I have spent 10+ years at Purchase now and I’m happy to say that teaching still feels new and exciting for me. I suppose that makes sense when you factor in the percentage of a 35+-year career this represents. These faculty reviews are interesting, for me they become a time to think big thoughts and “take stock”, learning ways to improve both as a teacher and now as program coordinator and area chair. My reviews help me plan in a more “zoomed out” way as I continue to learn more about structuring coursework. I am grateful for the input of friends and peers at school through this process. After my last review I took to heart the comments on my syllabi; more detail and weekly planning have been added moving forward, this additional organization has helped greatly with planning classes! Also helpful are the student evaluations, while students can and do write “silly stuff” sometimes I am still able to get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t and/or things I may harp on too often in class (my favorite new toys and so on).
Taking yet another step back this summer I’ve been considering how the professional side of my career, the technological innovations and industry shift relate to my academic programs at Purchase. While certainly a piano is still a piano and a major scale still a major scale what a recording studio was and has now become is quite different. For that matter what a modern composer / producer / engineer is now and what they need to know by the time they leave Purchase changes so very quickly now. Certainly the basics and theory remain the same. The challenge becomes staying relevant and keeping facilities up-to-date while tracking and relating processes, coursework and theory to the countless new genres, sub-genres and stylistic approaches in contemporary music production.
A healthy diet of artistic and aesthetic learning balanced by the technical knowledge required to accomplish one’s goals is my ultimate desire for all of our conservatory students. Ultimately the technology piece needs to become second nature, as invisible (as possible) to the creative process. Just as a composer needs to “know” what note they’re thinking of without “pecking around” interminably on the keyboard, a modern engineer/composer must be able to quickly get the “sound that‘s in their head” before the creative spark dies out. This concept can be applied to so many areas ranging from the ergonomics of large-scale studio design or live system design to the simplest of laptop composing set-ups. We must develop a technical workflow that is as transparent as possible, staying “out of the way” of the creative process.
So, what we’ve ended up developing at Purchase is really a two-sided curriculum, one side static with theory and basic skills. The second the ever-changing “current” stuff, the technology, style / genres, even new legal and business precedents and so on. Best practices and workflows are things that change constantly and are explored, taught and challenged. Ideally our students settle in to become life-long learners, they too must “go with the flow” as I am proud to have done, my faculty as well. Our students are taught to embrace the new digital reality while understanding our analog roots.
I am coordinator of the Music And Technology (M&T) division in the Conservatory Of Music, we have two programs; Studio Composition and Studio Production. As coordinator of Music And Technology and chair of Studio Production I make certain that my new faculty bring their professional lives into the classroom. In my student reviews I have noted that favorite classes with me are often when I share “works in progress” with my students. Whether it be mixing, mastering, film scoring or even studio design work, we show, tell, discuss etc and they truly value these “real world” experiences and examples.
In many cases I am able to involve guests from my professional world with classes, discussing “what we’re up to together”. We have had visits from; Danny Kortchmar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Don Henley), Gerry Leonard (David Bowie, Suzanne Vega), Dragan Cacinovic (DMX, Stiles P), Roger Glover (of Deep Purple), Paul Reed Smith (world famous guitar builder/musician), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Dixie Dregs), Pablo Arraya (Beyonce, U2, Madonna) and Cole Porter Award winning playwright/songwriter Benjamin Scheuer among many, many others.
My entire faculty includes students in their professional world in one-way or another, whether as interns or simply with in-class materials relating to recent professional projects. This fosters a dynamic and relevant experience, two quick examples;
Silas Brown, multiple Grammy award-winning engineer is one of our new full timers, I chaired the search committee that hired him. Silas often brings Purchase students along on his professional recordings- as a result we have students that can include “assistant on Grammy winning recording” on their own professional resumes before they even receive their undergrad degree!
Carl Sturken, who I have teaching Songwriting I&II wrote and produced music for Rhianna and Christina Aquilera among many others, he has sold more than 60 million records worldwide. Carl has secured publishing deals for at least two of our students with Universal Music (one of the largest publishers in the world). This while these students were still in school!
