Studios Sound Out Plan for Future Fundraising, Equipment Update

Change is on the way for Quad Sound Studios. Hidden beneath the Holmes wing of Pforzheimer House, the underground studio where the music of aspiring performing artists flows through pipes inside the walls may soon have new equipment thanks to the efforts of sound studio engineers.

The Quad Sound Studio, little known to most Harvard students, is where the careers of many University musicians and vocalists find their start. Opened 20 years ago thanks to alumni equipment donations, the studios are now staffed by Harvard undergraduates who are members of the like-named organization, who receive $5 per hour for client recordings.

According to Quad Sound Studios President Philip "Sandy" '99, it remains the only audio recording studio at Harvard.

"For the engineers, it's sort of a stepping stone into the production end of the music industry," said member Alfred Bennett '00. Several alumni of the organization currently work at recording studios around Boston.

The group is in the opening week of its comp program, which trains students to use the recording equipment through a series of information sessions.

"They pretty much come with a great deal of ignorance toward sound recording, and they come out sound gurus," Vice President Alvin L. McCottry '00 said.

This year, 130 students expressed an interest in joining the group at the student activities fair, a record for the small organization which is currently made up of about 15 core engineers.

"That not only shows that there's going to be interest in recording, but it shows that we're going to have more and better recording engineers," Bennett said.

Most of the studio's clients are Harvard students and other affiliates, but the space is also available for use by the greater Boston community. Prices are considerably lower than those of professional studios, which often charge over $50 per hour. At Quad Sound Studios, Harvard affiliates pay $15 per hour, all others $20. Sound engineers who have passed the Sound Studio's comp use the facility free of charge.

The studio boasts 40 compers this season, but engineers said the studio remains a resource largely unknown to most of the Harvardcommunity.

"I think more students need to get in there andutilize it," McCottry said.

Three tiny rooms in Pfoho basement comprise thestudio: control room (complete with mixing board),isolation booth and live room. Microphones in thestudio run up to Holmes living room, where theycan be used to record live performances.

Among the groups that have recorded in thestudio are the Push Kings and Seventeen, bandswhose members are Harvard alumni recently signedto record labels. A. Ryan Leslie '98, alsorecently signed to a record label, once used thestudios and is now working full-time on vocalperformance.

"I got all of my training here," Leslie said.

Most students use the studio to record demotapes they send to potential labels. A cappellagroups on campus also make use of the studio,including the Din & Tonics and Glee Club Lite.Others record dramatic performances orpresentations.

The studio is open for recording at all hoursby reservation.

Quad Sound Studios does not advertise, but thegroup is undertaking a project this year to raisefunds for new digital equipment, which willreplace the current analog system, one thatmembers say is 20 years behind industry standards.

"The goal is for Harvard to have the premierstudio in sound engineering in the Boston area,"McCottry said. "I expect to see some major changeshappening in the studio this year."

Last year, the realization that the cost ofreplacing equipment nearly exceeded monies earnedfrom client use prompted the group to search forother funding sources.

"We're not up to par," Cass said of fundraisingfor a new digital system. "It will put us at thelevel of a professional recording studio."

In addition, the old equipment, most of whichwas purchased 15 years ago, is expensive tomaintain. Repairs last year cost the group about$2,000. Cass said new equipment, including acomputer, software and digital deck, may be morethan $5,000.

The group currently has less than $1,000 in itstreasury, but could easily raise revenue by hikingstudio fees. However, Cass said the group isopposed to charging musicians more.

"We want to make this available to everyone,"he said.

Instead, he said the group has applied forUndergraduate Council grants and support from thenew Student Activities Fund. Last year, the groupmet with Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III torequest funding, and also solicited donations fromlocal professional recording studios.

Treasurer Chiqui O. Matthew '00, of the Collegeband B-Side, is coordinating the group's currentfundraising efforts.

"I hope the University realizes our field is ahighly capitalized one," Matthew said. "It's toomuch to ask the U.C. to give us $3,000.