Students Get 'Real World' Experience at Peter Gabriel's Studio

By 
John Mirisola
November 1, 2019

Watch music production and engineering students gain exposure to the legendary British recording scene during the Wadhams Production Scholars trip.

Students at Real World Studio in Wiltshire, England
Wadhams Production Scholars observe producer Ethan Johns (center) and engineer Kevin Killen (right) during their visit to Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios.

Each year since 2013, a group of 10 music production and engineering (MP&E) students have traveled to the United Kingdom for a nine-day whirlwind tour of some of the world’s most iconic studios—among them Abbey Road, Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios, and Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios—as part of the Wadhams Production Scholars trip. While there, the students, who are handpicked by a committee of Berklee faculty, don’t just get to look around: they produce music alongside legendary studio professionals and up-and-coming British artists. 

It’s a capstone trip for these students, Rob Jaczko and Dan Thompson, chair and assistant chair of the MP&E Department, explain. "It comes full circle: it’s a big international cultural experience, and we’re working with some super famous people, but at the same time, the students realize, 'Hey, I can fit into this; we’ve been trained well at Berklee,'” says Jaczko, who accompanied the 2019 Wadhams Production Scholars to the U.K., along with Thompson and fellow MP&E faculty member Leanne Ungar. "It’s validating that they get over to Abbey Road, and these other big studios, and they’re familiar with the workflow. It’s not so different from how we’ve trained them, and it’s validated by these icons that are doing the work using largely the same methodology they’ve been shown, and in some cases the same equipment.”

[The students] get to work with the heroes of the industry—a who’s who of producers and engineers and facilities.

—Dan Thompson, Assistant Chair, Music Production and Engineering Department

The Wadhams Production Scholars trip is made possible each year by a trust funded by the late MP&E Department founder, Wayne Wadhams, who bequeathed his entire estate to the department when he passed away in 2008. The program was designed to honor Wadhams’s own vision for the department, which stressed “engineering as a tool towards a creative production goal,” Jaczko says. How better to demonstrate this approach for students than by working with the British studios and professionals who helped develop so much of the production philosophy and techniques that have shaped modern music?

The benefits of the trip are clear, says Thompson: "Exposure to culture, to another country; immersion in the British recording scene...they get to work with the heroes of the industry—a who’s who of producers and engineers and facilities; and a great final experience for our students as they leave the MP&E Department and prepare to go into the world. It’s an amazing bridge to what’s next.”

From Trip to Internship

For at least one student from this year's trip, that bridge led her right back to England this fall for an internship. During the group’s session at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio in Wiltshire, England, MP&E student Sarah Sarmento (who can be seen assisting with the studio session and tracking harmonica in the video below) met dubbing mixer Andrew Wilson, with whom she connected over her growing interest in post-production work. After she got back to Boston, she reached out to Wilson about the possibility of interning with him for the fall semester, and he agreed. So far, the internship has been a huge success: “The experience of going abroad for a second time to learn about something I am passionate about has been really amazing,” says Sarmento. “I did not have as much knowledge in post-production as I have in music recording, so to be able to discover all these new tools and techniques in the sound universe is very renewing to me.”

This year, the trip was also fortunate enough to have a film crew present to document their session at Real World Studios. To see the Wadhams Production Scholars at work in their session with producer Ethan Johns, engineer Kevin Killen, and artist Robert Vincent, check out the full video below:

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