Los Angeles Recording School (LARS) has become the place for aspiring audio professionals to break into the industry. Not only does the school teach must-have technical chops on state-of-the-art equipment, but it also offers an unrivaled foot-in-the-door job placement program and invaluable networking opportunities.
Los Angeles Recording School was founded in 1985 and is located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The faculty is comprised of professional recording engineers who teach a full range of audio engineering and music production skills including recording, mixing, and optimizing audio for music, movies, television, computer games and the Internet. Graduate credits include Grammy Awards and nominations, engineering multi-platinum albums, placing the final touches on new theatrical releases and working with top musical artists such as Sheryl Crow, Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, Seal and Christina Aguilera.
“I had friends who went there and, honestly, the placement department is really good,” says Rob Freeman, 27, who completed his 900 hour recording engineering certificate course at LARS last year and is now an independent recording engineer in Los Angeles. “Most of the working engineers I know either went there or taught there.”
“I looked at the curriculum they had listed on their web site and found that it was a perfect match for my goals,” says Catharine Wood, 32, who graduated at the top of her LARS class in August 2005 and is now an audio engineer running the dub room at PLAY Studios in Santa Monica.
“The 900-hour program is a comprehensive recording engineer program with everything from live sound, to Pro Tools, to audio postproduction, to recording and mixing music on various SSL, Neve and Sony Oxford boards,” explains Wood.
“You need 200 hours of internship to even graduate from the school,” says Naeem Clark, 21, who graduated from LARS in June ’05. “For me I started out as an intern at 93.1 Jack FM [radio station in Los Angeles] … At the end of my internship I got hired at the radio station. It was a direct product of my schooling.”
Aside from his regular radio gig, Clark also applies the skills he learned at LARS while running live sound at Holman United Methodist Church in South Central L.A. and freelancing at various Hollywood venues.
“I actually started working before I graduated,” says Freeman. “I started doing my internship with The Document Room studios in Malibu and moved right up – second engineer within a few months and first engineer for a little while.I worked with Puddle of Mudd on pre-production for their new album, Lauren Hill, The Temptations and other high-profile clients.”
Los Angeles Recording School retains its “real world” connection partly through its instructors, all of whom either have worked or are working in the upper echelons of the industry. “The instructors are fully decorated engineers in the business,” Clark confirms. “A lot of the instructors are still live sound engineers for major concert venues – House of Blues, places like that. A lot of them like, say, [LARS Director of Education] Steve Miller, have worked on a lot of number-one albums and number-one singles.”
“I found the instructors to be excellent and knowledgeable,” says Wood. “Since the applications of the audio professional are broad, I had instructors with credits on gold and multi-platinum albums for their mixing contribution, for sound design on video games and one, Chris Boyett, is an Emmy-nominated engineer for his editing work on “Battlestar Galactica.” The instructors really know their stuff and could field any question.”
“The school offers both part-time and full-time scheduling for students. I was on the full-time track so I had class every day … it was about 30 hours a week,” Wood continues. “We had lectures, hands-on workshops and labs. Everything from lectures on the physics of sound, energy and how sound travels, to intensive Pro-Tools classes. All of the workshops were hands-on and the class size was kept to a manageable number, so everybody could have their own workstation.”
The lessons learned at LARS are applied every day in the real world of engineering. “Just signal flow in general – just knowing how to get things running,” says Andrew Druckner, 20, who graduated from the school in ’05.
“If I hadn’t grasped basic signal flow there would be no way for me to understand the patch bay, tape machines, computers and general technical situations I deal with daily,” Wood concurs. “Beyond that, I would say that having gone to a top-notch school to be educated in the field that I make my living in gives me a certain confidence and pride.”
“I mainly went there to learn Pro-Tools and a couple of the major digital work platforms that are out there,” says Freeman. “It’s incalculable how handy that actually is. That’s actually the reason I got put right on [at The Document Room] … because I had a working knowledge of Pro Tools and was quick to edit drums, tune vocals and all that stuff.”
“The biggest thing that helps me today in the work that I do was the live sound lectures we had – the theory classes on live sound,” says Clark. “When I got out and started doing live sound my background and the theory classes I had just came in really handy.”
LARS also can impart more subtle survival tips to its students. “A lot of it is in-between the lines,” mulls Freeman. “Dealing with clients and dealing with some of these producers who can be a little out there, a little demanding, a little controlling … [LARS] kind of sets you up and gets you ready for that.”
And the networking value of attending Los Angeles Recording School lingers long after graduation. “Since my graduation in August I’ve worked on projects with folks I met at the school,” says Wood. “The instructors were also very helpful in ‘keeping the dream alive’ and continuing to encourage and lend advice long after graduation.”
“Being driven is one thing, but to have a proper education is essential,” Wood concludes. “This is the kind of industry where, without proper knowledge, things can blow up, get erased and very expensive equipment and business can be lost … LARS is the school to attend for a very solid education in the fundamentals required for audio professional applications.”