I am extremely proud of our student success rate in such a competitive and fast-changing industry. Recent graduate Mitski has been wonderfully successful of late and nearly always mentions our programs in interviews. Mitski follows a long line of successful artists/producers/composers/musicians that have graduated from Music & Technolgy, including Swear & Shake, nearly all of Ingrid Michelson’s band and their producer Dan Romer, the chief engineer at Electric Lady Studios- Phil Joly, mixer Gregory Dunn, recent #1 pop record writer/producer Mikey Fresh, Regina Spektor and so on. We have had production students continue on at Yale studying theatrical sound design with full scholarships as well as students move on to NYU, McGill and many other prestigious grad programs. I hope to add a Studio Production grad division to Purchase in the years to come so we can keep these talented people “in-house”!
Our Music And Technology programs have become one of the major funnel points for authentic and original talent in the Northeast. I am proud to have been a part of developing this, carrying the Purchase torch forward, helping these talented students find their way.
In modern day music, individuals no longer specialize in just one instrument, or just one aspect of music writing & production, they must become “multimedia musical entrepreneurs”, these are the people we now teach and turn out into the world. A young songwriter (in Studio Composition) is expected to not only write and help produce their own songs, but also record their material, package it, make video content and help market it online. A young producer (in Studio Production) in addition to understanding traditional recording and production techniques across multiple genres must now gain experience with live production, streaming media content and video editing to be relevant in today’s market. These ideas are front and center as we plan and tweak our curriculum across both programs in M&T.
I currently teach Digital Audio I&II, Advanced Studio Production I&II, Studio Production and Studio Composition Master Classes, Seminar in Studio Design (grad level), Seminar in Mixing and Engineering (grad level) and manage and grade our Studio Production Junior and Senior projects.
I have completely re-designed the syllabi for all of my courses and coordinate content across the entire production major with faculty to both avoid redundancy as well as make sure any reinforcement of core knowledge exists where appropriate. The graduate seminars have been developed from scratch (and content is rather dynamic in reality - depending on each cohorts skillset). When I began teaching at Purchase many classes basically taught the same thing, the low hanging fruit “this is a microphone” kind of stuff. This frustrated students and was a prime concern as I re-tooled curriculum.
I have also taught existing classes History of Recorded Music, Creative Production Techniques and Film Scoring II (this for several years) in each case developing my own syllabus (see CV for complete list please).
Professional activity (recent work):
Live production design for two touring concert systems (this is new for me the last few years). I continue to serve as senior engineer in the development of two all-digital, self contained “SingleSystem” touring and recording systems, a concept I helped pioneer. With these I often participate as front of house mix engineer too (FOH/Audio 1) mixing many shows.
Live production with this set-up in the last year has included three major US / Canada theater tours as well as two UK/EU tours. Also Livestream/live recording integration on many dates including content for Deezer, FaderFort (SXSW) including the first ever 4K LiveStream concert, Paard van Troje, Den Haag (Holland), The Eaux Claire Festival and more (see my CV for list). “This SingleSystem” rig has ALSO been used for tracking album work and several live “art+music video” shoot set-ups
Mastering for three Alex Da Kid projects by XAmbassadors mixed by Manny Marroquin for Universal Records, (XAmbassadors recently had a top 40 hit with “Renegades”), Mastering for “Highspeeds” by Elliot Moss, #1 iTunes chart topper in many countries, nearing gold sales internationally. Mastering for new Lauryn Hill single, more mastering for Northern National, Paul Reed Smith, The Shake, The Henry Millers, and many others.
Producer/engineer/mixer Tony McManus - ‘Mysterious Boundaries’ “the best Celtic guitarist in the world” according to John Renbourn. Tony tackles Bach’s Chaconne amongst other impossible pieces on guitar
Producer/engineer/mixer for best album nominee; BBC Folk Awards, Martin Simpson – ‘Vagrant Stanzas’ (Martin also nominated for musician of the year in the UK as result)
Producer/engineer/mixer/guitar on PRS Band release with Brent Mason, Chris Leuzinger, Randy Boland, Michael Ault, Paul Reed Smith, Gary and Greg Grainger, Mia Samone and more
Producer/engineer for 10 years+ of Peak Performance series recorded at Acme Studios, with recent programs featuring Guster, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Portugal The Man, Serena Ryder, Lissie, Bobby Long, Walk Off The Earth, The Lone Bellow, Phil Phillips, The Wild Feathers, Milo Greene, Amos Lee, Neil Finn (Crowded House), KT Tunstall, Government Mule (Warren Haynes), Foy Vance, Silversun Pickups, Frank Turner, Rebecca Haviland and Whiskey Heart, Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Engineer/mixer for PRS Metropolitan Museum of Art performances / recordings with Paul Reed Smith, John Mclaughlin and Ricky Skaggs.
