AES Section Meeting Reports

Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences - September 1, 2022

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The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences was pleased to welcome back alumni Frank Lenz to discuss his journey in New York City since graduating. The event was hosted by CRAS instructor Scott Murray. Frank's passion for music started at an early age, with Nine Inch Nails' album "Broken" being the first album that he ever owned. His interest quickly gravitated to the technical side of the creative process: "I learned pretty quickly that the studio can be an instrument in itself. So from a very early age, I realized, Look, you have your multi instrumentalist like Prince and Trent Reznor, but someone's got to be able to mix this down and tell the story. I'm talking like I was nine when I got that out... So first, while listening to music, I started to explore things. Like, I'd get excited if there's panning done an album. So how do you do that? That sounds cool. And this is really entertaining. And then I spent a lot of money on headphones and speakers and collecting albums throughout my life... I moved to Arizona actually to study graphic design right after high school. And the school that I was going to wasn't so hot. So I left and was kind of in between things."
In 2004, Frank had a friend visiting from New York who brought CRAS to his attention. "She was on an airplane with somebody who was wearing a CRAS t-shirt. And she's like, Oh, what's that? And he explained the school and she was like, that sounds like something that Frank would be really interested in. So sure enough, as soon as she got off the plane in New York, she called me up and she's like, Hey, there's a school in Tempe... So I called the school and did the whole interview process...They told me what the school schedule was going to be like, and you remember, I'm an 18 year old kid, I just moved
out here in between school things working full time. I just kind of read the room and figured out, I'm not gonna be able to swing this right now. So put it on the back-burner for almost 15 years."
Fast forward 15 years to Frank's spur of the moment decision to call CRAS regarding his application: "So literally, I called up the school once on a whim and explained... Hey, I applied 15 years ago... So they're like, if you've been thinking about this for 15 years, let's just get this done. It was a pretty easy admission for them, because like, I just came and toured, you know, paid my dues. And then I started on the next cycle that I could. And it felt like, it had been a long time coming. And I did feel like I did it at the right time. Like I finally was able to schedule properly, I went to the school, when I was working a full time job. Still, I couldn't have done it without the support of my wife... She heard me on the phone call with CRAS admissions, and she's like, well, you're obviously doing that, right? So that support really helped out a lot. And then the great staff here kept me on track."
Frank graduated in 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. This naturally caused a few unexpected twists and turns in Frank's journey at the start of his internship. "So I feel just chronologically, there's this preparedness that you want for your internship. But moving to any other city, and planning to be there for 90 days, or however long, all that's very complicated as it is. Then you throw into the mix of the entire country shutdown, and you don't know if you're gonna be stuck somewhere or whatnot. That did change a lot. What am I going to do for three months? Where am I staying? And then more importantly, during that 90 days, or that three months, like when you start talking about are you coming back? Or where do you want to go next? You've got to juggle all of that. That is something that I think gets addressed with the preparedness."
Scott then asked Frank to describe his first month in New York. "Look, we're on lockdown for two weeks. So I told intern coordinator I'm willing to have the conversations and if people want to interview remotely, cool. I can't really start getting around the city for another two weeks. So during that time, just to kind of keep myself sane, I started working with an instructor that's here just to get some extra like mix tutorials and that sort of thing, just to make sure that my downtime was being used appropriately. And then I was also looking for other housing and for other work. I started looking for places that I could intern.

That started building the network immediately, like people are happy to hear like, oh, there's new blood out here."
After some time, Frank found an internship opportunity. "What ended up happening is my intern coordinator found a recording studio where the owner is a mastering engineer and had his own mastering room there... So the idea was in this is kind of a strategic attack was like, Look, I'm gonna go in and scrub toilets, book sessions, answer the phone and do whatever is needed until I could start the conversation with the owner about getting into the mastering room to start focusing on what it is that I actually want to do. However, I had no point lying to myself thinking that I could do that in 90 days."
Frank then described the interview process that he went through going into his internship: "The one thing that I did, because I was a little anxious, I started talking about mastering in the interview. And the operations manager at that time was like, oh, yeah, you know, the studio owner is the mastering engineer, if in six months you haven't really had a sit down with him, I would send him an email and just tell him you're interested... I mean, again, I knew that it was going to take time. And every hurdle that comes up, it's like, you just kind of have to strategize like, Well, how am I gonna get through this hurdle? So I just hunkered down and was like, I'm going to do the best that I can to have that conversation earlier, if appropriate. But other than that, at least I now have some sort of timeframe. You know, like, they weren't misleading me, they gave me a timeframe."
The interview went well, but Frank still had some time to wait in regards to his internship. "The way that this studio's internship program works is everybody starts on call. So you're not even given a schedule. They're told, if we have an opening that someone else is not covering, we're going to ask you to fill it. So now you're basically hanging around waiting for the call, right? My thinking was, that's cool. But like this commuting back and forth is not so cool. And there are like empty chairs around here. Can I just pop a squat and like, work on stuff? Like I was editing podcasts and things like that. And they were actually very open to that. So it was already kind of forming in my head, like, how can I be at the studio? Like almost immediately, like I had an official start date. I read the intern handbook, showed up, and then I basically just didn't go home for a week. It was pretty bad because I mean, even the studio owner knew I was married. He's like, don't let your wife hate you, because he realized I'm working the morning shift and

the night shift. And I was just there. But it worked. Because at the end of that week, he called me into his office. And he was like, Would you like to be my mastering assistant? Literally the words that he said to me, You remind me of an intern from like the 90s. You write things down, you're here on time... They want people who are interested in audio and are trying to get their foothold in a career, and they legitimately want to help you get to that point, whichever way they can. It's a give and take, but you're still providing a service to them. But they're providing a service to you as well... I finished up my internship that week... So it just all worked out where I was able to say my goodbyes to CRAS and then look at my new venture as an assistant mastering engineer."
Today, Frank works as a mastering engineer at Engine Room Audio, an A1 for Vox Media's The MMA Hour, as well as a live engineer for Public Records. In the short two years since graduating from CRAS, Frank has done work for WIRED magazine, Discovery Channel, Joe Biden's Presidential Campaign and Inauguration, Jon Stewart, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Raekwon, Sam Smith, Conway the Machine, ESSENCE magazine, DailyBurn, and the list goes on. Frank's journey is truly inspiring, affirming that perseverance, professionalism, commitment, and of course knowledge can take you far.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society