JOHNSTOWN - Students at the HFM BOCES Career & Tech Center are learning to record and edit sound on the same kind of equipment and software used by professional studios.
Over the last two years, digital multimedia and communications program teacher Phil Schuyler and his students have converted what was previously a storage closet into a high-caliber recording studio, decked out with microphones, headphones, mixing board, monitors, electric drum kit and guitars, all cocooned in soundproofing material to minimize the noise audible in neighboring classrooms.
"I have a small studio in my house, but nothing like this," says Nolan Lane, a junior from Fonda-Fultonville High School who is enrolled in the BOCES program and plays in a rock band called Sent for Sin. "This is top-of-the-line gear. I can go home and use what I've learned here at home in my own projects."
Students Peter Lomanto of Amsterdam and Nolan Lane of Fonda work the controls in the new sound studio at the HFM?BOCES?Career &?Tech Center. The studio offers students in the center’s digital multimedia program the chance to work with cutting-edge software on a variety of projects. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
Ian Warner of Gloversville prepares to sing into a microphone at the recording studio Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
Lane and some of his classmates in Schuyler's class - Ian Warner of Gloversville, Amber Morey of Fonda, and Peter Lomanto and Mike Valenti of Amsterdam - talked with The Leader-Herald this week about the studio and how it might help them in their future careers.
The bottom line is jobs, says Valenti. Potential employers will hire engineers and technicians based on their knowledge of cutting-edge software, and the Career & Tech Center students work with the latest versions of programs including Adobe Audition and Pro Tools, which is used by most professional recording studios. The software is upgraded every school year.
"Every year, we get the newest - the very newest - software," Lane said.
"It keeps you ready for the job market," Lomanto said.
On Tuesday, Lane and Lomanto demonstrated the use of the mixing board and recording software, pumping out a funky beat while Warner improvised some vocals. Completely at ease with the controls, they made the recording process seem simple.
But "this is not easy," Lomanto says, pointing out the students have gained confidence over time in the studio.
The digital multimedia and communications program has 80 students - 40 juniors and 40 seniors - hailing from several school districts within the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services' region. The students spend two hours each weekday at BOCES, the juniors in the morning and the seniors in the afternoon.
The program is popular with students, Schuyler says, partly because they get excited about working with the technology available.
"We have 40 seats, and for the last five years, they've been full," he said. "If you're innovative, and you're trying to do new things, and you're showing it in the community, that'll help. That's really helped us."
Schuyler shares the teaching responsibilities with Andy Huth. Schuyler, a former Northville Central School music teacher who performs with a local rock band, focuses on video and music production, while Huth, who has an art-education background, teaches photography and graphic design.
Students get art and music credits as part of the program, and BOCES has agreements with Fulton-Montgomery Community College and some other schools that will give students college credits for completing the program.
Students in the program learn about commercial production in several media fields, including magazine layout, photography and videography, TV production and animation and special effects.
But music is the No. 1 form of digital media, Schuyler said, and most other forms of media have an important audio component.
"It ties in with everything, and we learn a lot," Lane said of the work students do in the recording studio.
"A lot of times we use the studio for voiceover projects," he said, explaining how new audio is dubbed over the original sound on a video recording.
Until last year, the students did all their music-editing in the classroom, and students would have to record vocal and instrumental performances in the classroom, which wasn't ideal.
"Now we have a separate room, which is nice," Schuyler said. He said about $4,000 was invested in gear for the new studio setup, in addition to the thousands more in existing equipment in use there.
"Students who are working on an audio project really need to work independently," Huth is quoted as saying on the HFM BOCES website. "A nice little byproduct of the recording studio is we get to see their level of responsibility and accountability in that room, because we can't be in there with the students all the time."
The digital multimedia students work on commercials in their senior year, producing professional-quality commercials and videos for clients such as Alpin Haus, Ruby & Quiri and Nathan Littauer Hospital, Schuyler said.
The audio for those commercials is all produced and edited in the new studio. The program also produces all the marketing materials for the BOCES Career & Tech Center, and samples of their work can be seen online at www.hfmboces.org.
"We almost try to use it for everything that we do professionally now," Schuyler said.
While many of the students have an interest in performing as musicians -Lomanto plays in a rock band called Ignite the Flame, and Warner sings with a pop group called B3 - they don't have to perform to gain practical experience in the studio.
Morey said she's learning to play several instruments, but careerwise, she would rather be on the other side of the microphone.
"I want to be a music engineer," Morey said, and the experience she gains in the studio at the Career & Tech Center could point her in the right direction.
Features Editor Bill Ackerbauer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.