SOL Studios offers alternative recording solution

Maureen Darras

As a freshman, I traveled from basement to birthday party in a dogged search for the elusive band of drum-wielding upper-termers and their offbeat opening acts. I rarely found them, and the weekends without ironic covers of Aretha Franklin or improvisation on the tambourine left me in low spirits. I loyally attended Greenfire gatherings and Earth Day celebrations, not to mention a wide range of Soundboards, hoping once more to be serenaded by a charming duo or an aspiring rapper.
I’m reminded that those days are far behind me as I trudge through senior year and plunk myself down in the café in front of the newly installed SOL Studios listening station, a conspicuous iMac with protruding headphones. As Casey Shaw and Jake Hartmann, co-directors of the SOL Studios movement, assure me, this mysterious presence in the café is just one of the many changes SOL Studios brings to fans and musicians alike.
Since 2010, SOL Studios has offered pre-professional recording services to the Lawrence campus; over 30 students have since recorded original material. These recordings have recently been made available in the café in order to promote the wide range of artists working with SOL. On May 7, SOL Studios will present SOL Sounds, a concert to be held in the quad. A SOL Studios compilation CD will be available for sale at that time.
Shaw and Vince Dyer ’10 conceived this idea in late 2007, during Shaw’s freshman year. The pair originally envisioned this project as a business endeavor; however, as Shaw recounted, “There were innumerable obstacles between the idea and reality […] Various efforts had been done before just like this and had failed.”
Yet SOL Studios has seen a wide range of successes already. After receiving LUCC recognition, the founders applied for a sum of $5,000 from the Class of 1965 Grant. They received $3,000 with the provision that they could apply for a second grant if the project took off.
With this allocation, Dyer and Shaw approached Jake Hartmann, interested in acquiring used audio recording equipment from Hartmann’s father, who works in the music industry. Having purchased this equipment, they set up their studio in the Conservatory basement next to WLFM headquarters. Hartmann confirmed, “We had pretty much everything we needed: a room, Pro Tools and a microphone.”
While Shaw studied abroad in winter and spring of 2010, Hartmann and Dyer combined their recording experience – Hartmann having worked with sound equipment and Dyer having studied how to master tracks in high school – and began recording student artists. Though the university offers its own recording service with a discounted student-rate, students must nevertheless pay.
“The thing that separates us is that we record only original music by conservatory and non-conservatory students, free of charge, for their own personal pursuits, not as a part of their formal education,” highlighted Shaw. “[We focus on] getting the word out, and helping people collaborate and find others in order to foster more creativity in music.”
“Right now we’re in the grassroots recruitment phase of getting people excited […] to record, and not just be the artist recording but be the engineer behind it,” explained Hartmann. “We want artists to mingle with each other; we just want to get the music out there and we want a place for students to learn.”
Working alongside Curt Lauderdale and Amy Uecke, Shaw is currently instituting organizational structures for SOL Studios, and he hopes “the project ideally will continue itself.”
As Shaw and Hartmann are both seniors, they are looking to pass the project on to younger students. Shaw remarked, “We’re focusing on freshmen, who can own this project […] and give it the passion that it needs to survive and grow into something more stable.”
He emphasized, “There’s a lot of funding, a lot of opportunity and a lot of growth potential. We just need people to be interested.” Five years from now, Shaw mused, “I’d like to see it as a student job as well.”
“I want to hear some artists come out in the industry, and have [his or her] underground EP recorded in our studio,” Hartmann remarked.
SOL, which stands for “Students of Lawrence,” captures the drive behind this project; it is an open invitation to the student body to perform, record and listen to the work of our talented peers.