San Francisco Conservatory of Music is the oldest conservatory in the American West and has earned an international reputation for producing musicians of the highest caliber. Their Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) program, which combines an exceptional conservatory curriculum with cutting-edge production practices in concert music, sound design, and film & game scoring, uses a 32-channel
Taurin Barrera, the program’s Studio Director, says, “The 5088 is first and foremost a teaching tool, that allows students to get hands-on experience and literally feel the sounds they are working with. We teach recording, production, and mixing on the 5088. We also use the board in large productions at the school, anything from tracking a string quartet to recording stems to be used in a video game. We have a mobile MADI rack that we can move to any of the outstanding halls at the Conservatory, and send audio to the board, essentially turning the entire building into a modular recording studio.”
From TAC’s Director of Recording Services, Jason O’Connell: “Since SFCM is an educational institution and a number of the students entering our program have little or no prior experience working on traditional mixing consoles, we wanted to provide opportunities for them to learn signal flow and routing in an analog environment before moving onto more involved digital systems and control surfaces. Furthermore, the ability to customize our console with the specific components we wanted was a real plus.”
“Currently at SFCM we produce a lot of music in the classical genre. Classical music is known for wide dynamic ranges, and the high voltage rails on the 5088 console provide us with a lot of headroom to accommodate the extreme volumes in orchestral performances. At the other end of the spectrum, the Class A circuit design allows for excellent sound quality even in the quietest movements. Even though the board is extremely transparent, the ability to add harmonic distortion via the ‘Silk’ button provides us with an opportunity to add color and character to our recordings. Last but not least, having a bank of SwiftMix faders on our console allows us to mix in a hybrid scenario. The ability to mix both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the box provides greater flexibility when working on larger sessions. Our console setup gives us the best of both worlds!”
In addition to the 32-channel "Shelford Edition" 5088 console, the studio includes three Portico II Master Buss Processors, and pairs of RNR1 ribbon mics and RN17 small-diaphragm condensers – the result of Rupert Neve Designs’ collaboration with sE Electronics.
Looking forward, Program Chair MaryClare Brzytwa is excited to see a new generation of composers with the skills, training, and experience to innovate in the fields of concert music, sound design and film and game scoring. “And I personally look forward to mentoring more women to become prevalent in the field.”
SFCM President David H. Stull sees this expansion of SFCM’s curriculum to encompass music technology and composition for media as indispensable to the future of twentyfirst century education. “The innovative nature of this program will unite a worldclass conservatory experience with the aesthetics and tools of twenty-first century composition,” Stull affirms. “For the creative individual seeking a comprehensive education in a city that leads the world in technology and new media, there is no better opportunity.”