Musical background helped him to succeed
Billed as a recording, mastering and mixing engineer, producer, re-mixer and instructor, there’s nothing Sean Savage, 32, hasn’t done in music and sound production.
Growing up in a musical family, he played the saxophone, clarinet and flute, and found time to sing in a choir, too.
At 16, Savage tried working as a disc jockey, mixing music at parties and clubs. He became so good at it he got offers to play at clubs in the U.S. and Europe.
“It came to a point where I had to decide whether music was going to be just a hobby or my career,” recalls Savage.
His parents supported his decision to take a year off from law school to study music production at a private college. As part of his training, Savage arranged an internship at a mastering studio through his DJ connections.
“It was an opportunity to work with the artists, rather than simply sweep the floors,” he says. He impressed enough people that he was invited back after the unpaid internship to work in the studio, earning a real wage.
Record companies were looking for talented sound engineers who could turn a ballad, for example, into a more contemporary sound that could be played on other radio stations.
“With the radio audience segmented into ever-smaller niches, remixing a song so that it can cross genres and play on different stations is key,” explains Savage.
He remixed songs for such artists as Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, the Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul, David Bowie and Depeche Mode.
With his success (he never did finish law school) came the realization that he could give back to the community. He joined Centennial College as an instructor in 2002 and soon became the recording arts program supervisor.
“I decided to scrap the entire certificate program and rebuild it from the ground up to take advantage of rapidly changing technology,” he says.
The gamble paid off.
“We get young people who are intensely interested in music, as well as older adults who perhaps have recording equipment at home. Some of them are accomplished musicians in their own right.”
He shows off his new ProTools lab with 11 dedicated workstations (classes are kept purposefully small). Each student works on industry-standard ProTools 7.1 recording software and a three-octave keyboard.
Savage acknowledges that podcasting and sound for videogames and movies is where the future is headed, and he wants his students to be up-to-date.
“But videos and podcasting still rely on traditional sound engineering,” he says. “We don’t scrimp on these skills.”
For more on the part-time recording arts certificate program, visit www.centennialcollege.ca/future/recarts.jsp.