Recording Connection mentor Joel Valera on Learning Everything
Recording Connection mentor Joel Valera (Krayzie Bone, Andre Paganelli, Audible) is not one to mince words. If you ask him what he looks for in anyone he accepts as an extern, he’ll tell you having an open mind and being willing to learn what it takes to work in multiple genres is of paramount importance. That’s often the reality of working in audio. If there’s a need, you should be capable of meeting it with a solid, well-rounded skillset.
Thanks to Joel’s can-do attitude, his One Music Studios (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. So much so, that he’s now in his second, larger location where he records and produces music across the musical spectrum, from funk to reggaeton, jazz to rock, hip hop to pop, worship music, and beyond. He also does audio for television, radio stations, and various media outlets, making Joel a multifaceted powerhouse with ample knowledge to share.
We recently caught up with Joel between sessions to learn more about his experiences, the qualities he looks for in those he trains, and to talk about one student who’s running sessions on his own just weeks into the Audio Engineering & Music Production Program.
What got you into music in the first place?
“I got into music because of my mom. She forced me to learn music. I grew up in a Christian family and the music at the church was pretty awful. My mom was like, ‘You guys are going to have to do something to improve this. So she forced me and my brother to actually go and take music lessons with the purpose of making music for church. Then, we learned how to play one instrument, then the next one, and then the next one, and so it became an addiction to know music. So me and my brother, we’re capable of playing, six, seven instruments because of that. And it all comes down to our mama that forced us to start learning music. Then we loved it and nobody could stop us.”
We hear you’ve been extremely busy there at One Music Studios. What’s been going on?
“We recently partnered up with a heavy duty, Grammy award-winning mixing engineer (Tom Malkiewicz) who is making our lives way easier… We are doing a lot of recordings right now, a lot of editing and mixing. So I think this will be a great time for any extern to come in because there’s a lot of hours, a lot of hands-on. Sometimes we have two and three sessions going on at the same time. It’s a great opportunity for anybody who comes to get their hands on the preamps, on the compressors. I don’t want to brag, but I think we’re doing something right.”
What’s your approach to mentorship?
“My approach is to make sure that they learn, and they know their stuff, and they don’t go to Google trying to find the answer. [Instead], they go back to the book and find the answer. Because unfortunately, anybody could post anything online. But you want to go back to a trustworthy source that you feel, ‘Okay this is right.’ And that’s my approach. My approach is use what you learn, use it right, and do it right the first time. That’s what I want for the people that come to learn from me. Do it right and don’t fool around. Don’t play producer. Don’t play big shot. You’re here to learn. Just learn.”
So Recording Connection student Adrian Lopez has stood out to you. What has he been doing right?
“Well, something that Adrian is doing is that he’s doing a lot of hours. I think that’s what is allowing him to excel…He wants to keep on coming on his own time, and I’ve got no problem with letting him come more hours. So far he is capable to run a few sessions by himself, which is, of course, impressive. He’s pretty much running the show.
And that’s an excellent experience. I have an intern from another company that already graduated from one of these very expensive schools from L.A. and he cannot run the show. He has the title, he has everything, but he doesn’t have the experience. Adrian has maybe six lessons in, but he’s already running the show for an audio podcast that we’re doing. He did a podcast by himself with a customer, a client that I had. People love him because he was able to place the mics properly, the audio was fine. And I was there, it’s just that I wanted him to run the podcast and do it right, and he just did it right. So I would say the key reason why he’s doing so good is because he’s willing to put in the studio hours…He doesn’t mind to get his hands dirty and roll cables. He’s already placing microphones for drum sessions… He doesn’t cry out if I tell him ‘That’s incorrect.’ He says, ‘Okay, how do I do it right?’ So he’s willing to learn.”
So what do you look for in the students you train?
“The key is to be willing to learn everything. I think that that’s what makes the difference. Some people just want to record hip hop and that’s the only thing they care about. Okay, fine, but that’s not what this program (Audio Engineering & Music Production) is about…If they show the dedication and also that they’re learning, that they can do it, come on. Come in. I’ll give you hours. Do it! Get your hands-on, touch the equipment. You’ve got to learn. Okay, that’s what I’m here for, to make sure you do it right.”
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