Some of you have asked what The Blackbird Academy alumni have been doing since graduation. While we’ve only been in existence for a little over a year, our graduates are already on to great things, and we thought we’d share some of their stories.

Recently, Diego Ruelas, a July 2014 Studio Engineering program graduate, told us about his new career and his experience at The Blackbird Academy.

• What’s your new job?

I am currently assistant to producer/engineer Niko Bolas. I work exclusively for him and handle everything that he’s working on, including clients such as Neil Young, Robben Ford, and the Mavericks.  He has a room at the Capitol Records Tower, so we both do most of our work there.  This work includes everything from Pro Tools operation and editing, session set-up and coordination, handling cartage, to actual engineering and mixing. I also have work now as a freelance audio engineer, having my own business manager and working with clients such as LeAnn Rimes, Jakob Dylan, Ben Folds, Louise Goffin, and Barry Goldberg. Other than Niko, I have worked alongside producer/engineers Al Schmitt, Elliot Scheiner, and Steve Genewick.

• What’s your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part of working there has got to be the fact that I get to help create music with some of the greatest musicians and engineers in the world. The amount of talent I get to see everyday alone is amazing, and the fact that I get to help make this music come to life and actually make a job out of it is incredible. I couldn’t be happier.

• What did you learn at TBA that you have found the most valuable?

There isn’t one that I could single out because everything I learned was valuable. Everything from studio etiquette to troubleshooting to even alternative ways of thinking. TBA really helped open my mind up to all the different ways you can get to your goal, whatever that may be. The troubleshooting is a huge one, TBA really taught me how to break everything down to where you can solve any problem, and that has made me valuable as an engineer.

• What advice do you have for the next class graduating?

Challenge yourself. Keep throwing yourself in the fire. The more times you step up and take on those high pressure gigs and troublesome sessions, even the nightmare ones, they’ll only make you better.  You can’t be taught all the right things to do and become a great engineer.  You need to make the wrong decisions first.  You need to mess up, only so that you learn how to overcome and avoid.  Be honest with whoever you work with no matter what, and sooner or later, someone is gonna need someone like you to work with.

November 12, 2016By Carma DiCianni