Learning The Trade: Going To School Versus Going To Work

There's no easy way around the hard part of the business

By M. Erik Matlock July 25, 2013

This article is provided by The Art Of The Soundcheck.

I’m a graduate of The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona. Loved it. Learned the foundational stuff.

After graduation, I made several mistakes. Actually, while I was there I made a lot, too. Took some heat from the old guys about going to school when I got out.

Why did I go to school? I started out like a lot of people. Grew up monkeying with gear. Building monster stereo rigs in my house. Wiring stupid stuff into my cars. Making things loud. My dad was a musician. I played in a few garage bands. Mostly just making noise. I liked the gear. I recorded everything on anything. Still have ancient cassettes of random recordings.

I worked with a youth ministry in Georgia in 1992. We did some band stuff and had shows. I didn’t play a huge part in the tech side of things there. When the house PA needed upgrades, I got involved. Wired the room, hung speakers, setup the mixer, etc. All of it was sloppy and inefficient. Poorly designed. Old gear.

But it was loud. Really loud. And it got the bug started for building bigger and louder systems.

Later, after moving to Macon, GA, we got involved with a big church. Three Sundays into our time there, the head sound guy taps me on the shoulder. Don’t really remember how he knew who I was. He asked if I would be willing to help out with an event. Boom. I was in.

I was volunteer sound for a few years, ended up running the show for a very long time. I was also working with other musicians and wanted to learn more. Wanted to be more of an asset. So, I started looking at schools.

I settled on the Conservatory mostly because of the cost and location. It was within 30 minutes of my wife’s dad in Phoenix. I went through the registration process, worked out the loans and grants, packed up the family and went to Arizona. (Actually, it was a lot bigger deal, but I’ll get into that later.)

My time there was great. Met a lot of great people. Learned more than what was taught. But the question has always been, did I really need to go? Was my time there worth the cost and effort? Could I have learned the same stuff on my own?

Can’t really say since I only know what I know. But here are my thoughts.

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About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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