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Don’t Call It ‘Edutainment’

Pensado’s Place is highly entertaining.

Pensado’s Place is highly entertaining. Pick any of the 240-plus weekly episodes and it’s apparent—even residing in a niche arts- and technology-centric market like professional audio—that this is good television. It’s engaging, instructional, cultural and just plain fun, often moving beyond the bounds of craft and into simple life lessons. A lot of that has to do with the guests, as engineers, producers and musicians can be a highly entertaining lot, with plenty of stories to tell. But most of it has to do with the gentle Southern charm and folksy authority of its namesake, Dave Pensado, and his longtime friend and show co-host, producer/manager Herb Trawick. Their familiar, easy interaction is the same on-camera as off-camera, and they bring an insider’s accessibility to the studio set. These are guys you would like to hang out with.

Pensado’s Place is also highly educational, well beyond the specific techniques imparted by the guests. There’s business advice, career advice and recording advice. Into the Lair (so-named because of Pensado’s penchant to mix in low light), which goes in-depth on a take or technique, has been a regular feature since the debut. Trawick says that his “aha” moment when he knew the show would take off was when he saw the number of schools signing in grow from zero to 17 in the first four months, with very little outreach. Today, there are more than 17,000 “student members” in the Pensado community, and developing new forms of curriculum, and expanding reach through a global partnership with Hal Leonard, is one of the main planks in the rapidly growing company.

But when the popular press takes note and does a piece, dubbing the show “edutainment,” in a positive way, I still feel that it cheapens what the program really is. As if Leeza Gibbons was going to come onstage and send us off to a report from Abbey Road after a commercial break. That is not what Pensado’s Place is about. Yes, it is a commercial enterprise, and has done all right with sponsors, avoiding for now the subscription model. But it’s an insider’s show, with an insider’s knowledge. It is entertaining. It is educational. Enough said.

It’s also much more than the weekly show. Over the past five years, Pensado’s Place has become a bona fide media company, with reach into social, live events, awards shows, tutorial, print, Internet radio and much more to come. They award scholarships, they hand out free studios at events, and they’ve formed partnerships with organizations on the many sides of the music and recording industries. In mid-November, after five years of temporary facilities at three different locations, Pensado’s Place opened the Pensado Media Center on Lankershim Boulevard in Los Angeles. It is pictured on this month’s cover.

Pensado and Trawick hint that there are three more to come, as they reach across the country with physical hubs to complement their online community. Their loyal online community. The show’s scope will be expanding into other areas of audio, such as post-production, broadcast, forensics and composition. Photographers and authors will visit the Media Centers to strut their stuff. And these hubs will become what Trawick calls “the physical repositories of knowledge.”

Just don’t call it edutainment.

Tom Kenny

Editor, Mix