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Music Connection: Recording School Articles, Spin Records
By Craig Combs, Staff Writer Behind every great CD is a great recording engineer. Despite the glamour of a global music act with a multi-platinum album, the competition to be the engineer on such a project can be nearly as fierce as being the artist. Those who want to work with the top recording studios, or any studio for that matter, find themselves in a Catch-22: You can’t work without experience and you can’t get experience without work. A degree from a university is next to useless. Most schools can only afford to train students on outdated equipment, and many studio managers fear the bad studio habits that can develop in the academic environment. Enter the Music Connection. James Petulla founded the Music Connection in Los Angeles in 1984 with the vision of giving students both a comprehensive curriculum and hands-on work experience through an externship program. Fifteen years later, that vision is validated with each graduate of the Music Connection who lands a job with a studio. “People go to school, spend US $15,000 to $20,000, then they graduate and are faced with the poorest job prospects,” says Petulla with an infectious enthusiasm. “Then they have to intern! I get you into a real studio, with a real curriculum and charge you US $4,000. I split that with the studio where you extern. You intern while you go to school, not afterwards.” Petulla estimates that while only 10% of graduates from a purely academic course of study are able to secure a job right out of school, more than 80% of the graduates from the Music Connection land a job with the studio where they intern. “People complain to me ‘You’re paying companies to hire your students!’ I say ‘Yes I am. What’s wrong with that?’ These program directors and chief engineers don’t necessarily need the money, but what I have found in 15 years is that people love to be mentors.” Another advantage is that students do not have to live near the school to attend. The Music Connection has affiliations with over 5,000 studios nationwide and will provide a prospective student with an externship near their home so that relocation is not necessary. Nor is full-time study required; for many who want to get into the field of sound engineering, a paying job simply isn’t optional. Part-time and night school courses at the Music Connection allow students to work while they intern at a studio. In addition to an Audio Certification, graduates receive a year of job placement assistance. The Recording Engineer course tuition is US $8,400; financing is available. There is also a Radio and Television Broadcasting course (for which graduates obtain a FCC Broadcast License) as well as a Film and Television externship program. There is no fee if the student is not placed with a mentor. “I know from my own experience that this is the absolute best way to learn recording,” says John Lawson, owner of John Lawson Productions. “The real world experience is priceless, and the fact that the studio has a financial interest in the student is fantastic.”