BELFAST—On any given day, students at the Waldo County Technical Center can be found practicing CPR on infant mannequins in an Emergency Medical Services class, or working on small engines, or perhaps practicing how to create logos in the Graphic Design program, along with a host of other practical real-life skills the Center offers.
But jamming out in a professional recording studio? That’s new.
Thanks to the vision of WCTC Director Kevin A. Michaud, musical mentor, Tim Woitowitz, and four former students of the Building Construction program, a fully kitted out recording studio was built within the Center this year. WCTC serves students of Belfast, Searsport and Mount View high schools.
Michaud, a rock and blues musician, initially constructed a makeshift “jam room” on an upper mezzanine adjacent to the small engine —a walled-off space for staff to blow off steam, and play some music. and bass. All of the instruments —drums, some piano, some guitars — were donated.
“My son and I are in a band and we’d play up here,” said Michaud. “Then, come to find out, some other staff revealed they were also musicians. We have a custodian who plays bass; another teacher plays piano. We’d come up at lunch time or waiting for a night event to take place and just play.”
Based on Woitowitz’ donation of musical instruments and equipment, this led to the next idea.
“I approached my board and asked them, ‘What if we built a recording studio in house with fundraising and without any cost to the taxpayer, providing when done, we’d charge the public $40 an hour through the Adult Ed division for a recording session?’” he said.
The board responded to the proposal with enthusiasm and four students began construction on the 16 x 20-foot studio with all of the pine donated by local business Robbins Lumber.
The recording studio has an open audio engineer space, which means it is not secluded behind a glassed-in booth to capitalize on the natural acoustics. The room can accommodate up to eight or nine musicians and comes equipped with vintage instruments (every single one donated) such as a 1962 Gretsch drum kit and a Hammond B3 organ. A multitude of acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, and amps fill the room.
“We’re just at the point where we will be able to offer this recording studio to the public at a fraction of the cost it would be to record a studio in Portland,” said Michaud. “We hope to be open for business around the holidays.”
Michaud said the studio can record in analog, run the recording back in digital and then mix it any way the person wants.
“This is ideal for local musicians, people wanting to record a birthday song, any thing you can think of,” he said. “Our goal is to capture the sound as naturally as possible. For instance, if a guitarist wants to achieve a Jimi Hendrix sound, they can actually play through a Marshall amplifier.”
Since the studio was built, Michaud said many students have now approached him with the interest in playing music. And that interest in itself could lead to another educational program in the future.
Michaud is big on weaving in the inter-connectedness of WCTC’s programs, and so, some of the quilts on the walls that function as sound baffles will eventually be made by students in the Stitching Construction class. Additionally, students in the Graphic Design program can create CD covers in Photoshop/Illustrator and they will even be able to press the CDs on location, providing a one-stop-shop service through the school for musicians. Michaud, along with his three sons, known as The KahunaKAM Band, will test out the new system themselves recording their first album together this fall/winter.
As for live concerts? Michaud has already utilized the Student Center as a performance space adjacent to the Culinary program’s World Café for musical fundraising opportunities.
“People can’t believe this space is open to the public for little to no cost,” he said. “I just ask to allow our Culinary Program cater the event and it works out great for everyone.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org