RAT Program’s Reach Extends Beyond the Studio
Every year, students enter Tri-C’s Recording Arts and Technology program dreaming of a studio recording career. They soon find out a RAT degree offers far more.
Many students enter the Recording Arts and Technology (RAT) program at Cuyahoga Community College focused on a small piece of glass.
It’s the studio window, separating the recording booth from the control room. Recording arts students often come to Tri-C dreaming of a career on either side of that glass pane ― either as a musician in the booth or as a technician or producer in the control room.
A number of Tri-C graduates have gone on to have successful careers on both sides of the studio window, but as students grow from first-year RAT rookies to program veterans, something else frequently happens: they discover new opportunities for careers in areas they never considered.
Recording skills and sound engineering skills have many applications, from live venue management to device production to tour management ― even corporate events.
“We have graduates with companies and other organizations throughout the region,” said David Kennedy, RAT program manager. “The experience they receive and the connections they make during their time at Tri-C puts them in a great position for a career, regardless of the path they pursue.”
Three RAT graduates recently shared their career journeys ― how they came to Tri-C and how their careers have taken shape after graduation.
After graduating from Brush High School in 2012, Ryan Gilchrist didn’t know what type of career he wanted. But he knew he liked music.
“The trouble was, I wasn’t really a musician,” Gilchrist said. “I didn’t think it was an option for me to study music in college, but then I found out about the RAT program at Tri-C. It seemed like a good gateway to finding a career in music or sound.”
Gilchrist enrolled in the RAT program that fall, where he began learning about electronic music equipment.
“I’m not as big of a gearhead as some, but it was fun to learn about how things like microphones and guitar pedals work,” he said. “It makes guitar playing more fun when you understand how an effects pedal works.”
Through connections at Tri-C, Gilchrist applied for an internship with EarthQuaker Devices, a guitar pedal manufacturer in Akron. After graduating with an associate degree in 2015, he began working full time for EarthQuaker, assembling pedals and conducting quality control checks. He’s still there today.
“I got to try a lot of different things at Tri-C and found what I liked to do,” Gilchrist said. “The field experience you get at Tri-C is really a benefit. You can learn a lot in classroom and labs, but there is no substitute for being on the job as you learn.”
Even though she had a musical background as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Andrea Nemeth came to the RAT program unsure of how to turn her background into a career.
She was in her late 20s, with two bachelor’s degrees from The Ohio State University in psychology and Hungarian language and culture. She had a well-paying job with an insurance company. But she wasn’t happy. She knew her passion was music, and she wanted to make the leap.
“Ever since I can remember, I've always recorded myself using whatever was available to me at the time ― whether it was recording over cassette tapes or using primitive music recording software and cheap microphones,” Nemeth said. “I loved the creative process of layering instrumental parts with vocal melodies and harmonies, but I didn't really know what I was doing when it came to the technical aspects of recording.”
In the RAT program, she learned the process of recording, editing and mixing in a professional studio. But she also developed an interest in live production sound. She registered for a concert production class that she said changed her life.
“Part of the course involved working to put on a live show at the Beachland Ballroom,” Nemeth said. “I enjoyed the energy of the music and the crowd, and it was a change of pace from the structure of a recording studio.”
Nemeth graduated from Tri-C in May 2016 and started as an intern at Eighth Day Sound in Cleveland that month. Later that summer, the company hired her full time. She now works as a touring audio technician, traveling to festivals and concert venues around the country.
“I want to continue to tour as much as possible,” Nemeth said. “Eventually, I would like to be hired as the monitor engineer for a specific artist, touring only when they do, and have the time and financial freedom to work as a musician, producer and recording engineer for my own projects when I'm not on the road. But whatever the future holds, I am so grateful and happy to be doing what I love.”
Ten years ago, Alex Trusnik was working toward a business degree at the University of Dayton. But he always knew he wanted to work in the entertainment industry.
He left Dayton and enrolled in the RAT program in 2009, with hopes of finding studio work after graduation.
“A lot of people come into a program like Tri-C’s and think they’re going to work at a major studio and win a Grammy,” he said. “And, I’ll admit, that was my thought too.”
Things changed for Trusnik when the time came to complete his field experience. Some of his classmates found studio internships. Trusnik took an internship at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
“I discovered there is so much happening in the live area,” he said. “Every venue is different, with different crowds and different energy.”
Through his Tri-C internship, Trusnik also connected with the first president of the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, which was under construction as Trusnik was completing his associate degree in 2012.
“He was at a concert at Nautica, and I met him,” he said. “When the Rocksino was about to open, he put me in touch with the right person, and I’ve been working there ever since.”
Trusnik has risen through the ranks to become the Rocksino’s production manager, overseeing all shows on the facility’s three stages, including the main Hard Rock Live stage.
“I’d tell anyone entering the RAT program to just keep an open mind, and listen to your instructors,” he said. “The instructors at Tri-C are people who work in the industry when they’re not teaching. They have tons of real-world experience, and they can really help guide you as you begin to decide how you want your career to take shape.”
October 25, 2018
Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org