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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER May 9, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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Recording Connection grad Sky Felix:
A journey into music industry success

Recording Connection grad Sky Felix

Recording Connection grad Sky Felix

Recording Connection grad Sky Felix of Long Beach, CA stays pretty busy in the industry these days. As assistant to film and TV composer Michael Corcoran, Sky has worked on projects for Disney and VH1, with credits that include films like American Pie and New Year’s Eve, along with TV shows Shake It Up and Best Friends Whenever. In the process, he’s had the opportunity to fill a lot of roles, from music editing to composing quite a few music cues himself. For Sky, the whole experience has been a huge lesson in working under pressure and giving the client what they want.   “In this business, it’s a ‘yes’ business,” he says. “What they want, they get. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’s a good idea. You let them find out it’s a bad idea…You have to figure out what they want and you’ve got to appease them, because it’s not like it can be done whenever. There’s a set schedule for when shows are being edited and when they go to air. You cannot put the show behind.”   As it turns out, Sky’s whole journey into a music industry career has been a progression of learning curves. He says that for him, it was never really about a burning desire to “make it big,” but rather a combination of natural talent, obsessive curiosity, and one thing leading to another. He started on cello as a kid in elementary school orchestra, and things progressed from there.   “There was a piano that was just hanging out in the cafeteria,” says Sky, “So every free period, or recess, or whatever, I’d just go by the piano and just doodle and just play whatever. Like, ‘Oh, that’s a Coldplay song. That, “Clocks,” song. I like that song. Let me figure out on piano.’…This one kid introduced me to this music program called Reason…I bought a copy, and I started messing around with it…So then it became composing these hip-hop beats, or whatever, for fun, because I didn’t know any better. So that blossomed into me understanding DAWs…   “So then, we took a vacation to Hawaii,” he continues, “and Dad, who’s got the CDs, he brought one CD, and it was the Jason Mraz’s Waiting for my Rocket to Come…It was a guitar-centric album, kind of folky guitar but I loved it. And that’s all we had to listen to. So by the end of the trip, like a five-day/seven-day trip, I was obsessed with the guitar. I knew my dad had a guitar that he never played. So I’m like, ‘I’m going to get that guitar and figure out these songs.’”   Even with his interest in music, Sky found himself drifting a bit after high school. “I was in college and I was like, ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’” he says. “I took some nonsense classes at college just to appease my parents. And then we stumbled across…I don’t even know where we found it. It might’ve been in a magazine, Mix magazine or something, we saw the Recording Connection advertisement. And my mom’s like, ‘Look at this.’ And I’m like, ‘Hey, that’ll be pretty cool. I’m pretty much making beats right now for no reason. I might as well learn what I’m doing because I don’t know what I’m doing.’”   Sky was placed as an apprentice with Donny Baker at ES Audio in Los Angeles, CA. It turned out to be the perfect breeding ground to give direction and focus to his musical interests.   “It revolves around what you want to get out of it,” Sky says about the program. “If you just want to mess around, then you’re not really going to learn anything. But if you want to learn, then you best stay…if you got a lesson at 11 A.M., you best stay there until 10 P.M., messing with whatever. Opening Pro Tools sessions, doing whatever, figuring out what does what.”   Sky’s obsession with “figuring out what does what” ended up paying off for him. “After I finished my course, I kept working there,” he says. “At some point I worked my way up to build Donny’s trust to where I was running sessions.” Every new project continued to stretch him, from helping out on sessions to actually recording and producing a full-length album for one of Donny’s clients. Then, one day, a fellow Recording Connection student sent Sky a Craigslist ad.   “It was basically a composer looking for a guy to help him out,” says Sky. “But the guy had to know Logic, or Ableton, or Pro Tools. Had to understand editing, and current pop music today. And I’m like, ‘That’s me. I get all those things.’”   The composer in question was film/TV composer Michael Corcoran. The two hit it off, and Mike hired Sky as his assistant. “From there, it just snowballed,” he says. “I was hanging out with him every day, just watching him make music. But then, one day, they were like, ‘Oh, Disney called because they need a music editor. We’re going to give you this gig.’ And I’m like, ‘All right. That’s cool.’ And I didn’t really know what music editing was!”   The learning curves just kept coming, and so did the opportunities. “I was put on this show that we just finished almost a year ago,” he says. “It was a brand new show, and my boss was already working on feature films and other things, and he didn’t have time to do it. So it was my gig. It went from me editing music to me, now, composing music for this show. So that was a big step up…We just did the pilot, but then it got picked up. So then I ended up doing 23 episodes of this show, where every week or so, I’d have to do 13-14 pieces of music for the TV show.”   Now several years into it, Sky is a music industry success by most people’s definitions. But from his perspective, he hasn’t “arrived.” He’s still paying dues and learning as he goes.   “You don’t get to the top quickly,” he says. “You’ve got to work on it. And I’m still working on it. I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten by me wanting to get there…I don’t know where it’s going to take me but making music makes me happy. Working in the music field makes me happy. So as long as I live each day as it is and do the best that I can, then that’s good.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Otto Díaz Upon graduating from the master’s program, Otto Díaz, who apprenticed with Donny Baker at ES Audio in Glendale, CA, returned home to Columbia and started working with solo artist Feralucia as the co-producer, arranger, and session musician on her debut album El Umbral. Otto is also part of Feralucia’s live band, playing samplers, controller and guitar. The album is getting great reviews and available in iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Rhapsody, YouTube, Soundcloud amongst others.    Anthony Zaccardi Film Connection apprentice Anthony Zaccardi (New Milford, NJ) had a blast working a recent shoot with his mentor Adam Lebenstein for tech company Infragistics. “I was the PA on set and was setting up lights, mics, and setting up the cameras,” he says. “I’m learning a lot actually for only being a part of Film Connection for 3 months. Adam’s been a great mentor, and I’m starting to learn how to properly operate the cameras and edit. Hoping to work in TV one day.”   
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Recording Connection mentor Paul Broussard

