MP&E Department History
The Early Days | The Third Decade | Former Staff/Faculty
The Early Days
The very first recording facility at Berklee was a basic 2-track studio built in two practice rooms in the basement of 1140 Boylston Street. It was in 1972 that the school offered its first course in Audio Recording, an elective taught by Joe Hostetter. Two years later, with the encouragement of producer Arif Mardin, the College built its first 8-track studio. Tom Dowd, who at the time was head engineer for Atlantic Records, designed the studio and supervised its construction. The studio was located in the space that is now occupied by Studio B, with Studio G as its control room. Within a few years, as enrollment in recording courses increased, a second mini-studio was added in the area that is now occupied by the Studio Manager's office. Interest in recording continued to grow and in 1977 the Department of Audio Recording was formed. Early faculty members included Chairman Joe Hostetter and Bobby Owsinski. Over the next several years additional faculty were hired - Andy Edelstein, Steve Defuria of the Electronic Music Department, Doug Getschal, Dennis Rock, Rob Rosati, Jim Burt, and Richard Mendelson.
The popularity of the Audio Recording Major grew rapidly, and with 180 students enrolled by the spring 1982 semester, the facilities and faculty began to feel the burden. Some students began to voice concern about the availability of studio time and facilities access. The original studios had never been intended to service such a large number of students. It was evident that this was an appropriate time to assess the current state and future of the program.
In March of 1982 Bob Share, Provost of Berklee, hired Wayne Wadhams of Film Associates (and owner of Studio B, a busy local recording studio) as a consultant. He was asked to recommend whether the Audio Recording Major should be eliminated altogether or whether the school should spend the vast amounts of money necessary to create a new program with new studios and additional faculty. Wayne visited Berklee and attended a student-led meeting where he listened to students voice their concerns. Wayne met with Audio Recording faculty as well as chairmen from other departments, Ted Pease and Larry Monroe, to discuss how Audio Recording fit Berklee's musical mission. Initially it seemed that forming the Audio Recording Major may have been a mistake, until he listened to final projects by students in the major. Although there were obvious technical problems and a lack of polish, the songs were well arranged and performed. It was evident that the students involved really wanted to make the recordings work, but they lacked the larger set of skills to do it. These projects convinced Wayne that there was a department to be conceived and built. He wrote a brief report to Bob Share explaining his interest in creating a department. Just a few days later, Bob called asking for a full proposal.
More interviews were conducted with faculty, department chairs, students, and industry professionals including Don Puluse, Mickey Eichner, Sr. Vice-President of CBS, Quincy Jones, Herb Granith, President of ABC, and David Picker, President of United Artists Pictures. All agreed that a program designed to instruct students not only in recording, but also in production - including the collaborative process and business affairs of labels - was long overdue. Wayne proceeded to write a 60-page proposal complete with synopses of the required and elective curriculum, staffing requirements, preliminary studio designs, and a budget.
A full proposal was delivered to Bob Share in May of 1982. A mere two weeks later Bob called Wayne to ask how soon the department and studios could actually be built. The entire $1.5 million budget, including construction, equipment, plus a faculty of about ten, and staff of six, had been approved by the trustees. It was largely the unique approach to production that helped realize the need for such a program. Wayne told Bob that the department could be completed by September of 1983, and then Bob asked "can you do it by January?" Without much hesitation, Wayne said "yes" and cleared his schedule for the next year - the Music Production & Engineering Department was born.
Bill Gitt, Robin Coxe-Yeldham, and Allen Smith, colleagues of Wayne's at Film Associates and Studio B, were recruited to work full time on building the new studios. With only six months to complete the first three studios there was no time to coordinate with an architect. Acoustical and design details were provided directly to the contractor as construction was in progress. In addition to the enormous task of fully wiring three studios, two of them - Studios A and B were wired with 36 tie lines and video lines running to the Berklee Performance Center, allowing live performances to be remotely recorded and monitored. One of the greatest accomplishments was shielding the studios from massive amounts of radio frequency interference coming from the roof of the Prudential Center, just two blocks away. Sound Workshop Series-40 consoles were chosen for installation in all three studios, as they were professional boards with a layout that clearly demonstrated signal flow. Studios B and C were capable of 8-track recording through MCI and Otari MX-7800 recorders. A Studer A-80 in Studio A provided the department with 24-track recording. Additionally, the department had several Otari MTR-10 and MX-5050B stereo recorders. New outboard gear included UREI and Ashly compressors and equalizers, Lexicon digital delays, and nearly 30 new microphones from AKG, Electo-Voice, Neumann, RCA, and Sennheiser. Studios B and C were completed in the fall of 1982 while Studio A was completed shortly after the first day of classes on January 17, 1983.
The new curriculum provided a wide offering of courses covering all aspects of the production and recording fields. Survey of Production and Engineering Careers, electable by all students, provided an introduction to the terminology, responsibilities, and functions of producers. Courses in Audio Ear Training taught students to analyze complex musical material and identify its components. Theory of Sound, Acoustics and Recording introduced students to the nature of sound wave propagation, resonance phenomena, room acoustics, and the historical development of recording technology. To prepare students for the business aspects of the industry, Business of Music Production encompassed production contracts, pre-production activities, copyright protection, licensing, and union considerations. Modern Audio Recording provided an in-depth look at the design and function of modern recording tools from microphones to automation systems. Specialized courses in production were also created to teach specific aspects of production for records, film and television, and commercials. Advanced instruction was offered through electives in Basic Electronics, Mixdown Techniques, Advanced Recording Techniques, Studio Equipment Maintenance, Sound Reinforcement Systems, Masters Engineering Lab, and Music and Entertainment Law & Contracts.
