High school musicians experience studio recording, thanks to Edmonds CC and local foundations

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Hemmed in by echo-deadening sound barriers, the MTHS orchestra performs their rendition of Gustav Holtz’s St. Paul’s Suite. The various microphones above pick up the performance from the different orchestra sections, allowing the EdCC student sound engineers in the upstairs booth to perform their mixing magic and produce a final studio recording.

A group of more than 20 orchestra students from Mountlake Terrace High School got a special holiday treat on Wednesday afternoon at Edmonds Community College’s sound studio as they participated in Edmonds Sessions, a program designed to give local high school music students the chance to bring their talents off the performing stage and into the recording studio.

The group, under the direction of MTHS orchestra teacher Jennifer Schillen, crowded into what used to be a music room in the college’s Mill Creek Hall, but has now been converted into the college’s Music and Audio Production recording studio.

EdCC violin, viola and chamber music instructor Pamela Liu gives the students tips on how to get the most out of the production studio.

With help from Pamela Liu, EdCC violin, viola and chamber music instructor, the students learned some of the special techniques and tricks to make top-quality studio recordings, which are often a world apart from live performances.

“Don’t play that open E,” admonished Liu. “It just overpowers everything else in the recording. And watch for any extraneous noise. Even adjusting your music stand can get picked up by the microphones.”

Dr. Nick Sibicky, who heads up the college’s Music and Audio Production program, provides hands-on help in running the equipment that mixes the various tracks into a final studio-quality recording.

Run by 11-year EdCC music instructor Dr. Nick Sibicky, the Music and Audio Production program is designed to grant both certificates and AA degrees to college students looking to work in sound engineering and audio production.

On Wednesday, the MTHS orchestra provided the raw material, performing Gustav Holtz’s St. Paul’s Suite. Strategically-placed microphones around the room picked up the music from the orchestra’s various sections, recording each on a separate track. Sibicky’s students then went on to mix and edit the various tracks into a professional-quality studio CD that they will present to the orchestra members.

EdCC student Darwin Angeles adjusts the various aspects of the dozen tracks recorded during the MLT orchestra’s performance in the studio.

“They were playing for maybe 10 minutes,” said Sibicky. “But that’s just the beginning.  Depending on the vagaries of the raw recordings, the mixing and editing process varies from being relatively straightforward to requiring hours and sometimes even days of work to get it just right.”

In addition to studio recording experience, the MTHS orchestra members got a window on the programs offered at the college and a first-hand chance to see what it might be like to attend after graduation.

The Edmonds Session program is run by the college with support from the Hubbard Family Foundation and the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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