It's Training Camp For The Music Business

August 4, 2008 –

(Manchester, CT) The allure of becoming a songwriter or a music producer has drawn many to chase their dreams of making it in the recording industry.

While opportunities are limited in Connecticut, Cat Evans has landed in a program that is helping her make the break from a classical background to contemporary music production.

Evans, 21, of North Haven, has joined the producer development program at Onyx Soundlab in Manchester, where students learn production techniques, ear training and song structuring and get lessons on how to shop music to record labels and production companies.

“I have been playing piano since I was four,” said Evans, who had an internship with Atlantic Records in Los Angeles before moving back to Connecticut. “It’s tough to break from my classical training, but I want to be my own working producer. I don’t really want to be the person on stage.”

Onyx set her up with personal production equipment at her home. Her experience on the piano is invaluable, said Adam Gootkin, who opened Onyx with Peter Kowalczyk in 2005. One can’t produce music if they can’t play, Goodkin added.

The two producers have launched a program to train people in all aspects of the music industry.

“We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from people who were looking for a job, had a fancy degree but couldn’t do anything,” Gootkin said. “Half the work we do is for major recording labels, some is for film and television, and we can’t have people working here that can’t get the job done.”

The shortcomings of potential hires led to an epiphany for the duo. The studio transformed its informal training into a formal program in four disciplines — audio engineering, music production, singing and songwriting and voice acting.

The new recording school plans to accept 10 students a year into each of the four programs, which can run from three months to two years.

The sound lab has an odd mix of students, ranging from college students supplementing their undergraduate work to graduates looking to further their education to those in their 40s and 50s attempting to break into a voice or acting field.

“It’s very cool because you’re not sitting in a classroom listening about how sound waves hit a microphone,” Gootkin said. “You’re learning the practical way of doing things.”

Onyx’s latest project is producing background music for a cartoon.

“Connecticut has a burgeoning music and film scene, and we feel this is a great time to give Connecticut residents the opportunity to get into the business without having to leave the state,” Kowalczyk said.

While state tax credits have already boosted the Connecticut film industry, a recent bid for legislation to get tax credits for audio projects fell short.

Doug Kupper, president of Tapeworks Inc. in Hartford, said the volume of film-related sound work has not been affected by the tax credits.

When actor Ernie Sabella, better known to children as the voice of Pumbaa from the Lion King, was in the Hartford studio to record an animated episode in June, it wasn’t because of tax credits, Kupper said. “It’s what we’ve always done,” he added.

But like his Onyx Soundlab counterparts, Kupper has seen firsthand strong interest from local students trying to get their foot in the door.

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