Montgomery County Community College to build new music studio

What will New York, L.A., Nashville, and Montgomery County Community College have in common?  The answer: cutting-edge recording studios.

MCCC, in Blue Bell, has broken ground on a $1.6 million sound-recording studio, which it anticipates will open by October.

“We’re giving our students that next level of specialization with technology not many people have access to,” said Michael Kelly, assistant professor of the sound recording and music technology program.  “It’s a real-world experience that you really can’t get anywhere else.”

The new analog recording technology in the studio will create a sound that many professionals feel the more modern digital MP3 form can’t reproduce, Kelly said. Think of it like driving a Camry vs. 1960s Mustang, he said. It’s an “aesthetic experience” the new studio will be able to capture.

The 1,000-square-foot studio is designed for teaching, and will accommodate about 15 students. It’s a layout that  studio designer John Storyk said reminds him of ones at the University of California, Berkeley.  It is “a pretty good size for a community college,” he noted.

As one of only 12 Pennsylvania schools that offer a degree in audio engineering, MCCC hopes to build a reputation as a legitimate recording studio for established artists.

“It’s very difficult to make a good session if you’re not working with [artists] of that caliber,” said David Ivory, MCCC’s provost fellow of sound-recording technology.  Before becoming a professor, Ivory served as a Grammy national trustee for Philadelphia, where he made connections with local recording artists during his six years there.

Professor David Ivory teaches a student about sound technology. (Montgomery County Community College)

“Music isn’t just made in Center City Philadelphia, it’s made all over the place,” he added, saying the music scene has lost some vibrancy since computers made it possible for people to mix at home. “Hopefully we can mix with regional people. … I hope to create jobs, create opportunity.”

Ivory, Kelly, and assistant professor Steve Wanna had the vision to create a specialized sound-recording major two years ago. Their leadership has opened up opportunities that many four-year colleges do not have, students said.

The studio “is a diamond in the rough in everybody’s backyard,” said Bob Dreher, 52, a sound-recording technology major from Doylestown, who plans to use the studio in his professional career after graduation. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime … a game-changer.”

One of the defining aspects of the studio is its foundation on inclusivity, students said.  While some studios may require hundreds of dollars in recording fees or prior studio experience, MCCC wants its studio to be available to all artists.

“We’re not going to turn you away because you’ve never recorded in a studio before. In fact, that’s almost better,” said Emily Seiler, 20, a 2017 sound-recording technology graduate from Hatfield.  The MCCC studio” is less expensive and accessible.”

Kelly, too, is excited about the prospects the studio could bring.

“We see ourselves as becoming a music production and entertainment spot for this area,” he said.  “The studio will be the hub.”