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Oberlin Conservatory of Music Launches Joseph R. Clonick Studio

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, brought together leading professional audio industry manufacturers to outfit its new world-class recording facility, the Joseph R. Clonick Studio, which also serves as a performance venue. To create the finest in recorded sound—and an unparalleled educational and pre-professional experience for its students—the Clonick Studio uses products from BAE; Ed Meitner of EMM Labs; Gotham; Grace Design; iZ Technology Radar; JL Audio; Mogami; Richard Schram and Parasound; Maurice Patist and PMC; Rupert Neve Designs; Gus Skinas and DSD; and Sterling Modular Systems.

Oberlin’s Paul Eachus, Director of Audio Services, in the Joseph R. Clonick Studio

“The room was designed for surround sound, an immersive musical experience in which the music is captured with more depth,” says Michael Lynn, Associate Dean of the Conservatory, who served as project liaison. “Oberlin wanted to offer students the experience of working within a real recording studio, to give them a shot at making a spectacular recording. The studio will afford our students free and direct access to high-level excellence in recording new music, old music, and everything in between.”

The centerpiece of the control room is the Rupert Neve Designs (RND) 5088 console, a 24-track, discrete analog mixer outfitted with Tonelux Shadowmix fader automation. “The RND 5088 is distinguished by its neutrality and high headroom, both of which are critical in our jazz and classical applications,” says acoustic consultant Dana Kirkegaard, of Kirkegaard Acoustic Design, LLC, of Downers Grove, Ill. “We selected the RND after carefully auditioning desks in Los Angeles; the great sound and solid feel of the console was critical in our decision.”

Sterling Modular Systems Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company that designs and produces furniture for the audio recording and broadcast industries, built the custom console that houses the RND 5088. Oberlin’s team chose Sterling’s “Pro Series” system for its custom design and its ability to ergonomically integrate the RND 5088 console and accessories in a way that is thoughtful, attractive, and comfortable for the user.

“The selection of Sterling to build the custom console was based upon our desire for an array of analog outboard equipment within easy reach,” says Kirkegaard. “Sterling offers a standard console for the RND 5088 and matching patchbays that are quite handsome and well built, and with excellent acoustic properties. We started with that design and modified the patchbays to serve as side racks; we then wrapped the console around the operator to facilitate access to the equipment. One of the features that puts the console design over the top is an automated monitor stand that raises and lowers a pair of Apple cinema displays at the touch of a button.”

The Rupert Neve Designs 5088 analog console is the centerpiece of the Joseph R. Clonick Studio control room.

The construction of the Clonick Studio is an especially noteworthy
achievement in a time when recording studios are declaring bankruptcy
due to a rise in more economical, often lesser-quality digital recording
formats. “I think that what Oberlin is doing to support the arts is
really extraordinary,” comments Kirkegaard. “Studios have been closing
all over the place for five to 10 years, and here we are building a
studio. That’s a huge credit to the conservatory and their leadership. A
place like Oberlin is in a unique position to build a studio at the
highest level and support these artists.”

Pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara recently mixed her newest CD with
Cleveland-based producer Michael Bishop in the studio’s control room.
Bishop is one of the studio’s first end-users; his Five Four
Productions—an audio team formerly associated with Telarc Records
comprising Bishop, Robert Friedrich, and Thomas Moore—has 15 technical
Grammy Awards to its credit. Bishop says that he and his colleagues
typically travel to recording studios in Los Angeles and New York City
in order to meet their clients’ needs. With the arrival of the Clonick
Recording Studio, he is now able to supplement his technical
requirements closer to home.

Spearheaded by Kirkegaard and Lynn, plans for the recording studio began
in 1999. A desire to rehearse Oberlin’s large jazz ensemble inspired
the size of the room. Once the dimensions of the space had been
determined, acoustic consultants were able to easily turn the space into
a recording facility for all kinds of music, taking sound isolation and
acoustic treatments into careful consideration. According to Director
of Audio Services, Paul Eachus, Oberlin’s chief recording engineer, the
Clonick Studio “is unique to this region; there just isn’t anything like
it being built right now.”

The facility has also attracted the attention of other luminary
musicians. Cellist Zuill Bailey, pianist Orli Shaham, Richard King,
principal hornist of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Tod Bowermaster, third
hornist of the St. Louis Symphony, are among the distinguished
classical musicians that have come to Oberlin to record. Amidst
dedication events for the Kohl Building, which houses the Clonick
Studio, music legend Stevie Wonder spent 40 minutes playing the new
Hamburg Steinway. During a concert appearance in Oberlin in March 2011,
Esperanza Spalding—the acclaimed jazz double bassist and vocalist, and
winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist (the first jazz
musician to ever win the award)—visited the studio and expressed a
desire to record there as well.

For more information, visit Oberlin College’s Conservatory of MusicOberlin College’s Bertram and Judith Kohl Building,, and