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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER March 7, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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

Living the dream: Recording Connection grad Paul Raymond turns his apprenticeship into a full-time job

Recording Connection graduate Paul Raymond

Recording Connection graduate Paul Raymond

When it comes to his opinion on classroom education, Recording Connection graduate Paul Raymond pulls no punches.   “I hated school,” he admits. “I went to first grade at a public school, and then I was home schooled for the rest of the time because I hated public school. I hated the fact that my teacher had to teach 20 kids because I didn’t learn anything. I already knew what they were learning, so I wasn’t learning anything new.”   Meanwhile, growing up homeschooled, Paul began playing guitar and drums, developed a love for metal, and started teaching himself about recording. When he decided to pursue it professionally as a career, he says he seriously considered going to college but he was obviously reluctant.   “I was heavily looking into Full Sail,” he says, “and I was honestly about to call them up and find out how much everything was going to be. And I knew it was going to be crazy expensive.”   But then a friend told him about the Recording Connection.   “My friend Chad, who did the program as well, he said, ‘Hey, I heard you were going into recording…well, check this program out.’ He referred me to the recording school, and I was like, ‘Holy cow, how did I not find this?’”   It turned out that the Recording Connection wasn’t just a better price, but the learning approach was much more suited to a guy who hated school.   “[Being homeschooled] was a lot better because my mom sat down and she helped me,” says Paul. “For math, my dad sat down and one-on-one helped me. That’s sort of the way I’ve done everything…I’m a very hands-on learner, and I tune out sometimes if I’m having trouble learning, which is…when I’m not hands on, I have trouble learning, which means I sort of tune out and get frustrated or whatever. But when I read that this was mentor-apprentice, I was like, ‘Oh! This is gonna be cool, ‘cause this is exactly what I need: hands-on. I get to sit there and watch and ask questions.’”   Paul was placed as an apprentice at Metro 37 Recording Studios, one of the largest studios in Detroit, MI (and one that specializes in rock and metal). He was paired for mentoring with producer/engineer Kevin Sharpe (Shinedown, Fall Out Boy) and as is sometimes the case in music, the unexpected happened, right on lesson one.   “He had me start unplugging his whole front studio,” he says. “He wanted the wires to run neater and everything to look better. It was kind of messy at the time, due to the previous engineer. So I unhooked everything, rolled up all the cables, set them on the side, and then he’s like, ‘Oh shoot! I gotta go get my kid!’ So then he left…From my previous knowledge, I was able to put together the rest of his studio for him. When he got back…he was impressed that I could put it all back together. And so right then, he realized I had background and that I could do a little bit more than probably most people that had come in.”   From that point on, Kevin adapted the training to Paul’s level of experience. “He taught me so much,” says Paul. “Over the course of my time there, he corrected my bad habits.” Meanwhile, Paul continued to treat his apprenticeship like he was auditioning for a job, showing up for sessions even when he didn’t have a lesson scheduled, helping out where he could, and even running to the store for clients.   “Generally, Kevin will say, ‘Hey, there’s a session. Do you wanna do it?,’ says Paul “I’ll say yes, and I’ll come in. But if he doesn’t call me and say there’s a session, I’m still going in. I’m still going to watch the sessions. I’m still going to clean the live room. I’m still going to sweep the floors. I’m still going to empty the trash… I’m always willing to run over and grab drinks…I feel like it [makes] me more of an asset to the studio because I’m keeping their clients happy. I’m making sure the room stays clean…I’m just making sure that their experience with the studio is the absolute best, because one day I could be recording them.”   Paul’s dedication has paid off big time. During his time at Metro, he says he’s been able to sit in and on sessions with bands like Madam X, Miss May I and Born of Osiris, and he’s even been able to help run sessions with Vixen and Terry Brown. Kevin has also helped Paul procure some additional live gigs, as well. But the biggest payoff happened shortly after Kevin let Paul run an acoustic session on his own…   “We went out to lunch,” Paul recalls. [Kevin] told me, ‘Yeah, dude, you did a great job with that last session, so you’ve got a future here if you keep up the hard work. You can keep working here and running sessions for me because they really liked what you did and had nothing but good things to say.’”   Now working regularly at Metro, Paul is ecstatic to be working with his mentor, doing what he loves for a living. “Working at Metro is like everything I could dream of,” he says. “I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, because he taught me everything I know.”   For the long term, Paul says he’s slowly working on building out his own studio in a storefront where his grandfather used to run a shoe store. But for now, he says he’s perfectly content to continue at his mentor’s studio. “I realize that I can’t work at Metro forever,” he says, “but I’m going to work there as long as I can.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

