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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER January 16, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


More than he bargained for: Recording Connection grad
Ryan Abbot becomes chief engineer at his mentor’s studio!

Ever notice how when you start moving in one direction, it often ends up being something much different, or more than you imagined? When musician and songwriter Ryan Abbot of Sayre, PA first enrolled in the Recording Connection, he thought he was simply trying to improve the sound of his own music; before he knew it, he wound up hired as the chief engineer for his mentor’s production company!   “I have some songs and stuff that I had written myself that I wanted to record, but understand how to record well,” he explains. “And then I started getting in contact with my mentor, and he really showed me the behind the scenes of what’s going on there. So I ended up really excelling at the actual engineering side…Once I started really getting into the engineering side of it, that’s what really took over, because I really do enjoy learning about what makes sounds work.”   Ryan says he came to the Recording Connection at his father’s recommendation after a brief stint at college left him unsatisfied. After enrolling, he was placed as an apprentice with mentor Will Greene at his studio, Platinum Shop Productions in nearby Elmira, NY. From his first meeting with his mentor, Ryan says they hit it off. “There really wasn’t any sort of formality,” he says. “We just started listening to music and jamming and it just clicked, it worked.”   It also didn’t take long for Ryan to discover this training program was going to be anything but typical.   “It was interesting because he had told me from the beginning that he wasn’t going to be very conventional with the way that he did it,” says Ryan. “That turned out to be true. It was pretty much just, I got my lessons done, I brought them in, he made sure that we went over them. And after, that it was just working on the projects, working on things that needed to get done.”   Ryan took to engineering like a fish to water. A watershed moment occurred just a few weeks into Ryan’s training, when his mentor handed off something he’d recently recorded. “We had met maybe two, three times before,” says Ryan. “So Will turns to me and he goes, ‘All right, so how about you mix this song down and we’ll leave you alone and then we’ll come back and see what happens.’”   As it happens, the song was for an upcoming album by R&B artist Lottie. An hour and a half later, he was finished. “It just clicked so well and was exactly what she was looking for,” he says. To watch people light up like that is so much fun.”   Not only did Ryan continue engineering and mixing several more songs on the album, but his mentor ended up hiring him on as chief audio engineer for Platinum Shop! “He picked up on the fact that I have an ear for this, and that I was very serious about it,” says Ryan. “When you’ve had someone that’s been in the business that long, it’s really nice to hear…‘Okay, so this is going well. You have a good ear for this. You know, you could be really successful.’… We’re working on another two albums that’ll be coming out probably next February.”   So what started out for Ryan as an opportunity to fine-tune his own music turned into an actual job in a recording studio. But what seems like a change of direction has ended up being the beginning of a great career. He says it’s hard work, but he thrives on the challenge.   “The one thing that I’ve noticed doing this and working on an album is that the amount of man hours that goes into that production,” he says, “and taking that production to the next step and then the next step is just…it’s grueling. And there’s a bunch of man-hours, but man, it’s so fun. You know, with all the sleepless nights and hours in the studio and rerecording and redoing and waiting anxiously for the album to come out…I wouldn’t trade any of that time for anything.”   
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  If you haven’t tuned into Connected recently, make sure you do this coming Monday, January 23rd at 11am PST. We’ve got a contest for a big giveaway coming. Sign up to access the show at www.rrfedu.com/connected (it’s free.)   CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!  

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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Joey (“Uncle Joe”) Heier talks about the importance of hands-on training and his passion for teaching


RC Mentor Joey Heier (sitting center) with students.

