You can never accuse Wilton High School students of not being ambitious.
Take, for example, Tristan Clark, Elliot Connors and Quentin Burns. The three rising seniors have created a project to build an actual recording studio at the high school over the summer. The three have created an extensive plan to convert a former lecture hall into a working recording studio and eventually launch a club around the project. All they need is the funding to make it happen.
The dedicated space would serve multiple purposes:
- Allow students to create high quality audio recordings for college applications and performance auditions without paying exorbitant studio prices
- Train students in sound mixing and the music industry, exposing performers and non-performers to music engineering and music business as a possible career option
- Create a space where school music ensembles can create professional recordings for posterity and for sale
- Foster a greater interest in music at Wilton High School
The three students have divided up responsibilities: Tristan is vice president of fundraising, media and music; Elliot is the vice president of equipment and volunteer coordination; and Quentin is the president and head of technology and engineering. They are working under the guidance of their advisor, WHS teacher Eric Mendelson, and the club would eventually be open to people interested in music performance, music engineering and recording, and the business side of the music industry.
They see the idea of a recording studio as something that will motivate a lot of their peers.
“It’s a great way for musicians and non-musicians to get involved, especially as a business that a lot of them want to consider for their future. If we can give them this hands on experience in high school they’ll really benefit,” explains Tristan.
“It can also help to spark some new interest in music and the arts. Someone walking down the hall, says, ‘Oh there’s a recording studio, I play guitar.’ And by getting involved, they get to know someone in the band, and it will give people the chance to form those musical relationships,” Elliot adds.
Initially it will be a resource to use outside of school hours. The boys have, however, explored ways to potentially integrate the studio into the school curriculum.
As the three students show off the two-story space, they articulate their vision for how it will be put to use. They point out where the soundproof sound booth will be built on the uppermost level, where couches will be available for guests to watch the action, and where the musicians can play and record down below. They also hope to make cosmetic changes as well, including painting over the cinderblock walls and replacing the ceiling tiles.
The boys have a vision and they’re hopeful to execute it.
“The jazz band can come in here and set up on the risers, Mr. Gawle can be down there conducting, and everything will be recorded professionally,” Tristan explains.
“The same thing for the school musical,” Elliot continues, “We can record the leads’ and ensemble voices, and make a soundtrack for the musicals. We can record plays for posterity. That’s one of the benefits for this space, it can fit everyone, and it’s got the risers built in.”
Another benefit of the studio, say the boys, is that students who need to produce audition recordings for applying to advanced and college level musical programs, can do so.
Of course, most importantly, they need to get funding, and they’re hoping the Wilton community will be generous with their help to get the project going. They’ve started an online fundraising drive via the Indiegogo.com website, with an ambitious goal of raising $20,000. One thing they’re offering for $5,000 is naming rights to the studio. There are other opportunities for donations as small as $10.
Most importantly, funding will help them with construction costs. “The biggest thing we need to obtain–build the infrastructure and build a sound booth that is sound isolated; we need sound damping, and we also need to make a livable environment, with couches and whatnot,” Quentin says.
As he’s in charge of technology and engineering, Quentin also sees the pressing need for funding to cover equipment like mixing consoles and computers. “We’ve worked out an initial schematic for what the equipment needs are, and we’re working with facilities in the city to obtain high-quality equipment systems, hopefully getting an education discount.”
They’re also hoping to obtain quality musical instruments and equipment as well, including studio drum sets, amps, and more–either that they’ll purchase or through donations.
They hope to appeal to the Wilton Education Foundation and the WHS music boosters, which they say is considering a donation. “We are really hoping for individual contributions and business sponsors,” Tristan adds, noting that JoyRide Wilton has already offered to sponsor them.
The boys say that they’re getting support from many other community sources as well, whether through social media (including Wilton 411 and Wilton 412 on Facebook), the WHS administration and teachers, and members of the community. Doug Bogan, a WHS graduate and well known musician and audio producer, offered his help in designing the studio and installing the equipment; Wilton resident Jack Jones, who is a director and producer at Jazz at Lincoln Center, has offered his help; and they’ve received other offers of support–for example, the donation of a baby grand piano as a studio instrument.
“It’s been an outpouring of support from people in the music community and even outside who want to foster a love of arts in the high school,” Elliot marvels.
They know their goal of $20,000 is a high one; to date, they’ve raised only $610 since starting the online campaign a little over a week ago. “We’re looking at a considerable amount of money to fund this but at the end of the day this is a project that will help so many people in WHS,” Tristan says.
They acknowledge that they couldn’t have gotten even this far without help from within WHS themselves.
“One thing that’s good about WHS is all the resources available to the students,” Elliot says. “WHS never said we can’t do this. They’ve always attempted to accommodate each student and their needs. We never thought that we couldn’t; we were always encouraged to think, ‘Why not?’ The environment WHS puts out is one of success, and if you are dedicated, if you go about it the right way, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Tristan agrees. “WHS helps you take one talent you have and expound on it. You have every opportunity to become good. By fostering this love you develop a true passion and inspire ambition like this.”
Their hope is to have the studio operational by August 31, the first day of school. “We have a master calendar, and a very feasible timeline to get everything done,” says Quentin.
While they may only get to see the fruits of their labor for one year before they graduate in 2016, the three boys see the project as a gift they’re giving to the WHS classes of the future.
“I want us to be able to leave something behind as a gift,” says Quentin, and his friend, Elliot, agrees: “It’s about legacy.
To learn more about the recording studio project and to consider making a donation, visit their Indiegogo.com webpage.