The doors to the freshly completed audio recording studio at the Waldo County Technical Center were open Sept. 20, giving the community a peek inside the new facility, as the director of the center shared his excitement about the program.

The recording studio at the tech center, Director Kevin Michaud said, is one of the first in the country offering this type of curriculum to career and technical education students.

"We are setting standards," he said, and people are looking at Waldo County in return. "This is definitely putting our school on the map."

Michaud said Tim Woitowitz, a volunteer and local musician, has been the driving force behind this effort. "He pitched the idea and started talking about the possibilities. Without Tim's vision, this wouldn't have happened."

"I just had a dream, and these guys built it for me," said Woitowitz, pointing to the building construction students who worked on the 32-by-16-foot recording studio. "These are the most important guys here."

Nathaniel Fuller, Anthime Brunette and Devin Landers, along with their instructor Rich Benedict, were all in attendance minus one student, Kevin Finley, who could not attend the opening.

Landers said they began work on the studio last year at around this time and that the group wanted to complete the project by the end of the school year.

According to instructor Benedict, the studio was built to Woitowitz's specifications, including Rockwool insulation throughout for sound proofing. Speaking about his students, Benedict said they worked eight-hour days to complete the project, sometimes on Saturdays. "They put their heart and soul into it. I couldn't be more proud."

Electrical trades students, as well as the IT class, also helped with the build, Michaud said.

The 32-track mixing board and recording console sits on a table on one side of the room by design, Woitowitz said, to facilitate teaching the class.

Most studios have a separate control room where the mixing board is housed, but in this way you are right in the center of all the action with the students, he said. The recordings will be "old school," he said, where if someone sings flat, they will have to do another take instead of trying to fix it with technology.

Woitowitz has also amassed quite a collection of instruments, guitar amplifiers, mixing boards, speakers and other tools of the trade he has solicited from community members or provided himself for the tech center.

"If you want a Marshall amp sound, like that of Jimi Hendrix," he said, "You are going to play through that amp."

Much of the equipment comes from Woitowitz's personal collection, including a set of drums from 1962. "My wife is happy it's not all still in our house," he said.

Woitowitz's wife, Connie, pointed out a suit he wore playing rock and roll in the '60s and '70s, now used as decoration in one corner of the studio. She recalled him inviting her to a college dance and mentioning that he had just bought a new suit. "I showed up wearing it… and she's still with me," Woitowitz joked.

To complement the recording studio program, a stage that folds up when not in use turns a classroom into a music performance space. Michaud said the center has already brought in thousands of dollars by putting on benefit concerts, which in turn helps students attend skill competitions.

There is also a loft overlooking a warehouse, which was cleared of 40 years' worth of junk and outfitted with the basic trappings of a rock band's rehearsal space — again courtesy of Woitowitz. While decluttering the loft, Michaud said, he discovered several people at WCTC were into playing music. "We would come up to the loft on our lunch break and just jam, just blow off steam."

A portable studio aimed at recording live performances, such as orchestras or chorus events at schools, is also available to round out the recording technology program.

An ornate embroidered quilt "from a lady in Bucksport" hangs on one wall, Woitowitz said, for soundproofing. Perry's Furniture gave the studio a large new rug and all the lumber came from Robbins Lumber.

"I would just show up like a bad penny (looking for donations). I never gave up," Woitowitz said. "People were very supportive because they knew it was helping the kids. Everyone was so giving and caring." 

Standards for the new program are based on those used at New England School of Communications at Husson College, which offers certificates in audio engineering, live sound, entertainment production and other aspects of the music business. According to Woitowitz, tech center graduates would be accepted to a NESCOM 2-year program.

"There is no such facility in Waldo or Knox counties," Michaud said. "The closest being at the NESCOM campus in Bangor."

Michaud said the facility is open to anyone in the community who wants to produce a quality-sounding recording and will charge $40-an-hour for the use of the studio. The program is also set up to make copies of compact discs, and an in-house graphic design class is just down the hall, he said.

For now, Michaud said, the coursework part of the program will be offered through the Adult Education division of the tech center and will be offered to any constituents who would like to record. He is currently in the process of writing a program application with the Department of Education and once approved, the course will then be offered to high school students.

"I guess that's it," Michaud said to close out the event. "You'll have to wait and see what the music sounds like."

Anyone interested in booking time at the recording studio or learning more about the audio program course should contact Kevin Michaud at kmichaud@waldotech.org.

Additional reporting by Arts & Entertainment Editor Christine Dunkle.