When it comes to a passion for helping our students succeed in the music industry, they don’t come more passionate than Recording Connection mentor Joey Heier. As the owner and chief engineer of Crystal Clear Studios in Philadelphia, PA, Joey has mentored Recording Connection students for years, and even wrote the curriculum that is currently in use in our Bachelor’s equivalent program. He’s got his own track record of industry success, with a client list that includes names like B.o.B., Jill Scott, Dru Hill and Christina Aguilera. But spend a few minutes with Joey, and you quickly realize one of his greatest joys is enabling his students to follow in his successes as a producer/engineer.   In a recent conversation with RRFC, Joey weighed in on why he loves being a mentor and his approach to teaching students in the studio, and even took time to mention a few of his former students’ successes, as well. Enjoy!  
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  ON WHY HE LOVES MENTORING FOR THE RECORDING CONNECTION:   “It’s a tremendous passion for me; I enjoy doing this so much. I have a style that I believe in where I talk with my kids about a textbook answer that they’re probably going to forget immediately, and then an “Uncle Joe” definition that’s two or three words that they’re going to remember immediately, and then they’re going to understand what the textbook definition is by hearing it in a simpler fashion…When I have great kids that come in and really, really want to do this, I enjoy seeing people smile. I have an outstanding job, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do it with a smile. And that doesn’t happen with every kid, naturally—it really depends if they want to do it. But if they want to do it, I am so honored to have the opportunity to teach, and I think that’s why it works well for me.”   A LITTLE ABOUT HIS TEACHING APPROACH:   “I start them off just observing me work while I have folks that have headphones on their head, and I tell my guys and gals everything that I’m doing as I’m doing it. And a lot of that, with respect, will go over their head, and then the client goes home, and then [the students] ask me questions, which I believe doesn’t happen in any other institution in the world.”   ON WHAT QUALITIES HE LOOKS FOR IN AN APPRENTICE DURING THE INTERVIEW:   “I want to know why you want to do this. What is your passion? I want to know if you have any experience at all or if you have a lot of experience. I want an entire equipment list, or if you don’t have anything, that’s quite all right. I’m here to help…If you really want to do it. You have to really want to do it, you have to really dedicate yourself, and I try to screen them as they come through, and I try to ask questions. ‘Hey, is this something that you have had a passion for your whole life? Is this something that’s new? What can we do to make this great?’”   REFLECTING ON SOME OF HIS STUDENTS’ SUCCESSES:   “I have a student…[Krysten Dean,] a girl who I love, and she really, really surprised me. She’s doing audio for Beyoncé and Jay Z. I have a student now [Justin Robbinson] who’s doing audio for Kanye West. Whether you love him or you hate him, he’s a very big talent…I have graduates that are working at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Madison Square Garden in New York City…I’ve had students that have worked with Stevie Wonder…   “Right now I’m teaching [a] blind student. His name is Angel Ayala…He did 20 lessons with me for the bachelor’s program, he’s now doing another 20 lessons for the master’s program. This kid can do more without vision on a Macintosh computer than I can do…He runs my entire console totally blind…He runs entire sessions. And he doesn’t use a mouse, he uses a voiceover utility where the computer talks to him and it tells him how to raise and lower volumes or pan things or add effects to things.   “Another kid who just completed Lesson 20, his name is Jessie Ludwig. And he’s a man who plays acoustic guitar and likes country music. And he knew absolutely nothing when he met me, as far as audio. And so we brought groups in to record. He watched me master, he watched me mix, he watched me record. He brought a group in, we recorded the entire EP.”   ON WHAT HE TRIES TO IMPART TO HIS APPRENTICES:   “I’m very invested in how I can help others gain confidence and be able to do more than read and answer 15 questions, to really be able to be hands-on and to work with people. I tell my students, ‘You have to be a gentleman or a lady, and you also have to be an expert.’ And I try to show those two points. I try to show them how to do it on a hardware console as well as a mouse, so they can work in any studio in the world.”   Connect with Joey Heier on Facebook.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Right on day one, Recording Connection student Tavior Mowry (San Francisco, CA) was in for an enlightening experience at Freq Lab Recording: “My first studio session with Zach [Phillips] was really wild. I was not ready to have my mind blown from learning about sound. After doing the course work prior to the session I thought I had a solid understanding of how sound worked and reacted in different environments. It wasn’t until Zach took me into the recording room and started to point out the different characteristics of the room that made it unique. Everything from the materials used to the architecture of how the room was built to prevent parallel facings was mind blowing to me. It gave me a new understanding of just how truly elusive sound is and how the different aspects of an environment can affect sound. I look forward to increasing my knowledge of sound and to use this new found knowledge to create better mixes and productions.”    Film Connection grad Ofu Obekpa is the writer/director of Klippers, a forthcoming feature length action thriller starring none other than American wrestler Kevin Nash! Ofu, a trained actor, also has a role in the film. Ever the go-getter, Ofu talks about the motivation behind his ambitious project: “This movie came from me wanting to prove myself as a filmmaker… I was just tired of waiting for people to take notice so I just went out with a good screenplay and found great cast and crew, great talent and it was a great experience. I loved it.”   We’ll have the full lowdown in an upcoming issue of the newsletter.  
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