takes on apprentices with the Recording Connection. “I like one-on-one interaction,”
he says. “It certainly gives the student some more in-depth discussion than in a larger academic environment.”
He also stresses that the hands-on learning is key, not only to learning the skill, but to succeeding in this business at all. “They need to do it on their own,”
says Jeremiah. “And they need to understand that like if they are going to do it, they are going to do it because of them, not because of me. I might show them the way, but I’m not going to do their job for them.”