Thanks to his talent, passion and years of experience as a producer/engineer, Recording Connection engineer Joe “Dante” Delfino has earned a reputation as one of the “go-to” guys in Chicago and beyond. As manager and chief engineer of Miller Street Studios in Chicago, Dante has worked with a long list of notable artists, including Wu-Tang Clan, Lecrae, Vic Mensa, and more recently, rising star Ta’Rhonda Jones, (i.e., Porsha Taylor on the Fox hit TV series Empire), whom he mentions in the conversation below.
As it turns out, Dante is also a huge advocate for the Recording Connection’s on-the-job mentoring approach, and he takes great pleasure in passing his expertise to passionate individuals who want to learn the craft. He’s already hired two Recording Connection apprentices after training them, and he sees his studio as a place of opportunity for up-and-comers and passionate individuals. In a recent conversation with RRFC, Dante talked about the advantages of on-the-job mentoring, the importance of having a go-getter mindset in this business, what he looks for in his students, and what he appreciates about the former students he’s hired. Below are just a few of the nuggets we mined from that conversation.
ON THE ADVANTAGES OF MENTORING AND ON-THE-JOB TRAINING:
“Out here in Chicago, we have Columbia College which is a big music school. I’ve had interns that have gone four years there, and they came in here and didn’t even know how to basically run a Pro Tools session. It’s a big difference when you’re learning with somebody who is actually doing this for a living and in the industry right now versus in a classroom where it may be somebody that doesn’t have that much real world experience or has been out of it for a number of years. Definitely more beneficial that you’re learning with somebody that’s actually doing it.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICING YOUR CRAFT (EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN THE STUDIO):
“What I always encourage [my students] is that you have to be proactive. When you get off work, even if you can’t come into the studio, at least spend at least an hour, two hours doing something on Pro Tools. I give my students sessions that they can work on and give them tests, and stuff to do, stuff to look up and stuff to really keep them busy while they’re not here at the studio.”
ON SOME OF HIS MORE MEMORABLE CLIENTS:
“I’m lucky [that] I’m able to work with a lot of really good clients. I think one that really sticks out to me was working on Trip Lee’s album with Lecrae on Reach Records…Ta’Rhonda Jones, who’s Porsha in Empire, she’s a client of mine. So she’s working on a project as well, too. I mean, she’s still flying back and forth between LA for the filming and doing all that with the show. But she’s working on a project as well, so we should be having that out soon.”
ON WHY HE LIKES TO HIRE FROM WITHIN (i.e., HIS APPRENTICES):
There’s a lot of opportunity for engineers to basically bring them on staff here…I think having the ability to even—I’m sure there’s other mentors out there like me as well that are looking at it that way—the ability to be able to teach these guys exactly the way you run your business and the tools that you’re using in the studio is really key, because that’s not really something you can teach in a classroom…I’ve already hired a couple people, students that have gone through the Recording Connection…I think one of the advantages is when I have my apprentices or anybody that’s doing a session out of here, I’m confident that they are going to be able to do it just as good as me. I think that definitely gives us an edge, where other places I’ve seen and heard, you’ve got guys that have never been in that real world experience, so they’re taking their time, going slow, and essentially going to end up losing the client because their client is paying good money, and they’re not getting anything done because this guy is not prepared to be taking on the session.”
ON WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT THE APPRENTICES HE’S HIRED:
“One of the guys that’s working on staff here, Rob [Clark], he’s been really impressive. He graduated I believe about a year ago. He’s a very good learner, fast learner and he’s got that go-getter mentality. He’s not going to sit back and wait for me to book him sessions. He can go out and promote himself. He’s definitely a go-getter…He was bringing in business before he even graduated. I’ve got another guy, John Hill…he’s also at that point where he’s starting to bring clients in too. Those two guys have really shown their passion for engineering and making the most out of this opportunity that they’re given through the Recording Connection and myself, here at the studio.”
ON HAVING A BUSINESS MINDSET AND STANDING OUT FROM YOUR COMPETITION:
“One of the most important things I try and teach my apprentices [is] you can’t rely on anybody to give you clients. There’s tons of engineers graduating from all sorts of programs all the time. There’s thousands of guys that are not going to be doing this full time for that simple fact. They’re just sitting back, waiting for clients to find them, where it’s almost like a sales job. You got to get out there, hit the pavement and shake hands, hand out business cards and get people talking about you. That’s one of the things I really kind of push these guys on is, don’t just rely on me to give you sessions; do some of the footwork yourself too. That’ll speed up the process…That is how I really was able to start my own business, because I had gone out, done the footwork, promoted myself and gotten clients that wanted to work with me.”