Inside SCDS’s Conner Burns Memory Recording Studio, juniors Tonye Jack and RJ Vargo work on their newest song. Using the studio’s microphone, they compose music on the sound computer and use drums to create unique beats that match their original lyrics. After they perfect their song, they will post it to Jack’s Spotify and SoundCloud accounts under his tag SSJ Daki.
The studio was built in 2016 using donations from the Burns family in memory of former student Connor Burns, a Country Day 7th grader who passed away in 2015. Burns enjoyed music and playing his guitar. When he was in middle school, his favorite elective was the History of Rock and Roll. His family created the recording studio as a way to remember him and honor his love for music.
The studio is located in the middle school, across from the high school science building and right next to the middle school Spanish room. It is equipped with three microphones, a subscription to Apple’s digital audio software Logic Pro, a mixer, a MIDI, an iMac, two studio monitors and three preamps.
Students are allowed to use the studio with the permission of Head of High School Brooke Wells or Computer Science Coordinator Charles Farris.
One of Charles’ strengths as an applicant when he applied to Country Day was his interest in working in the studio. The school doesn’t plan to hire someone else to work in the studio full time so Charles has taken charge, Wells said.
Over the past few years, the room has been used as storage for the music program’s instruments. This resulted in a lack of use, so, six years after its initial installation, Charles has had to start from scratch, cataloging and recording the function and condition of all the equipment in the studio. This includes checking the status of the equipment, fixing anything that may be broken, and figuring out when equipment warranties expire.
“The biggest obstacle to overcome is figuring out how to either coexist in the space or switch spaces around so that it’s not interrupted by or interrupting middle school languages or the classroom next door as it has in the past and currently is,” Charles said.
To solve this problem, Charles has been consulting with Wells to see if his classroom could be moved to the classroom that is joined with the recording studio via a sliding door.
“If we did that, it would eliminate the issue of disturbing the Spanish classes and the electives that are in there. And the other walls of the studio are all soundproofed, so that classroom is the only one that causes a problem,” Vargo said.
Charles said the studio will hopefully be ready for more users by the 2022-2023 school year.
Jack is excited to see the finished product.
“It will be a great place for people who have an interest in music, and I like that it’s finally getting updated and fixed,” Jack said.
Besides fixing up the studio, Charles decides who gets to use it, and he said the room isn’t quite ready yet to be used by untrained students.
“The problem is that students don’t know how to use the equipment properly. I don’t feel comfortable opening it up to everyone as there’s not an organization or management fully put in place to keep people responsible,” Charles said.
“If people don’t know what they’re doing, they could harm the equipment or accidentally delete a project someone was working on,” he said.
Charles has allowed a few students from his Advanced Topics in Computer Science to conduct a few experiments in the soundproof environment.
Sophomore Kasmer Conner cataloged people’s screams in order to practice using GarageBand for making an educational lower school STEM game. To play, they type in the answers to math problems to defeat the enemies, slowly advancing on the player. The screams, however, won’t be used in the final product as it would be a bit too startling for younger kids.
Although untrained students can’t readily use the studio, Wells is hoping that once COVID-19 is over, the music program, as well as students interested in music, can use the studio.
“Ultimately, I see it as a place where computer classes are taking place, but also lots of kids are recording creatively. Once we’re out of the pandemic, I’d like to see the bands coming in and recording as well,” Wells said.
Charles has a similar vision for the studio. Once everything is organized and put together, he plans to have it be open for all of the lower, middle and upper levels of the school.
“I see it kind of like a flex space for students and teachers to record and create,” Charles said. “I plan to open it up or spread the word about that throughout the year with the plan of possibly opening it up for the start of next school year.”
— By Emily Cook
Originally published in the Feb. 1 edition of the Octagon.