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Music students mix it up in recording studio

When students in CSU Monterey Bay’s Music and Performing Arts Department enrolled in an advanced audio production class in 2013, they were signing up for the opportunity to work on a real-world project.

Recording console in the Music HallEight students helped to record an album of experimental music, under the direction of faculty member Lanier Sammons.

Dr. Sammons served as producer of the album, iv: American electric guitars by Giacomo Fiore, a collection of four pieces by contemporary American composers. Dr. Fiore, a former lecturer at CSUMB, was awarded a New Music USA grant to fund the album’s mastering, pressing and distribution. It will be released digitally and on vinyl on July 31. That night, Dr. Fiori will celebrate the release with a concert at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.

“As producer, my role was to oversee the sessions and work with Giacomo on content and quality,” Dr. Sammons said. “The students served as both recording engineers and mixing engineers. It was very hands-on for them.”

Part of the setup for the recording sessionsThe album was recorded over three sessions in the Music Hall, each lasting about four hours. Students were behind the console – with plenty of glowing lights – and ran the Pro Tools software. They were responsible for setting and monitoring levels, sound quality and other technical details. They interacted with the artist as well.

Dr. Sammons estimates that approximately 65 percent of music majors at CSUMB are in the recording technology concentration. They start with a class called Music and Computers, then advance through a series of classes that involve recording and mixing. They also take traditional music classes – in history, theory and performance. “It’s still very much a bachelor of arts in music,” Dr. Sammons said.

Math and computer science courses are relevant and helpful, he said, as well as electronic engineering knowledge. “We often talk about the physics of sounds and go into a little detail about the inner workings of the gear.

“Ultimately, however, the music background is usually the most important for recording engineers.”

Giacomo FioreFor the most part, graduates of the program aim to be engineers in studios. “It’s a very competitive field, but our alumni seem to be doing well,” Dr. Sammons said.

The album’s liner notes list Collin Atkinson, Bobby Guinvarch, Zak Coffey, Andrew Hardesty, Drew Lassen, Kevin Leinhard, Orion Navaille and Rolan Terrazas as engineers. The album was mixed by Atkinson and Navaille.

Learn more about the Music and Performing Arts Department at CSUMB

Learn more about Giacomo Fiore (pictured above, photo courtesy of the artist)