The process of retrofitting the new studios and curriculum into an ongoing school without major disruption was not an easy task, especially on a rush schedule. Every student who was majoring in Audio Recording had a personal meeting to determine which additional courses they would take to complete their studies and provide them with a more valuable degree. There was a real enthusiasm about how MP&E would serve students as well as enhance other departments at the College. This was evident both at Berklee and in the press and industry. Press coverage of the department could be found in numerous publications including Mix Magazine, Stereo Review, Progressive Media, and Pro Sound News.
SPARS (Society of Professional Audio Recording Services) held its annual meeting at Berklee in the spring of 1984. This provided the opportunity for many industry professionals to get a first-hand look at the program. In 1985 the Department was voted best in the category of Outstanding Institutional Achievement in a Recording Program. MP&E was presented with a TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) award by Mix Magazine, the first year that the competition was held. Over the next several years MP&E would win three more TEC Awards.
By April of 1983, with 207 students, it was evident that expansion of the studio facilities would be necessary to accommodate the growth of the Department. This growth was anticipated, and by June final plans had been made for an additional studio. A Sound Workshop Series-40 console, along with a complement of recorders and outboard gear, was purchased for the vacant space that would become Studio D. Studio D had been constructed at the same time as the first three studios and was pre-wired with Performance Center tie-lines. Because of its size, Studio D was ideal for recording concerts in the BPC, a service that the Department regularly provided to the College. Major upgrades were also taking place in Studio B, as the school purchased its second 24-track, an Otari MTR-90II. Additionally, to satisfy the needs of the Film Scoring Department, Studio A was outfitted with JVC 1/2" and 3/4" video decks, a BTX Synchronizer, Telcom time code generator, and outboard gear from dbx, Loft, and Ashly.
In 1984, producer and arranger Arif Mardin, who has worked with The Bee Gees, George Benson, Phil Collins, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Carly Simon, visited the studios for a guest lecture and said he would have killed to have such good equipment at Atlantic Records just a few years earlier. At a later visit, Quincy Jones, having recently produced Michael Jackson's "Thriller", was also impressed by the quality of the studios.
Don Puluse, recording engineer at CBS Records for 17 years, was hired to chair the MP&E Department in August of 1983. (Up until this point, Wayne had been performing the responsibilities of chair.) Don's engineering credits include Chicago, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Billy Joel, Al Kooper, Ted Nugent, Sly & the Family Stone, and Cecil Taylor. Don and Wayne worked closely to continue to develop the curriculum and plan for future expansion.
By March of 1984 plans were under way for yet another expansion of the facilities as well as major upgrades to the existing rooms. Studios E and F, both 8-track, would soon be constructed across from the Studio Office with installations taking place over the summer. An additional Sound Workshop console and an Otari MX-70 were purchased for Studio E. Studio F, a control room only, was outfitted with the equipment that existed in Studio C as well as a new Otari MX-70. As plans were made to upgrade Studio C to 24-track capability, a Series-34 Sound Workshop console with 32 inputs was installed in C. The Studer A-80 that had been in A was moved to C and replaced with a new Studer A-800 24-track, then the Rolls Royce of multi-tracks. ARMS automation systems were installed, first as an integral part of the new Series-34 console in C, and soon thereafter in Studio A's Series-40, which was also upgraded to 36 inputs. A host of new outboard gear was also purchased for A, B and C. Studio A saw a major milestone as 2-track digital recording was made possible by the purchase of a Sony PCM-F1 processor. Additional upgrades included three new 2-track editing booths for student projects and instruction.
The Department had six fully functional studios, three 24-track and three 8-track by the fall of 1984. To complement the expanded facilities, six new faculty members were hired, in addition to the current faculty of Rich Mendelson and Andy Edelstein. Technical Engineer Bill Gitt, who designed and supervised installation of nearly all of the studio wiring and equipment, agreed to teach part-time while continuing his studio maintenance work. Robin-Coxe Yeldham and Allen Smith who both assisted with early studio construction also agreed to join the faculty. Robin began teaching full-time and Allen part-time, although he left after a year. Wayne Wadhams was also teaching full-time at this point. Meanwhile, Joe Hostetter continued teaching selected recording courses, but also assumed the position of studio manager.
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Former Staff and Faculty
Robin Coxe-Yeldham (1952 - 1999)
Robin Coxe-Skolfield, a professor in Berklee's Music Production and Engineering Department, died August 9 from cancer. She was 47. Known professionally as Robin Coxe-Yeldham, she had taught at Berklee since 1982. Throughout her distinguished career she encouraged women to pursue careers in engineering. In 1995 the Audio Engineering Society awarded her a special "Granny" Award as "First Lady in Audio Education in America." She is survived by her 11-year-old daughter Dakota Coxe-Yeldham and her second husband, Simaen Skolfield. Contributions may be made in her honor to: Berklee Women in Audio Scholarship, Berklee College of Music, Box 3, 1140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215.
Links of Robin Coxe-Yeldham:
Terry Becker-Boyle (1950 - 2005)
Former faculty member Terry Becker-Boyle, died at her home in Marina Del Rey on December 19 after a battle with cancer. She was 55. Boyle was an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department before becoming the college's assistant director of Special Programs in Los Angeles in 2003. A recording engineer with a distinguished track record, she had worked with such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Paul Kelly, Kansas, and Taj Mahal and won a Grammy Award in 2000. She was profiled in the spring 2003 issue of Berklee today (http://www.berklee.edu/bt/143/bb_faculty_profile.html). Boyle is survived by her husband, Tim Boyle, her parents, and two stepdaughters. Donations in her name may be made to Sound Art, 11110 Ohio Ave. Suite 109, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Visit http://www.soundartla.org/
Links of Terry Becker-Boyle:
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Compiled by: Peter Wildermuth and Wayne Wadhams with assistance from Bill Gitt and Andy Edelstein.