Ismael Coleman ’15, Derek Sturman ’16, and Ron Jacobs ’16 have been working since the spring to open a new recording studio on campus that will offer more accessibility to students than previously existing options. The studio is set to begin beta testing in the coming weeks, and information about when the studio will be open to students will be released later this month.
There are currently two recording studios available to students on campus: one studio in the Center for the Arts (CFA) and one at the Green Street Arts Center in the North End of Middletown. However, as Coleman pointed out, both are difficult for students to access. The CFA studio is only open to certain music majors, and he has found the Green Street Arts Center space difficult to reserve. Spaces are available for public recording outside of Middletown, but often at a high cost.
“Not everyone can afford to go to Brooklyn for the weekend and record,” Coleman said.
The project began at a fall 2013 meeting of the Rap Assembly at Wesleyan (RAW) when Coleman expressed the need for a space for students to record on campus. Sturman agreed to work on developing the project and took the lead in the preliminary planning. Sturman is a composer, producer, and songwriter who is interested in pursuing a career in the music business. As a freshman, Sturman found that the University lacked the facilities for a non-music major or underclassman to practice recording.
“In order to take the collaboration between artists and producers and maximize the potential of the students, we had to make a studio that was by the students, for the students,” Sturman said.
Through RAW, Sturman teamed up with Jacobs, who is the founder of the Wesleyan DJs and Producers Club. Jacobs is a DJ, producer, and songwriter. The student group, which he created last year, currently has over one hundred members. At the beginning of the spring 2013 semester, Sturman, Jacobs, and Coleman set out to request funding and find a space for the project.
According to Sturman, when the three students met with President Michael Roth, he vetoed the idea. However, Jacobs had an optimistic outlook on the initial lack of administrative support for the project.
“This project taught us how to start from the bottom with a lot of obstacles and jump over them…[to] succeed in spite of them,” Jacobs said.
In February, the team consulted with Director for Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) Elisa Cardona, SALD Assistant Director Gretchen Streiff, and Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Office Coordinator Lisa Hendrix about securing a room for the project. With the guidance of these staff members, the students organized a formal proposal to present to the Student Budget Committee (SBC).
“[The SALD and WSA staff] really believed in our project,” Coleman said. “They saw our project as more of a long-term goal, and, because of that, they really invested in our project. It’s because of them that we got a space.”
Last semester, the students were given a space at 190 High St. to convert into the recording studio, and they received funding from the SBC to order equipment. Because of the state of the building, the students had to wait for Physical Plant to clean the area before ordering the equipment. The space was cleaned in phases during the spring and over the summer. According to Sturman, Physical Plant repaired and painted the walls, covered exposed wires, repainted doors, and installed security cameras.
The three recounted their shock upon seeing the state of disrepair that the space was in when they first visited 190 High St.
“There was paint and graffiti all over the walls, which were crumbling,” Jacobs said. “This room was originally used for storage, but the way that they kept the storage in the room was not sustainable.”
Equipment is currently in the shipment and installation phases, and the studio is expected to be primed for beta testing by late November. Coleman says that further information about when and how the studio will be accessible to student musicians will be released after beta testing is complete. The students look forward to the long-term benefits of having a recording studio on campus, particularly from a music management perspective.
“We want to create a network for Wesleyan student musicians and a spot here at a liberal arts college to talk [music] business,” Sturman said.
Coleman added that the student-run nature of the space will help it to succeed in the long run.
“The sound co-op was student initiated,” Coleman said. “So many bands here are started by students; so many students are individual artists. I think that this is the next big thing for music for Wesleyan, and I would also argue that it is the most important.”