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Mix Masters

Initiative offers certification in audio production software

uccess in the recorded music industry calls for a musician’s ear, an entrepreneur’s spirit and an engineer’s eye for detail. Now students in Cal U’s commercial music technology program can add another piece to their portfolio: certification in Pro Tools software, the industry standard for recording, editing and mixing music and sound. Under an agreement inked this spring, California University has become an AVID Learning Partner, an educational provider for AVID-brand products, including Pro Tools. “In music, audio, TV or sports broadcasting, Pro Tools is the industrystandard digital audio workstation,” says Gregory Davis, an instructor in the Music Department and an AVID Certified Instructor. The film industry uses it, too. For the last nine years, every Academy Award nominee in the sound editing category has utilized the Pro Tools system. “Cal U is the only four-year college or university in Pennsylvania to offer Pro Tools certification,” says Max Gonano, chair of the Music Department. “This is definitely a career-builder for our students.”

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there’s a reason it’s called the recording arts ... we’re instructing students in music first, then teaching them to use the computer as a tool in a creative environment.

GREGORY DAVIS COMMERCIAL MUSIC TECHNOLOGY INSTRUCTOR

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Rich Baur (left) uses Pro Tools software to edit Daeshawn Ballard's digital audio tracks.

Commercial music technology students already are using the software as part of their digital audio instruction. The department outfitted a lab with basic Pro Tools workstations to support the commercial music technology (CMT) major, which debuted in 2010. A studio with more advanced Pro Tools recording and editing equipment sits nearby in Gallagher Hall. Last summer Davis trained at The Center for Pro Tools in Orlando, Fla., an AVID certified training location. After rigorous testing, he was certified as an instructor at the User, Operator and Expert levels. “Having a certified Pro Tools instructor at Cal U opens doors for our students,” Gonano says. Starting in fall 2012, all commercial music technology students will be able to train under Davis’ guidance, following strict guidelines outlined by AVID. Hands-on experience with the software system will continue as

they pursue their studies. Before they graduate, CMT students will have the opportunity to take the Pro Tools certification test, a task-oriented exam designed by AVID and administered by Cal U. “Passing the exam proves that our students are proficient,” Gonano says. “It’s a third-party endorsement that really means something in this industry. “With this certification, our graduates can walk into any studio and show that they’re ready to go to work.”

Analog before digital With multiple computer monitors and a professional quality mixing board, Cal U’s digital recording studio is tantalizing, but CMT students don’t start there. They are first and foremost musicians who must audition for the program and prove themselves as performers on at least one musical instrument. Before they set foot in the studio, CMT students spend plenty of time in the practice rooms.


“We’re training musicians,” Gonano stresses. “There’s more to this than pushing buttons. The studio itself is another creative tool.” He describes the ideal commercial music technology student as an “artist-techie-entrepreneur” equipped with musical skills, computer savvy and good business sense. Working with digital audio is just one part of the CMT package. “There’s a reason it’s called the recording arts,” Davis says. “We’re instructing students in music first, then teaching them to use the computer as a tool in a creative environment.” Students begin recording with analog equipment, using microphones and reel-to-reel or cassette tape recorders that capture sounds with a high degree of authenticity. Once they master the basics, students learn to record, edit and manipulate digital sound. “On any given day, students are down in the music building jamming, recording, discussing music or technology. It's just such a great environment to work in,” says Matthew Poirier, a rising junior and a CMT major. “Learning analog technology is super important, because it is what all the digital things are based on. A lot of people just start with computers and don't realize exactly what’s going on when they click a button or move a fader. Learning the analog gear first helps you grasp the concepts. “It’s one more advantage we will have when we graduate.”

Training institute Like many musicians, sound engineers often are freelancers. Spotting opportunities is part of their job. In keeping with that entrepreneurial

spirit, the Music Department is developing plans for a Pro Tools Institute. Designed to generate revenue, the institute would offer coursework and AVID certification exams for industry professionals. With the technology currently in place, and Davis as a certified instructor, the University could offer Pro Tools courses leading to User certification. Eventually, a facilities upgrade might enable Cal U to offer Pro Tools Operator and Expert certification, as well. “This is not training for novices, but certification for people who already are working with this system,” Gonano explains. With the rise of the region’s film industry and the number of music studios within a day’s drive of California, he envisions a robust market for the institute’s offerings. Training at summertime sessions or extended weekend classes would offer the same high-quality instruction provided to Cal U students. “Of course we’ll follow the Pro Tools formula, but we don’t want this to be a series of cookie-cutter-type classes,” Davis says. “We want to make sure there is a little more personality in the instruction.” Plans call for the institute to begin by offering weekend recording workshops that introduce the Pro Tools system. By summer 2013, Davis expects a series of certification courses to be in place. “It’s such a rapidly evolving trade that it only makes sense to have the technology developing just as quickly,” Poirier says. “Learning this technology really gives you the edge when you go to look for a job.” ■

Daeshawn Ballard

What is Commercial Music Technology? The Bachelor of Science in Commercial Music Technology is an interdisciplinary program that draws on the expertise of Cal U faculty in the departments of Music, Communication Studies, Applied Engineering and Technology, Theatre and Dance, Communication Disorders, and Business. Applicants must be proficient in at least one musical instrument and enter the program by audition. The CMT program prepares students to work as recording and broadcast engineers, digital composers and arrangers, sound mixers, TV and audio producers, and videogame engineers — all aspects of a recorded music industry estimated to contribute $10.4 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

By Christine Kindl, communications director at Cal U

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Commercial Music Spotlight  

Commerial music program spotlight on the Focus On section of the Cal U Review.