Pine Hollow Hands-On

UW-Stout audio club gets firsthand, in-studio chops

Laura Lash, Eric Christenson

AUDIO CLUBBIN’. Pine Hollow Studio owner Evan Middlesworth (standing, far right) welcomed UW-Stout’s Music Production Club into the studio for a two-day workshop.
AUDIO CLUBBIN’. Pine Hollow Studio owner Evan Middlesworth (standing, far right) welcomed UW-Stout’s Music Production Club into the studio for a two-day workshop.

It’s always been a goal of Pine Hollow Studio’s owner Evan Middlesworth to foster more recording engineers in the Chippewa Valley. That means hiring young producers to work at his state-of-the-art studio, teaching the ins and outs of recording to aspiring audio kids, and in this latest effort, hold workshops with budding producers to show them what’s possible in the studio setting.

A few weeks ago, UW-Stout’s Music Production Club, a crew of young recording enthusiasts and electronic producers, visited Pine Hollow just outside Eau Claire for a two-day workshop where the club could record some real session musicians in a real studio.

“Skilled engineers are like good chefs, and without a good chef your ingredients might not work well together. You’re trying to make a dish and a good dish’s ingredients can be improved upon with how much of each and how you use and prepare them. The Chippewa Valley needs skilled engineers to help pair ingredients to make the best possible dish. We need skilled engineers to help showcase the talent that’s already in the Chippewa Valley.” – Andrew Heldstab, UW-Stout Music Production Club

“Recording, as an art form, is endless education – I’ll certainly never master it,” Middlesworth said. “I’m pushing myself to learn and discover more all the time, and I learn from those who learn from me. If I can play a small part in the evolution of young engineers – that makes me feel wonderful.”

For the session, Middlesworth brought in Jeremy Holt (of Rhythm Posse) as the main songwriter/instrumentalist along with Zach Brawford on drums and Hannah and Mookie Morton (of LASKA) for background vocals. He set up the session explaining what everything is, why it’s there, and how to use it. Then the crew took to the control room and started recording – stopping along the way to field questions and try out different ideas. At the end of the day, the club members all got to walk away with all the raw audio tracks to tinker with on their own.

“Thanks to the Internet and the affordability of computers, music is becoming increasingly DIY, so the more you learn about how audio works, the better your music is going to sound,” said Caleb Kamrath, a former audio club member who sat in on the workshop. “That’s why workshops with industry veterans like Evan are so important.”

Over the course of the two five-hour sessions, students recorded songs in a hands-on environment, and with audio engineering, there’s no better way to learn.

“Skilled engineers are like good chefs, and without a good chef your ingredients might not work well together. You’re trying to make a dish and a good dish’s ingredients can be improved upon with how much of each and how you use and prepare them,” said Andrew Heldstab, the club’s president. “The Chippewa Valley needs skilled engineers to help pair ingredients to make the best possible dish. We need skilled engineers to help showcase the talent that’s already in the Chippewa Valley.”

The crew followed up with a three-hour talk at UW-Stout a week later to digest all they’d learned and ask more questions. For Middlesworth, it’s all worth it to see these budding producers get better before his eyes, and maybe teach him some stuff along the way, too. With projects like this in place, who knows when the next engineer will open up his own studio in the Valley, record more bands, and get the entire scene thriving in unimaginable ways.

“I get excited when I see a drive to know more from young engineers – that takes me right back to countless hours spent with my little Tascam 4 Track cassette recorder,” Middlesworth said. “The blend of those two opens the door to either explain my approach to a situation I’ve run into over the years or simply do whatever we want just to see what happens – there are no rules in recording.”

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