By Sherry Jackson
From broadcast studios, recording rooms and a sound stage, the sound of music in Gilbert is tucked quietly away in an industrial park.
At the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, the walls are lined with placards showcasing the achievements of its current and alumni students.
Awards are numerous with 200-plus Grammy-nominated and winning recordings, 3,800 film, TV and documentary projects and 122 AAA video game titles in addition to Oscars, Tonys, American Music Awards and Country Music Awards. Students work on high-profile projects throughout the music and recording industry.
CRAS is considered one of the premier schools in the country for audio engineering, music production and sound design with students going on to careers as sound engineers, game audio designers, corporate media techs, broadcast engineers and sound effects engineers.
“Anywhere there is sound, there is an opportunity for our students,” said Kirt Hamm, administrator for the school.
CRAS focuses on five core areas of sounds and audio recording. Students rotate through each specialty-music, video games, live sound, film and TV and broadcast — before choosing which area best fits their personality and skillset.
The conservatory started in 1980 with a couple of audio engineers offering adult training classes in a 24-track recording studio in New York City. The classes were popular for those looking for hand-on training and “Songshop,” the original school name, continued to expand, adding internships with commercial studios and recording artists.
In 1987, the operation moved to Tempe and changed its name to “The Academy of Recording Sciences,” then changed the name again in 1988 to better reflect the school’s motto: “to conserve, enhance, improve and promote the artistic and technical skills of audio recording by preparing students to enter the business as qualified audio recording engineers.”
Today, more than 600 students spend time at each of CRAS’s two campuses — the original 14,000-square-foot Tempe location and the 25,000-square-foot location in Gilbert.
The Gilbert facility was built in 2002 to alleviate the two-year long waiting list prospective students faced at the time.
Each location is equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as SSL consoles, Dolby ATMOS along with digital and analog systems in its recording rooms and studios.
“The equipment is the same at each location, but the layout may be different, and the acoustics are different,” Hamm said. “It’s important for students to learn how to manipulate sound in different environments.”
The school also has a mobile broadcast unit it dispatches to area sporting events.
A 6,000-square-foot live sound stage at the Gilbert location represents a small concert venue, complete with similar line-array, curved speakers.
The 32 instructors at CRAS are industry professionals, prior graduates and working engineers.
“Our students really get first-hand experience in all areas,” Hamm said. “We don’t just train appliance operators where students know how to just turn a knob. We want them to understand the theory and the practical application behind what they are doing and how they are affecting the sound.”
Classes run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily but the facilities are open 24 hours a day so students and faculty can work on their own projects after hours.
Students are predominately male, although females are highly encouraged and do well in the male-dominated industry, Hamm said.
Classes begin every three weeks and are small — usually no more than 12 students. CRAS is fully accredited, offering scholarships, grants and student loan opportunities.
The program runs 36 weeks with a mandatory 12-week internship and its $22,000 tuition includes a MacBook Pro and required software. Not only do students earn a diploma, but they can also earn 16 certifications.
Many CRAS students are hired by the company they interned with and the school boasts a graduation and placement rate of approximately 80 percent. An advisory board of industry professionals ensures the school is teaching the skills companies and artists are looking for.
“The quality and depth of education students receive here gives them the very best shot they can get in the industry,” Hamm said. “We’re very focused on the success of our students. Our students are well-prepared.”
CRAS is not just about going to an audio school and listening to music all day, Hamm stresses. “It’s about the science behind the sound and the artistry. It’s for those that have a passion for music, or a passion for video games or a passion for live broadcast or a passion for the movie industry. They come here and learn all about the audio, then we place them in the industry. It’s a great recipe for success.”
Information: cras.edu or 480-858-9400.