I was born/grew up in: Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador
I now live in: Hamilton, Ontario
I completed my training/education at: Preparing for a career in this field requires much more than what formal training can teach. I did study recording engineering at Recording Arts Canada and have a diploma in Audio Engineering. In many ways, my lifelong musical education and some post-secondary psychology courses prove more useful than the recording course.
What I do at work
I work in a professional recording studio (small business with only two employees). We work with musicians, bands, and artists to help bring their art to the world. I also run the business side of things (e.g., invoices, paying bills, etc.). We also maintain all of our own vintage audio equipment. This requires huge knowledge of electronic parts/operation, troubleshooting, and soldering skills. Our studio boasts some of the most sought-after vintage audio equipment in the country, most of which is all analog and very specialized.
Aside from knowing exactly how to run this specialized audio gear without having to think about it, we have to be able to troubleshoot it when something goes wrong. We also have to be able to fix it. And we have to do all this without causing stress to musicians/artists who may be in the middle of a very creative moment. Having onsite technical knowledge is key to our business survival. Working in an arts/music-based business is very tough financially. If we had to hire outside tradespeople to fix and/or troubleshoot the kind of equipment we have, we would have been bankrupt a LONG time ago!
In the studio, my job is to run all of that gear without making it seems like a stress. The real stress is dealing with people! Part of my job is to get creative, engaging performances out of the artists. The other part is crafting a song to sound a certain way without engaging in mental dispute or stress with that writer of that piece of music. The goal of our staff is to make what can be a very stressful process for people, an enjoyable one. We create an atmosphere of mental comfort, coziness, and freedom. We do all this while being technically fast, efficient and professional. We are very good at what we do!
My career path is
I think that one of the best things I got out of my certification program was access to people. We had a lot of music industry people come and do lectures and talks to our class. I took advantage of our close up access to these people by sending out resumes to some of them. One of those lecturers was Bob Doidge who is the owner of the studio where I now work and is now my colleague of 18 years.
I did a six-month internship here at Grant Avenue Studio. My original thought was that I would develop my skills and then move back to Newfoundland to open my own place. But I made myself completely indispensable and existing clients really liked me. That was 18 years ago! I’m still here and loving every minute of it! To date, I have been involved in over one thousand recording projects. The challenges in this field are endless. I have very little free time, very little money, and my own music has been completely back-burnered. Competition for work is also quite fierce. Doing a good job (with a positive outlook) keeps artists coming back.
I am motivated by
For me, any day working on music is a good one! Sure, it is stressful and creatively draining and frankly, the LAST thing I want to do at the end of my day is hear more music or even play one of my own instruments. However, having an artist leave my studio at the end of the day proud of something we've accomplished makes me happy. In this line of work is success is not at all measured by the size of one’s bank account. To me success is measured by doing a good job for people and treating their ideas like your own. Songs become an artists "baby" and we have to treat them like ours.
Every day of the week, I could be working on a different kind of music. For example, just last week, my Monday was a country-western band, Tuesday was opera, and Wednesday was heavy metal. Then Thursday was jazz, Friday was an Indigenous drum circle, and Saturday/Sunday was a gospel quartet. The different kinds of people involved is astounding. Honing my people skills was key early on and people are interesting (artists especially!)
I always knew I would do this - it was evident early on for me. The older I get, the more I look back at different things throughout my life that pointed me in this direction. It hasn't been easy, but if you are fortunate enough to spend your life doing something you're passionate about, you are truly blessed.
How I affect people’s lives
We take a person’s inner thoughts and creative ideas and turn them in to something that can be heard by other people. Many artists consider recording and releasing music a form of personal therapy. If something they create manages to touch even one person in a positive way, it is a success. Producers/engineers who are known for getting a specific sound are sought after to get that sound for others.
Outside of work I
I hike twice daily with my giant dog (who actually comes to the studio with me every day). Usually we do about ten miles. I spend so much time in my studio that time outdoors is key. After my sessions, I also completely stay off electronic devices (I get enough of that at work!) I do a lot of volunteer work for the homeless population in our city.
My advice to others
If you want to be a recording engineer, you may need to redefine your definition of success. If you are female, don't be intimidated. Recording is still a very male-dominated field (although it is slowly changing). Ask advice of people in the industry that you know because every recording environment is different as is every engineer/producers back-story. My biggest piece of advice is to stick with it - it won't be easy, in fact, it will be difficult, and it will be worth it!