PHILADELPHIA, PA: A global research university with over 24,000 students, Drexel University is one of America’s 15 largest private universities and ranks among the country’s top 100 institutes of higher learning. “Student response to Drexel’s unique Music Industry program has grown exponentially since it was introduced in 2001,” says Allen Sabinson, dean of Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “We recognized the need to expand the popular recording, mixing, production facility to effectively support the two tracks of our popular Music Industry programs Recording Arts & Music Production (RAMP) and Music Business. In the spring of 2017, after a $4.5 million fundraising campaign, Drexel engaged WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group to design its 21 -Century audio production and education complex.
“Our RAMP and Music Business programs had achieved immediate success thanks largely to an exemplary faculty endowed with impressive music industry, arts, production and management experience,” Dean Sabinson explains. “While our original studios met our initial needs, growth in enrollment and advances in technology required that we build a state-of-the-art facility worthy of our ambitions. From the beginning, our cadre’s combination of real-world smarts and technical /creative skills inspired our early students to embrace the entrepreneurial requirements as well as the hands-on recording proficiencies essential for success in this field. WSDG founding partner, John Storyk, had guest lectured for our early classes. We were familiar with WSDG’s extensive educational facility credits and they were the obvious choice to create these new world-class teaching/production studios.”
WSDG Partner/Project Manager, Romina Larregina reports that, “Drexel’s new One Drexel Plaza Building provided us with a superb blank canvas to create a teaching/ production facility that would meet all their initial needs and provide the luxury of additional space for future expansion. In 2016, we developed a design program that incorporated their flagship studio (1,500 sq. ft.), which featured a corner window from the student collaboration area with views into the main recording room. A post-production control room (140 sq. ft.), (2) midi labs (1,000 sq. ft. each), a spacious student lounge and a unique (800 sq. ft.) archive suite,” Larregina says. “This state-of-the art facility, designed with the latest audio and video equipment, customized acoustic treatments and fully isolated environments provides the students the ultimate hands on learning experience.”
“The early success of Drexel’s Music Industry Programs was primarily faculty based,” said Director/Associate Professor Music Industry, Jim Klein. “Our professors have substantial real-world credentials, hit records and business accomplishments. They’re dedicated teachers and committed to preparing next generation pros for an industry that constantly morphs through warp speed changes in production technology, music styles and distribution formats. From day one our students revealed a passion for the industry and an appreciation for the straightforward knowledge we share with them. Our new facility is designed to immerse them in a literal rather than a virtual environment.”
Associate Professor Toby Seay points to the Drexel Audio Archives as a key example of the studio’s ability to combine ‘old school’ chops with ‘new world’ realities. In 2003, when Sigma Sound Philadelphia’s landmark recording studio closed its doors, Drexel was entrusted with the studio’s 35-year multi-format (1/4” mono to 2” multi track) tape library. This priceless collection of more than 6000 master tapes is now housed within the One Drexel Plaza archive, and is available to aid students in learning the art of multi-track mixing, and preservation practices. “Drexel does not own the copyright to these master tapes and we cannot exploit them for gain,” Seay says. “But, they represent an irreplaceable font of recordings in every conceivable style, rock to pop to soul to the inimitable “Sigma Sound” itself, and they afford our students the opportunity to learn from the best of the best.”
“I have been designing recording studios for nearly fifty years, and have had a lifelong commitment to audio, acoustic and architectural education,” remarked WSDG Founding Partner, John Storyk. “Lecturing at schools, colleges and universities throughout my career, and speaking with students and educators in the U.S. Europe and South America, has tremendously enriched my own education. I learn something new almost everywhere I speak. Questions from sharp young students and tenured professors alike have deeply informed my design thinking. We always welcome the opportunity to help create teaching facilities like this new Drexel complex. It’s a privilege to apply our skills to creating studios dedicated to training tomorrow’s engineers, producers, recording artists, studio owners, educators and potential clients.”
WSDG, a media facility design and consulting firm has collaborated on over 3500 audio /video facilities worldwide. Credits include Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios (1969); NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center and, Le Poisson Rouge; broadcast facilities for The Food Network, ESPN, and WNET; major education complexes for NYU, The Art Institutes and Berklee College of Music, Valencia and Boston (2015 TEC winner); and media rooms for such corporate clients as Hoffman La Roche and Sony. Studio projects include NYC’s Jungle City for award winning engineer, Ann Mincieli, Green Day, Jay-Z, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, and Paul Epworth’s The Church Studios (London). And, film composers Carter Burwell (US), A.R. Rahman (India). WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, Sergio Molho, Silvia Molho, Renato Cipriano, and Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG has collaborated with such noted architects as Frank Gehry, Norman Foster and Phillipe Stark. An eleven-time winner of the NAMM TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design, WSDG maintains offices in New York, Miami, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Berlin (Germany), and Basel (Switzerland), and representatives in Barcelona, Moscow, Guangzhou (China), Florence (Italy), Mexico City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.