Tech Center breaks ground on music industry program

School looks to expand arts offerings, fill need for audio technicians
By Ethan Andrews | Dec 01, 2018
Photo by: Kevin Michaud Waldo County Technical Center building construction students, from left, Devin Landers, Nathaniel Fuller, Anthime Brunette and Kevin Finley, take a break from framing a new recording studio at the school.

Waldo — In the building construction program area at Waldo County Technical Center, the rip of saws and clatter of pneumatic hammers could soon be joined by the clamor of electric guitars and drums as the school tests a new program for music industry trades.

A loft overlooking a warehouse space that is home to the building construction program was recently cleared of 40 years' worth of junk and outfitted with the basic trappings of a rock band's rehearsal space, courtesy of Tim Woitowitz, a community-minded volunteer and musician, who hatched the idea of a music program with WCTC Director Kevin Michaud.

In the large space below the loft, students are building rooms for several courses, including a 32-by-16-foot room that eventually will become a music recording studio.

Woitowitz, a founding member of The Juke Rockets, filled in the missing details, describing a vibey, old-school studio with tongue-in-groove paneling on the walls and ceiling, recessed lighting and antique quilts for sound dampening.

Most importantly, the studio wouldn't have computers, which Woitowitz believes have undermined the craft and excitement of music recording with canned sounds and quick fixes.

"If they want the sound of a Marshall amp, we'll bring in a Marshall amp," he said. "If they want a crash (cymbal), we'll get a crash."

And if it doesn't sound the way they like it, he said, they can learn to live with it or do it again.

Woitowitz started a small music program at BCOPE, the alternative high school for Regional School Unit 71, but said he hit a wall, literally, when he ran out of space and couldn't get approval to add to the building. At WCTC, he found an enthusiastic co-conspirator in Michaud, a fellow musician, who had been looking for ways to expand the reach of the school to include more arts.

The Tech Center has focused on trades revolving around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills. Michaud hopes that by adding arts to the equation — a national movement has grown up around the idea of "STEAM" — the school can address a shortage of technicians in the music industry and draw more attention to its other programs.

"We have so many kids who are into some form of the arts," he said.

The details of the music program still mostly reside in the minds of Woitowitz and Michaud, but they see the future clearly and describe it with the excitement of teenage boys.

During a recent tour of the school, they pointed out transformations that could happen either permanently or for special events — Hard Rock Cafe-style decorations in the school's dining hall, a small conference room and adjacent hallway doubling as a backstage and green room for performers, and a partition wall between two classrooms opened to create a temporary music venue with a stage that folds down from the wall.

Bands have performed at the school in the past, but Michaud said he wants to have regular events to draw more outside traffic, and, in the process, give students a chance to practice the skills they learn.

Woitowitz has already filled a storage closet with guitar amplifiers, mixing boards, speakers and other tools of the trade he has solicited from community members or bought himself for for the Tech Center. While some musicians will be essential, the program will focus on the technical aspects of recording and live music production.

It will get a soft launch next semester through WCTC's adult education program. During that time, Michaud plans to apply to the Department of Education to be able to offer the class for credit. If it gets off the ground, it would be the only audio recording and sound engineering program at a technical school in Maine, he said.

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. In the long term, Michaud and Woitowitz hope to hand over the Tech Center program to NESCOM graduates and send Tech Center graduates to NESCOM.

"We're incorporating everything they have in their program," Michaud said. "The goal is for us to become a pipeline for Husson as we do for other industries."

The program has received about $40,000 worth of equipment through Woitowitz and another $20,000 in financial contributions from area businesses. It still needs $3,500, Woitowitz said. For more information, or to contribute, contact Michaud at 342-5231.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Woitowitz's role in The Juke Rockets. He was principally the drummer.

Tim Woitowitz points to a sign marking the new music rehearsal studio at Waldo County Technical Center, part of a larger project he is spearheading to bring music into the trade school. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A former storage space at Waldo County Technical Center has been converted to a low-key music rehearsal space. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A stage that folds down from the wall, left, turns a classroom at Waldo County Technical Center into a music performance space with a stage. The school will soon offer music production courses. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Virgil Fowles Jr | Dec 02, 2018 03:53

What a wonderful idea Tim...I love to see that school utilized.  Have been a   supporter of Culinary Arts since the place was built...Have been around when the buses arrive for the afternoon classes and those kids are even smiling..

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