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Music Connection: Recording Engineer School
January, 1995 By Karen Orsi In the days before colleges, vocational schools and student loans, the only way to get started in a career was as an extern in the field of your choice. After meeting with a potential mentor, you would simply show up at the blacksmith’s shop or whatever trade you had chosen, and you would begin learning in a hands-on fashion. When you became proficient at your chosen profession, you would either be hired by your mentor or go off on your own. This age old process of externship is the concept behind Entertainment Connection, a company founded by radio personality, recording engineer and former Columbia School of Broadcasting professor, James Petulla. While teaching at the broadcasting school, Petulla learned firsthand how many people paid considerable sums of money to learn how to be a disk jockey, but it was nearly impossible for them to get a job in that field. In the fields of broadcasting and engineering, Petulla has found that one of the greatest handicaps you can give yourself is a college education. Why? For starters, most college graduates finish their education with the attitude that they have already paid their dues and are ready to make large sums of money with the morning drive-time shift on radio, or if they choose engineering, they will immediately start working with a name band and will be producing within six months. The fact of the matter is, Petulla has found, that most of those teaching in colleges and vocational schools are there because their chosen career has not panned out the way they expected. Remember the saying, “Those who can’t do teach”? Furthermore, sometimes they have been out of touch with their chosen industry for quite a while, and because of that, they are teaching out-of-date concepts. Another problem is that most recent college grads are in debt up to their teeth with student loans, making it damned near impossible to take an entry-level position anywhere because they simply will not be able to make ends meet. This is where Entertainment Connection and Petulla’s concept come into play. For example, if you want to be a recording engineer, call Entertainment Connection and speak to someone about your plans and where you would like to work. Then, you set up a meeting during which you are screened by Entertainment Connection to see how motivated you are and how much you actually know about what you are getting into (i.e., horrible hours, little or no pay, hard work, bad hair days, etc.). If you are chosen by Entertainment Connection to continue the process, then a mentor is selected and you meet with them for more screening. If you pass this phase, you pay Entertainment Connection, and you begin training at the studio or radio station of your choice. That’s right–you choose the place you want train! Entertainment Connection lands you a mentor at one of the places you request. If they are unable to accomplish this, or if the screening phase doesn’t work out, there is no charge. Many of our students (externs) have been offered a job after they’ve been trained. Many of Entertainment Connection’s Radio Connection graduates are now working in radio. Petulla began working on the concept over fifteen years ago. As for the businesses of broadcasting and engineering, Petulla says, “There are always openings, but you hire who you know.” When he was connecting people with only radio stations, he would say, “Give me your three favorite radio stations that you would love to work at.” He would then get the program director on the phone and offer money to train the client. He also made it clear that if the program director decided to hire the potential student, he would receive a bonus. “People complain to me,” Petulla says, “You’re paying them to hire your students, and I say, ‘Yeah, I am. What’s wrong with that?’ These program directors and chief engineers don’t need the money. But what I have found in doing this fifteen years is that people love to be teachers and mentors.” Petulla’s success with Radio Connection and Music Connection has convinced him to open the service up to other technical fields. Petulla is currently offering services in audio/video engineering as well as talent casting.