Recording Connection mentor Joey Heier on the Importance of Hands-On Training and his Passion for Teaching

RC Mentor Joey Heier (sitting center) with students.

When it comes to a passion for helping our students succeed in the music industry, they don’t come more passionate than Recording Connection mentor Joey Heier. As the owner and chief engineer of Crystal Clear Studios in Philadelphia, PA, Joey has mentored Recording Connection students for years, and even wrote the curriculum that is currently in use in our Bachelor’s equivalent program. He’s got his own track record of industry success, with a client list that includes names like B.o.B., Jill Scott, Dru Hill and Christina Aguilera. But spend a few minutes with Joey, and you quickly realize one of his greatest joys is enabling his students to follow in his successes as a producer/engineer.
[break] In a recent conversation with RRFC, Joey weighed in on why he loves being a mentor and his approach to teaching students in the studio, and even took time to mention a few of his former students’ successes, as well. Enjoy!
[break] “It’s a tremendous passion for me; I enjoy doing this so much. I have a style that I believe in where I talk with my kids about a textbook answer that they’re probably going to forget immediately, and then an “Uncle Joe” definition that’s two or three words that they’re going to remember immediately, and then they’re going to understand what the textbook definition is by hearing it in a simpler fashion…When I have great kids that come in and really, really want to do this, I enjoy seeing people smile. I have an outstanding job, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do it with a smile. And that doesn’t happen with every kid, naturally—it really depends if they want to do it. But if they want to do it, I am so honored to have the opportunity to teach, and I think that’s why it works well for me.”
[break] “I start them off just observing me work while I have folks that have headphones on their head, and I tell my guys and gals everything that I’m doing as I’m doing it. And a lot of that, with respect, will go over their head, and then the client goes home, and then [the students] ask me questions, which I believe doesn’t happen in any other institution in the world.”
[break] “I want to know why you want to do this. What is your passion? I want to know if you have any experience at all or if you have a lot of experience. I want an entire equipment list, or if you don’t have anything, that’s quite all right. I’m here to help…If you really want to do it. You have to really want to do it, you have to really dedicate yourself, and I try to screen them as they come through, and I try to ask questions. ‘Hey, is this something that you have had a passion for your whole life? Is this something that’s new? What can we do to make this great?’”
[break] “I have a student…[Krysten Dean,] a girl who I love, and she really, really surprised me. She’s doing audio for Beyoncé and Jay Z. I have a student now [Justin Robbinson] who’s doing audio for Kanye West. Whether you love him or you hate him, he’s a very big talent…I have graduates that are working at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Madison Square Garden in New York City…I’ve had students that have worked with Stevie Wonder…
[break] “Right now I’m teaching [a] blind student. His name is Angel Ayala (read article)…He did 20 lessons with me for the bachelor’s program, he’s now doing another 20 lessons for the master’s program. This kid can do more without vision on a Macintosh computer than I can do…He runs my entire console totally blind…He runs entire sessions. And he doesn’t use a mouse, he uses a voiceover utility where the computer talks to him and it tells him how to raise and lower volumes or pan things or add effects to things.
[break] “Another kid who just completed Lesson 20, his name is Jessie Ludwig. And he’s a man who plays acoustic guitar and likes country music. And he knew absolutely nothing when he met me, as far as audio. And so we brought groups in to record. He watched me master, he watched me mix, he watched me record. He brought a group in, we recorded the entire EP.”
[break] “I’m very invested in how I can help others gain confidence and be able to do more than read and answer 15 questions, to really be able to be hands-on and to work with people. I tell my students, ‘You have to be a gentleman or a lady, and you also have to be an expert.’ And I try to show those two points. I try to show them how to do it on a hardware console as well as a mouse, so they can work in any studio in the world.”
[break] Connect with Joey Heier on Facebook.
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