Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Jason Reynolds honed his audio chops at his local church, the Pentecostal Tabernacle, under the mentorship of Paul Price. “I was very involved in music,” Reynolds explains. “I directed the youth choir, and our church was an active, musical church, and often had concerts, conventions, and special services. A lot of times – even in my late teens – we’d be at church every day because we always had something going on.
“One of the things Paul used to drill into our brains,” he continues, “and I can almost hear his voice saying it now, was, ‘As an audio engineer you’re the extended voice of the preacher.’ He always reminded us of the importance of what we do, and of people being able to hear the preaching of the word.”
That’s something Reynolds also emphasizes with the young people he now mentors. “That, and understanding the weight of that responsibility,” he says. “It’s more than pushing faders. It’s understanding the ministry component to what we do. But that’s always been my approach to mixing – that I’m the extended voice of the artist. That set the tone for my entire career, not just what I do in church.”
Instilling that in others, he believes, is particularly important in a church setting. “What was cool about Paul, was the time and effort he put into mentoring us (as volunteers) with no end goal. And it wasn’t just about sound; it was about life skills and the opportunity to disciple. Neither of us knew this would become my career. It was, ‘You’re a volunteer. You’re under my care and leadership, and I’m going to pour everything I have in me into you.’ That left an indelible mark on me and I seek to do the same.”
A Lot Of Hats
To say Reynolds has a lot going on at any time is a massive understatement. In addition to serving as technical director at Toronto’s Faith Sanctuary Pentecostal Church, he tours regularly as production manager/monitor engineer for Shaggy, tour manager/front of house engineer for Magic! as well as for Stephen Marley and the Marley Brothers. He also regularly works with gospel music artists that includes the Toronto Mass Choir among many others and on live recordings for Ricky Dillard’s “7th Episode, Live in Toronto,” which won two Stellar Awards. As if all of that’s not enough, he regularly hosts mix clinics and educational seminars for manufacturers such as DPA Microphones and others.
When the lockdowns due to the pandemic were declared last year, Reynolds was on tour with Shaggy in the UK. “It was just when the lockdowns started,” he notes. “We did our last gig on March 12, flew home March 13, and they closed the borders on the 14.” It put an end to his plans to head out on more Shaggy dates in Europe as well as events that were lined up with the Marley Brothers to celebrate what would have been Bob Marley‘s 75th birthday.
But Reynolds took the situation in stride: “The silver lining was that I’d be able to be home and more involved in church. I oversee the audio department even when I’m not there, but if I’m touring, I’m not able to be as hands-on as I’d like to be.”
He’s grateful for the opportunity to do so now and considers himself lucky. “When you’re passionate about something, and then all of a sudden you’re not able to do that thing… I don’t think people realize, but that’s one of the biggest impacts of Covid. Even if you can survive financially, not being able to express yourself with your passion. For a musician, for example, who lives to play live and loves playing live, when that’s taken away in a heartbeat it’s a difficult thing to process. And, for me, audio engineering is more than just a job – it’s what I live to do, and church gives me an outlet to continue to use my skills and continue to be able to do what I love, which kept me mentally stable.”
Something he’s been particularly occupied with, as has been much of the world of churches over the past year, is live streaming. “We’ve taken giant steps at Faith Sanctuary, and we’re miles ahead of where we were in March 2020,” he says. “I just got fully immersed in what we were doing at church because I had all the time in the world. So, one of the things I challenged our volunteers to do, week by week, was to find one thing in their specific department – sound, video, lighting – that they could get better at, and through that we’ve seen our volunteers grow immensely. They’ve taken on self-development, signed up for online courses in their particular area, all without any prompting from me.”
That’s also been a personal focus over the past year: “Asking myself: ‘How can I get better? What can I learn? How can I sharpen my skills?’” To do so, he expanded his teaching and mentoring activities in recent months. “I believe that if you really want to know how to do something, go teach it to somebody else. By teaching others, you improve.”
In addition to taking on several students for online audio masterclasses, Reynolds is also a member of the faculty at Metalworks Institute of Sound and Music Production, which, he notes, is working closely with Utech – the University of Technology in Jamaica – to develop a degree program for audio engineers, the first program of its kind in the Caribbean. “And I’m constantly sharpening my skills,” he adds, citing, among other things, Brockville distributor GerrAudio Distribution’s willingness to loan him a DiGiCo Quantum 338 console to test out.