Audio Recording Technology Institute

These days, it seems like audio engineering schools are opening their doors in virtually every major market. While there used to be few programs to choose from, multitudes of facilities now compete f 11/01/2003 7:00 AM Eastern

These days, it seems like audio engineering schools are opening their doors in virtually every major market. While there used to be few programs to choose from, multitudes of facilities now compete for students' business — and education. In such a rapidly developing market, it is important to recognize those schools that have survived technology's changing face and maintained their reputations. Perhaps no one understands how to endure being in the field of audio engineering education like James Bernard.

The president and founder of the Audio Recording Technology Institute (A.R.T.I.), Bernard opened one of the country's first audio engineering schools in New Jersey in 1969. He started with a single studio and five students, but it wasn't long until he decided to expand his curriculum and move to New York in 1973. In 1990, he expanded again by launching a second A.R.T.I. campus in Orlando, Fla. This newest endeavor continued to build on A.R.T.I.'s solid reputation of quality, comprehensive, hands-on education and has already proven itself to be successful. “All our classes are filled, all of the time,” says Bernard.

A.R.T.I. Orlando's campus hardly resembles Bernard's original 1969 facility. With three buildings and eight studios stocked with cutting-edge gear — including an SSL Axiom console, Pro Tools HD|3 workstation, and JBL 28P mains, M&K MPS2525 Tripole, JBL LSR 12P subs and Genelec 1029 monitors — A.R.T.I. Orlando was designed with an eye to the future of audio production. During an intensive 11-month course, students learn everything from tracking to mixing, MIDI to graphics and music to audio for Internet applications. For Bernard, the key to ensuring a quality education that covers such a diverse range of topics is class size. “Six is our maximum per class,” says Bernard. “We keep it small on purpose to give them lots of hands-on experience.”

The wealth of practicum-style classes and the intensity of the course work is what Bernard believes makes his program so valuable for graduates. “We try to sift out the people who aren't really serious,” says Bernard. “We want the people who really want to do it, and who show the right initiative and attitude.”

For those students with the desired determination, A.R.T.I. has taken one more step toward offering quality education at a reasonable price. In March, A.R.T.I. Orlando opened a newly certified THX pm3 Mix Theater, becoming the first audio institute in the U.S. to offer a THX-certified educational environment. To Bernard, this step was inevitable. “In the THX pm3 Mix Theater, precise control of every aspect of the mix can be achieved through the incorporation of the highest standards of room design, equipment requirements and speaker placement,” says Bernard. “The superior sonic experience in a THX theater environment is one you'll never forget.”

A.R.T.I. committed to the process of becoming THX-certified over a year-and-a-half ago, before Bernard even began to design the new space. A.R.T.I. Orlando's director, Steve Pietrofesa, took it upon himself to design the mix theater with THX standards in mind each step of the way. “It's a daunting process, simply because of the amount of time that went into it,” says Pietrofesa. “There was a lot of math that went into getting it right.” The design process took about three months, with construction completed in the fall of 2002. “We designed it and then [THX] recommended the placement of the loudspeakers, although that didn't necessarily guarantee certification,” says Pietrofesa. “It's part of the nature of room design that you use software and all of your knowledge and understanding. When it's all said and done, you still have to tweak it. But in this case, we got it right out of the box. We were certified on the first try.”

To Bernard, deciding to build the THX theater on the Orlando campus rather than the New York campus was simply a matter of market. “Most people who graduate from my studio in New York want to end up in a music studio,” says Bernard. “But when our students graduate from the program in Florida, they have already been working and making contacts in the Orlando area. There are a lot of venues and attractions and post houses in Florida, so most of the people who graduate end up working in those facilities.”

Building the THX-approved mix stage for students has been worth the effort. “We get a tremendous response from the students when they're in the room,” says Bernard. “When students know they're going through a course that's recognized by such a prestigious company, it's a great feather in their cap.”