Berklee Today

Mattea, Massenburg, and Scheiner Record at Berklee

  From the left: Jared Salvatore, Kathy Mattea, and Erin Barra

A group of extremely fortunate Berklee students had the chance this past October to work in Berklee's Studio A with country recording artist Kathy Mattea, and producers Elliot Scheiner and George Massenburg. Collectively, the three have earned a total of 10 Grammy Awards. Scheiner and Massenburg coproduced, and Mattea together with her longtime guitarist Bill Cooley, performed a student-penned song, with the backing of a student ensemble. A team of upper-level MP&E majors served as second engineers.

At the beginning of the week, Mattea oversaw a songwriter's pitch session. Students played their tunes for her, hoping theirs would be chosen for the recording session at the end of the week. The song she picked, "Matter of Time," moved her to tears, which was a pleasant surprise for cowriters Erin Barra and Jared Salvatore. "It was totally surreal," Barra said. "My heart was pounding."

While the events of the week were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, things did not proceed flawlessly. Massenburg doesn't tolerate uneven rhythm, missed chord changes, or engineering errors and took the students to task when the musical results did not meet his high standards. But his stern exterior belies his generous commitment to Berklee's MP&E students. As a Herb Alpert Visiting Professor, Massenburg will teach on campus for six weeks over the next three years. And while his criticism may at times have sounded rough, it was clearly a sign of respect. He did not coddle the students but he treated them as professionals.

From the left: engineer Elliot Schiener, singer Kathy Mattea, and producer George Massenburg  

Mattea, too, has a sincere interest in teaching Berklee students. She has participated several times in the college's annual Nashville Spring Break. This October she spent five days on campus-a generous amount of time, considering that her latest album was released while she was at Berklee and her tour was scheduled to start a few weeks later.

Mattea was as excited by her interaction with Berklee students, as were Massenburg, and Scheiner. "It just put me in orbit," she said. "There was so much bravery in them. They were not afraid of putting themselves out there."

Like Mattea and Massenburg, Scheiner is committed to Berklee students on several levels. His son Matt is an MP&E major. Scheiner has conducted many engineering clinics at the college over the years, and perhaps most important, he seems to get a thrill out of spending time on campus. "I love this place," Scheiner confided to Mattea, during a break in the session. "Isn't it unbelievable?"