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Mix Regional News: Chicago

Hi-Style Studio And Reliable Records: Shared Facility Serves Roots Artists

Hi-Style Studio, founded by longtime bass player/producer Jimmy Sutton, has been serving Chicago’s Americana/roots music community for 16 years, often hosting sessions for musicians on the Hi-Style label, such as J.D. McPherson, The Bellfuries and others. But when Sutton moved to L.A. a few years ago, his longtime collaborator, engineer/producer/drummer Alex Hall, took over day-to-day operations of the studio. Hall also produces and engineers non-Hi-Style sessions at the studio, under his own business name, Reliable Recorders.

“Jimmy still regularly works with me in Chicago and has generously left his vintage equipment in the space, which I have combined with my own collection,” Hall explains.  It [sounds] a little confusing, but it works for us.”

At press time, Hall was completing sessions with blues singer/songwriter Jake Labotz. “Jake wrote, plays guitar and sings all of the songs on the record, with Jimmy at the helm producing and yours truly at the controls,” Hall says. “Jimmy and I join him on bass and drums, along with keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Scott Ligon on organ or piano on some of the tracks. All of the basic tracks involve the three or four of us playing together in the live room. We’ve captured live vocal takes on a handful of the tunes.”

As for the direction the production takes from there, “This project has a strong mood and travels to some pretty dark places both lyrically and musically,” Hall says. “It was fun finding sounds and textures to match the vibe—distorting elements, making them sound small, even claustrophobic if necessary. Many of the vocals were tracked through an old Elecro-Voice 666, a dynamic mic with a pretty powerful midrange peak and proximity to spare. I’ve found dynamic mics—especially strange, colored ones—can do a great job of putting a vocal track in a very specific sonic place. They also can keep room ambience and coloration to a minimum, and I think the dryness serves Jake’s record well.”—Barbara Schultz

Dr. Ronald Caltabiano is DePaul University’s new dean for the School of Music. Photo: UCSF DMM/ Marco Sanchez

Composer Named Dean at DePaul School of Music

DePaul University has selected Dr. Ronald Caltabiano, an internationally recognized composer with more than 25 years of experience in higher education, as the next dean for the School of Music, effective July 1.

In his current role as dean and professor for the Jordan College of the Arts at Butler University in Indianapolis, Caltabiano oversees the areas of art, arts administration, dance, music, theater and a community outreach program that reaches 1,800 low-income youth. Upon his arrival at Butler in 2011, he managed the completion and final fundraising for the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts, a 450-seat multi-arts venue. His fundraising efforts doubled the annual philanthropic income for the college in four years. Caltabiano also is the founding director of Butler ArtsFest, an annual 11-day festival that brings national and international artists to Butler’s campus to work with students and faculty.

“Ronald’s experience as dean, including the management of large performance facilities, prepares him well to lead DePaul’s School of Music at a pivotal time as we construct our state-of-the-art music building,” said DePaul Provost Marten denBoer. “DePaul is gaining an accomplished musician and dedicated community leader who will build on the School of Music’s strengths and develop the next generation of world-class musicians.”

At DePaul, one of Caltabiano’s first tasks will be leading the School of Music through the construction of its new home on the west side of Halsted Street. Construction began in November 2015 on the new facility, and the university expects to complete the first building phase in spring 2018.

“One of my greatest passions is connecting with neighbors and developing community programs,” Caltabiano said. “In addition to better serving DePaul’s entire student body, the new music facility will be a wonderful cultural addition for all of Chicago and beyond to enjoy. I look forward to collaborating with the school’s talented faculty, staff and students during this exciting time.”

Trained at The Juilliard School in New York, Caltabiano launched his musical career as a composer. His compositions have been heard around the globe, with commissions and performances by the San Francisco, Cincinnati and Dallas Symphony Orchestras.

While maintaining his independent career as a composer, Caltabiano taught music composition and theory at the Manhattan School of Music, Hong Kong Baptist University and Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining Butler University, he served as a faculty member and associate dean at the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University.