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Building a successful career in nearly any worthwhile industry requires commitment, work, and learning and evolving over time. Individuals with the right mindset are working when others are playing, they’re connecting when others are checking out, and they’re making dreams into reality, step-by-step. Recording Connection mentor, Sharrief Thomas knows all about having the right mindset and working his way into success. A musical artist, writer, producer, and engineer, Sharrief is a veritable powerhouse that’s always on the go, with project after project lined up, one after the other. So much so, in fact that he connected with Recording Connection through a project he was working on with another Recording Connection mentor–Sax DMA at Quad Studios in New York — and ultimately transitioned into being a mentor himself:
“I was approached by one of my other partners, Sax DMA, how has a lot to do with engineering lots known people, like Wu-Tang and Missy Elliot at Quad Studios. So we got together one day and I said, ‘What if you use me as an artist for one of your engineering students. I’ll come in, record, work on my album. And then, I’ll give one or two students that do the best [work] credit on my album.’… It was a great idea. We even had to turn down kids that wanted to join. So then, I said, ‘Okay, so now what we’re going to do is, we’re going bring in some of my friends to record.’ So, I had Big Bub come through. He had a couple of platinum records and stuff like that. I had him come in. Then I had Sky Heavens, the backup singer for Eminem, she’s working on her album, so I had her come in, and do a song with the students.”
Now, as a full-fledged mentor, Sharrief is continuing paying it forward by helping students hone their chops, gain skills, and plan for their futures in the music industry from his studio and business, Water Music Publishing, in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Sharrief has also partnered with Big Bub, also a Recording Connection mentor, singer, and producer, who also just released a new track with Snoop Dogg. Together, Shaffief Thomas and Big Bub are in perfect position to help students achieve a real world understanding of the inner workings of music production and to gain traction as they launch their careers. Etiquette plays a big part in all of it.
It’s not just your technical knowhow or your talent as an engineer that will helps you land most jobs, it’s your interpersonal skills and your connections. Smart apprentices will place great a amount of value on assisting the engineers and producers they work with and treating everyone within the studio environment with respect. Sadly, young, driven engineers can talk themselves out of the running for jobs because of the fact that they just don’t know how to communicate with people on a professional level.
When asked to share his insights on how one should handle themselves within the recording environment, Sharrief is one who prefers apprentices who are helpful, alert, and aware of their position in the pecking order. Such awareness keeps things running smoothly and avoids confusion. He says, “Have a great attitude. No matter what goes on, just have a great attitude…Do not open your mouth unless they ask you a question or what do you think. You’re there to just watch and pay attention, because it’s a live session going on and you don’t have a right to say something to the engineer…He needs to stay focused. If you’re a student, you just need to pay attention. Don’t just be playing music in there (the studio). I had a situation with guys playing their own music during a live session, and when the artist was in the booth. He could hear the other music instead of the music he recorded…That is a really big no-no. You should be honored that an artist even allows students in their sessions. Take notes. And then when that session is over, then you can go and talk to the engineer. You’re students. You’re there to learn and watch. Not to comment. Not to start rapping. And definitely not to try to tell the artist what they should do.”
Building successful career in music requires patience, tenacity, and lots of hard work. It also requires knowing how to assist those who are higher up on the chain of command. Handling oneself professionally and letting your actions speak louder than your words can take you places sooner than talking a big game. Be dependable, passionate, and ready to make the most of every single opportunity that comes your way. Show pros like Sharrief that you’re dedicated to the craft and they’ll know you’re someone they can trust and rely on. Keep your eye on the prize and know you’re working towards something great every day. Absorb. Learn. Make it happen.