From an early age, Chicago-based Recording Connection student Charles Huston knew he belonged in the recording studio. “My whole life I’ve kinda been a tech head…a gear luster,” he says. “My dad actually comes from the old L.A. record industry. My Dad’s been having me in and out of a few studios my whole life.

But when Charles graduated high school and took audio production in college, he got disillusioned with it. “I actually dropped out of the Berklee School of Music out of Massachusetts as a production student,” he says. “Took a couple years as a break because I didn’t really find their program worth it for me.”

During the break, as Charles described it, he spent the down time “getting into a good amount of trouble.” It was obvious to him that he needed to get serious again about a music career, even if it meant taking a different road than the college route. When he found the Recording Connection could train him on-the-job in a real Chicago recording studio, he jumped at the chance, and was placed as an extern with Andy Shoemaker at Rax Trax Recording.

“Andy was amazing,” Charles recalls. “He’d literally take any question I’d have, and we’d sit in that room if the time was available and just explore each topic until I understood it completely.”

On-the-job training turned out to be just what he needed to turn things around for himself and start launching. He was a quick study, and by gaining the trust of his mentors, it wasn’t too long before he was handling his own sessions.

“Rick [the studio owner] was saying, ‘If there’s nothing on the schedule, just have at it bud. Make sure you don’t do anything stupid,’ says Charles. “Which, you know, there’s a couple million dollars’ worth of gear in the room. That’s a lot of love coming from a man, you know?”

Charles also made the most of the opportunity by making as many connections as he could, particularly in Chicago’s active hip-hop community. The result is that he’s now making a name for himself as a freelance engineer, working in several recording studios with artists like Lucky X and Sly Shanty, and with up-and-coming producers like Tapez (of Boogz & Tapez). He’s even in talks with investors to build out his own studio space, which he hopes will happen soon. Charles’ entrepreneurial spirit really comes through as he talks about his strategy for making connections:

“You have to be clever about it,” he says. “Some things that have really put me forward, I’d say, is finding relationships I want to create, figuring out a way to create them, and then not only getting that relationship initiated but then developing that relationship to the point where you can have a good working business relationship.”

Before enrolling in the Recording Connection, Charles Huston was a disillusioned college dropout who still had a dream but didn’t know how to get in the door. All he really needed to focus his direction was to get where he belonged—in a real recording studio. Thanks to his externship and his own initiative, he’s now well on his way.

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