Exclusive: World’s only pro recording studio built and run by women poised to become studio complex

Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) is unveiling a new, second studio in May 2018 in San Francisco. WAM trains over 1,500 women and girls a year in the recording arts and music production. Now, through their expanded studio complex, WAM will be able to serve more aspiring recording engineers and music producers each year with classes and sessions occurring simultaneously.

Jolene Stoffle and Shane Myrbeck, of the multinational engineering firm, Arup, known for designing many famous cultural institutions around the world, including the Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou, and SFMOMA, provided pro bono acoustic design services for WAM’s new studio. The new live room features a custom acoustic design with two zones – a controlled live end and a dead end – to allow for maximum flexibility, as well as an isolation booth that provides sight lines to the new control room.

WAM’s clients range from classical quartets like Kronos Quartet and St. Lawrence String Quartet to indie artists like tUnE-yArDs to audiobooks and voice-overs for National Geographic.

The need for a dynamic room at WAM’s studio complex is critical to accommodate their diverse clientele.

“Over the past 40 years the Kronos Quartet has recorded in many of the finest studios in the country, and I can unequivocally state that it is always a pleasure to record at Women’s Audio Mission,” said David Harrington, artistic director, founder, and violinist, Kronos Quartet. “Not only do we leave knowing that we will sound as good as we can, but that we have also played a part in ensuring that a new generation of San Francisco women have the opportunity to become the best music producers, recording engineers, and artists possible.”

Officially opening in June 2018, WAM has already welcomed clients into the new studio for inaugural recording sessions. Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs recorded an interview with WAM executive director and founder Terri Winston in the space for her C.L.A.W. show on Red Bull Radio. WAM staff engineer Veronica Simonetti recorded an audio book with Dan Pfeiffer, former White House communications director/senior aide to President Obama and co-host of Pod Save America, for his new book, Yes We (Still) Can, available for preorder through Hachette Book Group.

WAM’s new studio has also already attracted industry support: Hear Technologies donated another Hear Back headphone system that allows both control rooms to provide multiple headphone feeds and Focusrite donated a Red 4Pre allowing for the networking of WAM’s Avid HDX Pro Tools system and Ableton Live Workstation. Mogami provided multi-pair cable and Tascam outfitted the new studio with headphones, microphones and a TM-AR1 Acoustic Control Filter.

The new studio will allow WAM to expand their current artist residency programmes, which offer free or low-cost recording and mixing services, promotion, and performance opportunities to underserved independent women artists. In 2017-2018, WAM’s residency programmes have included artists such as award-winning vocal/string quartet Real Vocal String Quartet and Mexican American singer/songwriter Diana Gameros, whose album Arrullo recorded at WAM was featured on NPR Alt.Latino’s Top 10 Latin Albums of 2017.

“Working with Kelley Coyne, my engineer, and Terri Winston, WAM’s founder, and all of the talented staff who assisted on our sessions and performances was a beautiful experience that surpassed my expectations,” said Gameros after completing her residency at WAM.

WAM is in the middle of an artist residency programme for local women hip-hop artists, featuring emerging emcees Chhoti Maa, Rocky Rivera, and Versoul, who will each finish full-length albums at WAM’s studio and perform at WAM’s free quarterly showcase, Local Sirens: Women in Music Performance Series. Later this year, WAM will launch a new residency programme for LGBTQ women of colour and has selected two local artists to complete albums at their studio.

The additional studio will also provide the opportunity for WAM students to practice hands-on skills they have learned through WAM’s programs and gain career-advancing studio experience. WAM provides professional credits and paid work to over 50 young women a year. The organisation has placed over 650 women in paid positions at companies like Dolby Laboratories, Pixar, Electronic Arts and Skywalker Sound.

“We’re thrilled about this expansion,” said Winston, founder and executive director of WAM. “We’ve had to turn away potential clients because our studio is constantly overbooked. Our new studio will enable us to hold multiple sessions at a time, provide work opportunities for women in our programmes, train more women and girls each year, and serve more independent artists.”