Nacor Zuluaga Beats the Odds at New York City's Engine Room Audio
Despite a language barrier that would have deterred some people, Recording Connection apprentice (extern) Nacor Zuluaga’s commitment to the craft of audio engineering not only gained the trust of his mentor, master engineer Mark Christensen, but also landed him a job working with his mentor long past his apprenticeship (externship)!
Nacor was slated to start audio engineering classes at a community college when he heard about the Recording Connection’s approach and the opportunity to learn from a professional in a real recording studio. At the last minute, he dropped his classes and switched to the Recording Connection.
He was placed with producer/engineer Mark Christensen at Engine Room Audio in NYC, one of the world’s busiest recording studios with clients that include Trey Songz, 50 Cent, Sia and many other top artists. But as an immigrant from Columbia, Nacor faced a hurdle with the language barrier. He understood enough English to sit in a classroom, but felt at a disadvantage with the idea of one-on-one interaction with a mentor, let alone working with the real clients coming into the studio.
“I did the interview with the studio manager in early January,” says Nacor, “and I told him I’d be back in a couple of months once my English is better. It was just more like a choice with me, taking some extra time to practice a little more [and] get a better conversational level.”
Taking the extra time to work on his language skills paid off, as did his dedication to the craft. Not long after Nacor started apprenticing (externing) under Mark Christensen, he earned enough of Mark’s trust to start sitting in on recording sessions as an engineering assistant. He began spending more and more time in the studio beyond his classes. “[Mark] opened the door for me to just be there as long as I wanted, but [only] after I gained or earned the trust,” says Nacor. “It wasn’t right off the bat, but maybe two months into the program I was able just to come in on call whenever there was something going on.”
And it didn’t end there. By learning on-the-job, Nacor was basically able to work himself into a job, staying on at Engine Room as an assistant engineer with Mark for nearly two years after he graduated, during which time he worked on records for numerous Platinum-selling artists!
Now working as a freelancer, Nacor still has strong ties with Engine Room Audio and still brings his own clients to the studio to record. Looking back, he realizes just what a great investment he made with his tuition, and the opportunities that learning in a real recording studio offered that a classroom never could. “I sat in a recording session a few months before I graduated,” he says, “and then I became the leading engineer of the project just a few months later. So I realized, man, that’s where all my [tuition] money went: just being able to sit in here, and then if I make the right moves and the right decisions, I can easily get this gig, or get involved in this project.”
And by the way—his English today is nearly flawless.