On the Record
Recording Arts and Technology professor Brian Boyd brings real-world studio experience to the classroom
“Liberty’s in Solon … Maple Heights … Brunswick … Parma Heights … Vermilion … ah-oooom!”
If you’ve heard the ubiquitous radio commercial for Cleveland-based auto dealer Liberty Ford, you’ve heard the work of Tri-C Recording Arts and Technology professor Brian Boyd.
It’s been a long road for Boyd, with plenty of twists and turns. But he’s managed to do what many can only dream of — he’s made a living doing what he loves.
Growing up in Deerfield, Ohio, Boyd played drums, guitar, bass and keyboards, creating his own primitive audio mixes using multiple cassette recorders. He enrolled at Kent State University with the goal of becoming a stockbroker, but ultimately pursued a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.
He worked as a substitute teacher before taking a position at Portage County Opportunity School, a high school for kids expelled from regular schools. Before long, it became clear that the environment just wasn’t for him.
Boyd took a job at a medical supply company while contemplating his next move. His wife, Cristine, urged him to consider turning his old hobby into a career.
“She said, ‘You’re really into this music thing — why don’t you pursue that?’” said Boyd. “It hadn’t occurred to me that I could make a living at it.”
The couple soon packed up and hit the road to find the best audio engineering program. They settled on Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, where Boyd earned an associate degree in recording arts. Two days after graduation, he headed to Nashville to hand-deliver resumes and tour recording studios.
Boyd landed an internship at Dark Horse Recording just outside Nashville. He lived in the studio recording contemporary bluegrass and Christian music. After a few months on the job, he was asked to take over recording and mixing on James “Earache” Shouse’s Ain’t No Part O’Nothin.
“I was scared to death, because I knew I was not ready to mix a record by myself,” Boyd said. “I did all these things, like adding wild effects to the violins. Listening to it now, it sounds extremely amateur.”
Fortunately for him, the artist liked what he had done. Boyd returned to work on Monday morning and was offered a staff engineer position. Soon he was living his dream, learning the ins and outs of studio culture.
As an engineer, Boyd worked 15-hour days, five or six days a week. Though he loved his new career, the lifestyle soon became incompatible with home life.
In 2001, Boyd and his wife moved back to Northeast Ohio to start a family. He found a job at The Reel Thing, a small recording studio in downtown Cleveland. There he recorded commercials, voice-overs, sound effects for low-budget movies and other, mainly local, projects — including the Liberty Ford ad.
“The best part was, it was a 9-to-5 job. In a music studio, you can go until 2 or 3 in the morning.”
After five years at The Reel Thing, Boyd decided to go back to teaching — this time in a field he loved. He joined Tri-C’s Recording Arts and Technology (RAT) program in 2006 as an adjunct instructor.
Boyd, who received tenure in fall 2017, sets the bar high for his students and exemplifies the work ethic needed to make it in the competitive audio recording industry.
“I’m not interested in mediocrity,” he said. “I push my students to be the best. A lot of them probably find me tough as an instructor, but they appreciate it later on.”
One example is RAT-2300, the last course students take before the program’s internship component. Class is run just like a professional studio, with students responsible for booking talent, “renting” gear, meeting strict deadlines and attending regular production meetings.
“At the end of each module, students invoice me as if I were the executive producer at this imaginary record label,” Boyd said. “Their grade is then based on what they can afford to buy with the ‘money’ they’ve earned.”
Boyd also helps organize a recording workshop for RAT students each fall, where a local band comes into the studio for a recording project that starts on Friday and ends with a final mix on Sunday.
Though music is still his first love, Boyd sees himself now more as a teacher than an audio engineer. He earned a master’s in education from Lake Erie College in 2013 and seizes every opportunity to learn new techniques from adjuncts and other industry professionals.
“Records don’t sound the same in 2018 as they did in 1970,” he said. “As engineers, our job is constantly changing.”
Boyd lives in Edinburg Township with his wife and their two kids, Daniel, 16, and Lauren, 11. He is currently building a home recording studio, which he will mainly use as an office.
As an audio engineer, Boyd has done it all. But these days, his purpose is to support others in their pursuit of a career in this fierce, yet fascinating, industry.
“I would probably never tell a student to do what I did, even though that’s kind of what you’ve got to do. You can’t just expect a job to fall into your lap.
“The technical aspect will develop as you go, but the bottom line is, you’ve got to be someone your client can trust. You need to help them achieve what it is they’re hearing in their mind.”
August 22, 2018
Beth Cieslik, 216-987-4538 firstname.lastname@example.org