One of the most powerful parts of the Recording Connection experience is the opportunity for students not only to make connections, but also to build ongoing relationships with their mentors. This has paid off big-time for Recording Connection student Dez Ward, whose relationship with his mentor (a Grammy-winning producer/engineer) has resulted in some amazing experiences.
“He is super humble, man, and he’s a great teacher,” Dez says of his mentor, Tre Nagella of Luminous Sound in Dallas, TX. “When I’m there, I try to ask as many questions as much as possible. I actually try to bug him…When I was watching the introduction to the school, one thing stood out to me: ‘Make sure that you bug your mentor.’ And I started laughing. I was like, ‘That’s totally me.’…That relationship, man, you don’t get that one-on-one relationship with most of your professors.”
It turns out that Tre is a good guy to know: he’s worked with some major industry icons, including Lady Gaga and J. Cole, for example. As Dez worked through his externship/externship, made himself useful and built a rapport with Tre, he found himself sitting in sessions with yet another high-profile artist:
“I’ve had a chance to experience a whole album process with Kirk Franklin,” he says. “Got some connections with them…The whole album process, man, that was dope. To sit right there with Kirk Franklin and see how he works…is pretty inspiring as well.”
Of course, it’s not all about getting to rub shoulders with the greats. When you’re externing with Grammy-winners, you’re likely to learn some important things, as well.
“From the ground up, I’ve learned what it takes to build a studio, and it’s not easy,” says Dez. “It makes you really open your eyes….There’s a business side to it as well…You have to be able to have confidence. When it comes to guest studio time, when it’s on a business level, you really have to put your foot down. I’ve been one of those types of guys to be lenient on things, but I’ve been taught that your talents do cost [something]. You do want to look out for people, but at the end of the day, if you’re going to put your money and time into it, and if that client is serious enough, they should be able to do the same.”
As Dez completes his externship at Luminous Sound, he looks forward to building his career based on what he’s learned from his mentor. “Knowing that I’m going to learn something new each time I go in there is definitely exciting,” he says. “I’m inspired by some greats, and that’s my goal—not to be exactly like them, but I want that level…I’m going to give it my all because this is my passion.”
That said, perhaps the most important thing Dez has learned is that in the industry, success is earned—no one hands it to you. “If you want it, you really gotta go get it,” he says. “Nobody’s going to babysit you.”