Carley Wasserman and Mikey Mac Conover

Carley Wasserman and Mikey Mac Conover

Recording Connection student Carly Wasserman, who apprentices at ES Audio in Glendale, CA, was one of two lucky students who got to go backstage at the Grammys! Here’s what she shared in her student blog: “So I just got back from my backstage tour of the Grammy Award Show and all I can say is WOW! The amount of production that goes on for this 3-hour show is beyond me. I honestly didn’t believe it when they said it was a live broadcasted show because of all the performances, but it truly is live (I guess that’s where the term Hollywood Magic comes from). It really put my career into perspective…The opportunity I was given will live with me forever and will definitely motivate me on my journey. Thank you, Recording Connection, for making this happen!”    christopher-freeland Film Connection student Christopher Freeland (Charlotte, NC) just completed a whirlwind trip with his mentor doing grip/boom/AC on a long string of shoots for a well-known marketing company. The shoot took him to Los Angeles, then New York City, then Long Beach. Speaking of the experience, Christopher says, “Any equipment we needed for these [shoots was] my responsibility to have at the ready. Since we were traveling so much, we could only bring the bare minimum…I learned a lot about always having any equipment you could need up and ready to go at a moment’s notice, and to always be listening and to anticipate what the director or DP is going to want or need…If you want to succeed as a director you have to be willing to go to any lengths to get your story told.”   
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Recording Connection mentor Donny Baker:
Helping students find their place

