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ISSUE 117 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/26/2003

Student engineers spin success

By Carl Schroeder
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 26, 2003

For Joshua Wyatt ‘05, Paul Marino ‘05, and Jonathan Sack ‘04, keeping up with classes while moonlighting as audio recording engineers has become just another part of life on the hill. These enterprising St. Olaf students have entered the professional audio recording and production business, providing their services to student musicians and clients throughout the Twin Cities area.

For Wyatt, audio recording and production have been lifelong interests. "I’ve always had a fascination with microphones and technology," said Wyatt.

Wyatt began purchasing digital recording equipment in 1999, and has reinvested his earnings into higher-end technology and software ever since. Two years ago, Wyatt’s business adopted the name Studio 261, labeled after his freshman room number in Kittlesby Hall.

Although Studio 261 specializes in live recording of concerts and recitals, in recent years Wyatt has gained extensive experience in studio recording. While at St. Olaf, he has produced full-length CD recordings for David Melby ’05 and Matthew Nienow ’05, as well as a demo CD for Kristen Graves ’04. Wyatt focuses on classical and recital recordings, but has also produced pop recordings.

Wyatt provides on-site recording, edits out mistakes in post-production, adds special effects and designs CD cover art, all while staying within his clients’ budgets. "[Studio 261] makes it possible to create quality projects without spending a fortune," said Wyatt.

Wyatt has also done audio work for St. Olaf Cantorei and Carleton College, and has been hired for recording jobs nationwide, including the 2002 Sweet Adelines Regional Conventional in Anchorage, Alaska. Last spring, he was hired as a broadcast engineer and concert recordist for WCAL. "It’s been great to be able to work with so many people, and I’ve met a lot of interesting characters over the years," said Wyatt.

Xeojax Production Studios, headed by Marino and Sack, is another full-service student audio business. "Our main focus is producing music for commercial use, although we are doing a lot of studio recording right now," said Marino, whose clients include Graves, Matt Johnson ’04, several University of Minnesota students and Flashbang Studios, a video game production company. Marino and Sack generally produce pop, jazz, and electronic music.

Based in Marino’s Northfield home, the Xeojax studio features a wide array of microphones, synthesizers and computers, as well as recording, mixing and effects gear. In addition, Marino and Sack have an extensive sampling library that allows clients to add a full band sound to a solo recording.

This capability has proven especially valuable to Johnson and Graves, who are both in the process of recording new albums with Xeojax. "Their tools allow me to do orchestrations on the spot," said Johnson, whose CD "Pieces Found" is scheduled for a November release. "[Xeojax] does everything a multi-million dollar recording studio can do, at a fraction of the cost."

Graves, whose new CD is also due out this fall, gave similar high marks to Sack and Marino. "I tell them what I want something to sound like, and they tell me how we can make it happen," she said.

Last school year, Marino, Sack and Wyatt were recipients of the Finstad Grant, a program offered by St. Olaf’s Finstad Office for Entrepreneurial Studies. Funded by alumni Paul and Anne Finstad, the program supports the business ventures of students who successfully complete a rigorous review process.

"While applying for a Finstad Grant, Joshua Wyatt of Studio 261 and Paul Marino and Jonathon Sack of Xeojax Production Studios showed innovation, creativity and self-reliance, which are all essential skills in thriving as an entrepreneur," said Finstad Office Coordinator Rhonda Rekstad.

Call them three engineers on a sound track to success.

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