Adventures In Audio with Audio Masterclass
Does your school have a studio? Does it work?

Does your school have a studio? Does it work?


It's exciting for a school to have a music recording studio installed. But getting it working and keeping it working are often two very different things.

I remember visiting a place of education a while ago. They had a suite of beautiful studios.

The equipment wasn't new. In fact much of it was around ten years old, which I guess was the date of the original installation. But there's nothing wrong with that. If you can't make great recordings on old equipment (as long as it works) then you can't make great recordings, and you only have your own level of skill to blame.

But I was struck by the condition of the equipment. It was old, but it was beautiful. The place must have had an amazing maintenance engineer.

Or so I thought. It turned out after I enquired further that the place was hardly used. Few staff or students knew how to work it. The maintenance guy did however, and he used the place as his personal audio playground in his spare time.

I have seen enough examples of recording studios in education to see a pattern emerging…

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A member of staff in the school develops an enthusiasm for recording. He or she recommends installing a studio, for the benefits of the pupils and students.

The proposal seems exciting. The principal considers how great it will look in the school's prospectus or brochure, and of course on their website.

And installing IT technology ticks so many of the tick-boxes that plague educational institutions these days. It has got to be good.

So a budget is set and a supplier found who will not only deliver the equipment but install it too.

The school's studio enthusiast keeps a close eye on proceedings and the installation goes well.

Following that, there is a period of excitement. The newly crowned Teacher with Special Responsibility for Recording does a great job and the kids have a great time learning how to create and record music.

For a while.

Ultimately the TWSRFR (see above) leaves for whatever reason. Unfortunately, no-one else really knows how to work the studio. Some of the students do, and they use it for a while. But then something breaks. The studio doesn't work. No-one knows how to fix the problem and there is no budget for maintenance.

So the studio is left alone in the dark, gathering cobwebs.

OK, I'll stop the story there. Let's turn around and see what MUST be done to make sure a school recording studio is a success.

Firstly, unless there is at least one member of staff who is passionate about recording, the studio will gather faults and problems and eventually become unusable.

If this member of staff leaves, his or her replacement must have an equivalent passion.

Secondly, educational establishments often suffer from 'initiatives' – a sum of money becomes available, someone decides to grab it for their pet initiative, the project completes successfully and the proposer gains lots of kudos.

Then everything falls apart. It's no good setting up a technology facility without a plan to maintain it. It's no good installing a suite of state-of-the-art computers, for example, without a plan to replace them as they quickly age and become what ought to be museum pieces.

Installing a recording studio in a school or any place of formal education is not a one-off 'initiative'. It is a commitment to have staff that can run and look after the studio, and provide the budget year after year to maintain the studio and develop it into the future.

Otherwise, what once seemed like an exciting project can soon become an expensive white elephant.

David Mellor

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David Mellor