   As the owner and chief engineer of Leap Studios in Lafayette, Louisiana, Recording Connection mentor Paul Broussard has built a reputation with his clients of approaching each project from a particularly musical perspective, favoring the feel of the music over technical perfection. As you’ll see in the interview below, he’s also passionate about guiding his apprentices according to their learning style and playing to their strengths, and he’s even developed a unique system in the studio for dedicated students to keep working after graduation. Below, Paul shares a bit about his own journey, talks about his teaching approach, brags on one of his star graduates whom he recently hired, and shares some key advice for students looking to get hired. Enjoy!  
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Recording Connection mentor Paul Broussard

Recording Connection mentor Paul Broussard

RRFC: How did you end up journeying into becoming an audio engineer and producer?   Paul Broussard: It went from drummer, to audio engineer, to producer…Obviously I’m still an engineer and a drummer. But lately, production has been really—instead of just recording stuff, being super active, like just a member of the band type person whenever artists come in. And it started because I wanted to make little sh*tty-sounding recordings of my drums when I was like 15. And so I started making little demos for my band, and then people were like, “Hey, can you do recordings of my band like that?” I started charging, and I got a little bit of gear, gained a little bit of experience, changed locations. So it’s a very organic progression.   RRFC: So are you more of an analog guy, or are you more in the box with digital?   Paul: I got a little bit of both. I got a good bit of outboard gear and I’ve got…most of the stuff that I record has a little bit of both. If I had more money, I would be more of an analog guy because my personal approach to recording is getting it right immediately. I would prefer to not have to wait to get into the box to make changes, to make sounds sound right. It feels better to me when it gets in recorded correctly and pulled up, and stuff like that.   RRFC: What is your approach to working with artists and guiding them through decisions?   Paul: Well, I’m an artist myself and so most of the decisions that I make…most of the time, me and the artist start on the same page….I figure out what they’re trying to do and what their approach is, and then I guide them. And most of the time, it’s not a problem. Locking stuff down like that early on always makes the vibe better because you don’t focus on one element too long…   RRFC: Are you saying you have to kind of hold on to that intuitive sensibility when you’re making music?   Paul: Yes, absolutely. That’s what I’m getting at. One of my artists today that I was working with, we’ve been working together for a while…We found that we stay super musical if we don’t allow ourselves to worry…just go with the ideas when they come, and the song starts taking on a character that sounds very musical, and it’s not so perfect.   RRFC: What’s your approach to mentorship, like that first interview when people come in and see the studio and sit down with you—what are you looking for in an apprentice?   Paul: To tell you the truth, what I’m looking for is finding the right avenue to connect with that student. Some people want to come in, and they’re very right-brained, very technical oriented. And so I can catch on with that and the stuff that keeps them super interested would be showing them the inner workings of gear, stuff like that. But then some of them are very left-brained and very abstract, and so that kind of approach wouldn’t necessarily work. Basically, it’s just trying to find the thing that gets their blood pumping…Every student is totally different, totally different. I mean we always follow the course curriculum, but it’s flexible in the way that I approach it and the way that I describe it and teach it.  
Live Room in Leap Studios

Live Room in Leap Studios

RRFC: You recently hired one of your students, Morgan Ramsey. So what was it that Morgan did right that ultimately led to you bringing him on?   Paul: I would say that for him, one of the defining qualities is that he was really a go-getter. Whenever I was talking about a certain subject, he understood it, and it was really easy…His personality and his demeanor was pretty much center of the dartboard. That’s one of those things, especially when you’re talking about a recording studio—we’re not talking about art here. We’re talking about business and art. He has to be able to deal with clientele, and it has nothing to do with the music. It’s basically…he has to be able to bring people in, have them feel comfortable, get the job done, and do that repeatedly. And he’s definitely one of the people that, when I’ve been teaching people here, he stood out as in he’s really good at it, and he can do that repeatedly…So I taught him everything he needs to know to run my studio, and he’s one of my roster of engineers that bring in clients and record people… told him, I said, “Hey, you’re hired here. You have my full blessing to go out and find artists…you can book people anytime you want.” He’s in my schedule. Morgan has access to my schedule.   RRFC: So if you’re giving a little bit of advice for these students, what can you say about what they can do to ultimately get hired where they are training or through one of the connections that they made through the studio?   Paul: They have to make themselves worth it…The reason that Morgan is hired here [is] because I’ve kind of adopted a new scheme of the way I’m doing things. I don’t have to be the only person going out, finding people, bringing them in and generating income and generating music…The more that I can keep that percentage of bookings up there, the better off I am, and also the better off for other engineers…[So for] some of my students I’ve offered, I said, ‘Whenever you finish this program with Recording Connection, I can hire you as an engineer.’ They’re not paid unless they bring in clients, but it’s really up to them. They can bring in as many clients as they want…You’ve got to fill a need for a studio, and make yourself valuable to them.”   
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