It’s not everyday you meet a guy who’s worked with musical geniuses such as Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, BB King, Chris Rea, or Jethro Tull. But, if you were in the Sound Engineering and Music Technology night class in the Donahies Community School in north Dublin, you’d bump into Don McKevitt. Don joined the class to learn about today’s sound engineering technology.
“I started as a sound engineer and toured with the likes of Thin Lizzy and Chris Rea and also worked as production manager in studios with Van Morrison, Chris Rea, and the Rolling Stones,” says Don. “I was very fortunate; I’ve been to most places in the world with the music.”
A songwriter and musician for years, he came across the Donahies night class and tutor JJ Vernon when he wanted to update his own skills. “I know live music mixing, but I knew nothing about the modern way of mixing. And I wanted to learn that so I could use it for my own song writing and recording.
“The class is excellent – JJ is very knowledgeable as an engineer and as a musician. He’s also a very good teacher – we’re a mixed bunch in the class but all our aspirations are serious.”
The technical bit
In the class, people learn how to record and edit musical performances by both solo artists/ensembles and speakers. They learn how to operate Pro Tools, mixing and editing software, as well as exploring MIDI, using virtual instruments and plug-ins.
“I keep the course practical,” says tutor JJ Vernon, adding that the class attracts musicians keen to record their own work or that of bands. They might be nervous of the technical aspects of the recording technology – but that soon disappears as the group works together on each other’s work. “People interests vary – the younger participants are into electronic sound, synthesisers, and drum machines. The older participants are into singing along to their guitars and want to capture that.”
The class is also a reflection of how the music industry has changed. “Musicians used to record in large studios with professional staff,” says JJ, who works as a sound engineer himself. “That’s gone now – anyone can produce a CD, and the money is in gigs and merchandise as streaming of music has changed everything. Now, it’s all about learning the software and I give them the confidence to get started on that.”
Who knows, the next Van Morrison or Chris Rea could be learning how to mix music in the Donahies Community School? Stranger things have happened!