Donny Baker with Students

Donny Baker with Students

From a certain point of view, Recording Connection mentor Donny Baker is the least likely person you might expect to be a successful music industry pro. For one thing, coming from a family of commercial fisherman in southern Louisiana, he had no prior connection to the industry (“I’m the only one in my family who does this,” he quips). For another—Donny doesn’t play an instrument, and instead works strictly behind the board as an engineer. But he sees this as a plus, not a minus.   “Personally, I feel that it helps because I’m not stuck on one instrument when it comes to a mix,” he says. “I mean, usually I can listen to a mix and I can tell what instrument that sound guy plays, because he favors that instrument…The bass player’s going to favor the bass and the guitar player’s going to favor the guitar and the drummer’s going to favor the drummer…I don’t really play one particular instrument, so I feel like I am an engineer. And I put things together in a way that everybody’s happy.”   That frame of mind has obviously served Donny well, as his long career has included working behind the board (both in the studio and on tour) with such names as Madonna, Chick Corea, Aerosmith, Herbie Hancock, Brandy, Anne Hathaway and others. Beginning his career focus as a touring engineer, Donny eventually settled into studio work, and now is the primary engineer at ES Audio in Glendale, California.   What is just as remarkable about Donny is his passion for helping new engineers find their place in the industry, which is why he has been a Recording Connection mentor for the past 15 years, and why he’s known for his knack for helping students find their place in the business.   “The students with Recording Connection are always…they’re always eager,” he says. “That’s why they’re there. That’s why they’ve reached out to find this program. I wish I’d known of this program when I was back in school. When I went back to school for my master’s degree, I wish I’d foreseen that program, because I came out of school and I still had to go figure out how to go work in a studio.”   For the students he mentors, Donny approaches each one with a specific goal in mind. “What we do, and what I think helps me mentor uniquely, is that I find out where the student wants to go,” he says. “We find out where the student wants to excel, and we push them into that area. So in other words, if the student wants to be a producer, if he wants to produce music, we push him in that area. So if the student wants to work post-production, work on films and TV and dialog editing and that kind of thing, we push them in that area. If somebody wants to be a mix guy, we push them in that area. If somebody wants to be a tracking engineer, we push them in that area…We let the students figure out where they want to go, what they want to do.”   The approach seems to be working, and many of Donny’s students not only go on to successful careers, but maintain relationship with him long after they graduate. “My very first student still calls me,” he says. “We still hang out. He still comes here and does work.”   And as for their successes? Take your pick. Taylor Crommie, one of Donny’s former students, has been working on projects ranging from major K-Pop artists to smartphone apps. Another, Uriel Soto, works with Donny at ES Audio full-time. Skyler Felix went on to work with Disney and VH1, and his credits include a top-10 record on the UK dance charts.   And then there’s Morning Estrada, who now works extensively with up-and-coming rapper Trinidad James—a relationship Donny helped facilitate.   “There was another guy that worked here who now works at another studio,” says Donny, “who started working with Trinidad here and then Trinidad decided he wanted to work with somebody else…I brought Morning in, and then he and Morning just hit it off. And now any time Trinidad goes anywhere, he brings Morning with him…He’s here at least twice a week…he’s his engineer…It’s just that kind of relationship that Morning has built with his clients, as being an awesome engineer.”   Morning Estrada’s successes don’t end there. “He’s killing the urban scene right now,” Donny boasts. “He’s killing the game now. He’s driving a nice car, he lives in the hills, he’s doing well. Eminem flies him out to Detroit to work at his studio. It’s just…he’s killing it. He’s doing really well.”   Donny has another interesting perspective when it comes to mentoring students for music industry careers, and that is the way he opens doors for females trying to get into the business. Going against the common belief, he believes in many ways girls are even better engineers than many of the guys.   “They just seem to focus more and seem to be a little more intuitive as to how things get done,” he says. “I think it’s the guys in the band [who] don’t really pay attention to the girl engineers because of the whole stigma of dudes do this better. But I disagree… Sylvia Massy is one of my favorite engineers, and she’s amazing. Rose Mann-Cherney. She ran the Record Plant…one of the most famous studios in Los Angeles. This studio, our studio that we work in here, is owned by a female. It’s wonderful to see that.”   Donny acts on his convictions as well, accepting many female audio apprentices right along with the guys.   “Dawnette Scolari..she’s doing well. She’s dedicated,” he says. “There’s another female…Carly Wasserman. She’s actually just about completed–I think she’s gonna be doing her advanced program in the live department. Then there’s another girl, Alexis Kirkbride. She’s kind of new into the program. She’s not even halfway done yet, but she’s dedicated.”   While Donny is passionate about helping new engineers launch their careers, he also looks for particular qualities in his apprentices that he knows will help them succeed: namely, drive and work ethic. His advice to students?   “Dedicate as much of your time, effort, energy, and sweat, and blood, and tears that you can,” he says. “Just dive in and don’t stop. Whatever you want can be yours. But you just gotta do it. You can’t not do it…That’s the person I want to be my engineer. That’s the person I want to work with. That’s the person I can’t get rid of…If you’re calling me every day and being here every day and just under my foot and in my way, then you’re doing the right thing.   “This game is a hustle,” Donny continues. “You got to get out there and just work. The more you work, the more you get…Even when times get tough, you just got to keep hustling. You got to stay on top of it, because if you take a day off, somebody’s going to come over and take your place…We work every day, all day. It’s not uncommon for me to be here 16, 18 hours a day every day…You can’t just come here once a week and take your quiz and go home and think that you’re going to become an engineer when you get your certificate. It’s not going to happen. It’s a matter of being in it and being on it all the time, every day.”   
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