Many of our students have shared time with me on professional projects. Students have helped on sessions with internationally renowned artists including; The Barenaked Ladies, Jason Mraz, The Wallflowers, Dream Theater, OAR, The Fray, Chris Issak, KT Tunstall, Warren Haynes, Feist, Chris Barron and many others. Mentoring students on my own projects lightens the load on Purchase’s overbooked rooms and offers a far broader range of experience.
Consulting for studio and facilities design with recent work including;
Recording studio and integration with recital hall 3rd Street Music Settlement / NYC
Multi room studio complex for Passaic Community College / NJ
Paul Graf / private studio / Brewster NY
In my 10+ years at Purchase I have served on countless committees, certainly more than “required” of me (still do, I served on committees when just a lecturer and IC even where no service was required). I have volunteered entire summers to facilitate six figure donations and to rebuild / re-wire facilities. I organized the six figure Bright family donation and with the improvements from this actually brought new scholarship opportunities for our students (the ONLY scholarship opportunities for M&T); With the equipment chosen by me for studio “A” Purchase students then became eligible for the “API Visionary Award” scholarship. Justin Rhody was the most recent Studio Production student to be awarded this, Jacob Rosse a couple of years back. (see http://www.apiaudio.com/nw_3040.html ).
Beyond the usual committee work I have championed upgraded acoustic treatments for the school’s recording facilities, many built as part of my own master classes and with special seminars I organized in the past with acoustician Lawrence Swist (he donated time for this as well). We now have 7 functional lab/studios, up from four when I began teaching, all have been completely wired, re-wired, renovated and brought “up to spec” by me with donated time over breaks. It’s time to run through these again now (sigh) I realize with my zoomed out hat on!
I have designed cost effective “Smart Carts” for four of our CoM classrooms, filling the needs for technology courses in advance of CTS revamps down the road. We were simply out of space for many classes that required technology before this.
Last year I contributed my own studio and freelance time to archive materials for Sylvia Marx, I have helped Emily Grant with electric piano donations and secured sundry smaller equipment/service donations in years past from Roger Glover, Chris Barron, ACME studios, SHURE, Waves, PRS and many others.
Last summer I donated professional time to help the tech services (student) coordinator reorganize and test the audio system in the student center.
This summer ’16 Barry Pearson connected us with Bruce Willis’ people and I organized and picked up a large donation of equipment for the CoM, Design Tech and Student Center. I organized the trucking as well as additional faculty volunteers to help.
I continue to work 12/months a year as coordinator/chair (you just have to focus year round frankly regardless of any actual contract, our programs require this kind of attention).
For a more complete list of service please refer to that section of my CV (as much as I can remember is in there though I’m sure I’ve missed some)
As head of two areas I have mounted successful searches and continue to populate my areas with people both full time and adjunct I feel we can be excited to have at Purchase, people like Silas Brown, Jakub Ciupinski, Carl Sturken, Rebecca Haviland, Daryl Tookes, Doron Schachter, Chris Barron, Mark Schwartz, Pablo Arraya and so on.
Until recently I chaired Studio Composition as well, it is with my new hire for that department, Jakub Ciupinski that we have set-up the Purchase Orchestra Electric. A large ensemble with collaboration across many majors including visual artists, musicians, new media and anyone we can get involved staging new music as the first M&T orchestral ensemble. I have organized equipment funding and help coordinate the tech side of this along with Silas Brown. The YouTube trailer for this is in the links section of my portfolio.
There is a level of excitement, commitment, constant change, pride and involvement that makes finding time for any “more stuff” a challenge. While infinitely rewarding spiritually… financially the “teaching gig” just doesn’t pay the bills. On the one hand this serves us well since it keeps faculty involved professionally, on the other, between work, school and raising a family the higher education part of my own life simply had to fall last on the priority list. I have begun pecking away at a masters with a concentration in streaming technologies and music production, however this will not be completed anytime soon at this rate. I have checked numerous times with several Purchase colleagues and was assured (by all) that this did not matter with regard to my academic advancement or tenure, equivalent professional experience and so on being cited.
I am very happy at Purchase and hope to continue for many years to come. The “balance” for my teaching vs professional life seems to have arrived and I enthusiastically look forward to more!