Grads Get Big Break

Imagine stepping out of recording school and having your first session be with Fleetwood Mac. That's exactly what happened to CRAS students John Haley and Phil Nichols. Haley and Nichols found saw their ship come in at Cornerstone Studios where they both were interning after graduating from the Conservatory.

"They were amazingly well-prepared, considering the situation we've thrown them into," remarked mix engineer Mark Needham, of Cake, Chris Isaak, and Elton John fame. "You've got 112 tracks of Pro Tools, a 48-track Sony 3348 digital machine, analog decks, and Neve automation all to lock up. They've handled every task I gave them, which is pretty sharp."

Conservatory graduates Phil Nichols (left) and John Haley (right) bookend Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac and Engineer Mark Needham.

Student Phil Nichols comments. "I felt confident coming to work here in LA. The instructors made it clear exactly how it would be in the real world. They have the experience and want to make sure that you understand that and are prepared. In class, in sessions, in tutoring, the entire approach gives us a good foundation for working in the real world of recording music."

"The whole process of learning and coming up now is different than it was 20 years ago," explained Lindsey Buckingham "when rock and roll and the world around it were not as organized. There was a certain amount of luck, and I think you need the same amount of luck now, or even more. But there was also a certain amount of spontaneity that came from a lack of real understanding of what is correct and what isn't in the recording process. There is probably a good side and a bad side to having all of that harnessed, but I do admire the younger kids who are going in an learning a lot more, in a real sense of having a context of what it means to a broader understanding of music, and the techniques involved in recording music. I think that can only be a good thing. It certainly doesn't insure success anymore, though. It's just tough out there."

Haley offered the following advice: "Work harder than the guy who came before you. You are still proving yourself, so you have to have a really good work ethic. Be willing to put in lots of extra hours, all the time. You will be on the job as much as possible. Do your best to really help out."

Industry Vet Joins Staff

Starting in July, Kevin Becka, Technical Editor for Mix magazine will become Associate Director of Education at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. Becka is no stranger to the campus in Tempe, having guest lectured at the school from 1996 to 1999. He has spent the last four years living in first in Washington, D.C. and then Nashville where he was editor of IMAS Publishing's prestigious Audio Media magazine and Pro Audio Review. In addition, he was also adjunct professor at Belmont University in Nashville teaching advanced recording at the Mike Curb School of Music.
"This is a great time to come back to Phoenix and the Conservatory", says Becka. "Kirt Hamm and Director of Education Mike Jones have both done a great job growing the school into a world-class audio institution. It's wonderful to be a part of such a class act."

Becka's background in audio engineering includes platinum-winning efforts for Kenny G. and many other industry heavyweights. He has been the sole contributor to the home recording web site at, is a voting member of NARAS and a member of ASCAP.

Becka rounds out an already-strong staff of instructors and technicians that have made the Conservatory one of the top audio schools in the country. "We're all glad to have Kevin come onboard," says Mike Jones, director of education. "His audio experience and current affiliation with Mix, the number one audio magazine in the world, gives him a unique set of skills from which to teach."

CRAS Tackles NAB

For most of the country, April is a time when the hint of spring is in the air and folks are shaking off the winter doldrums. However, in the town of Las Vegas, April means the annual National Association of Broadcasters' convention is in town bringing with it a slew of new audio and video gear.

The Conservatory was out in force with President Kirt Hamm, Director of Admissions John McJunkin and Associate Director of Education-to-be, Kevin Becka attending the show. Trade shows offer the school the opportunity to see what's new in audio, and
also forge new and maintain old relationships
with many top-notch audio manufacturers.
It's also a time to catch up with former students who now work with many of the movers and shakers in audio, such as Waves, Tascam, Studio Network Solutions and many more.

Kirt Hamm sums it up well by saying, "At the Conservatory, we take pride in our dedication to making sure students learn using the latest cutting-edge gear. By building our curriculum around the best in audio, we assure our graduates a firm footing in the marketplace. Conventions such as NAB, NAMM and AES showcase the lastest in audio gear. That's why we go, we want to stay current so we can provide our students the best audio education possible."

Photo caption: Pictured to the top right; Top: Kirt Hamm and John Hart of AMS Neve, Bottom right: Kirt Hamm with Chris Minto and Stephen Powers of M&K Professional, Middle Left: Kirt Hamm and Jim Mack of TASCAM

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