12:00AM / Monday, October 29, 2001
Nestled in the heart of the Southfield section of New Marlboro lies a business more likely found in an urban area than in a tiny New England town. The dreams of music business professional Todd Mack and self-taught Egremont native Will Curtiss have converted an aging barn into a state-of-the-art recording studio.
Mack and Curtiss are partners in business and in music. Though they’ve recorded everything from a children’s book to a Gospel choir, with hip-hop and rock bands in between, they also provide services that are enticing to the local meeting house and PTA.
The two go onsite to churches and schools, and record the choir, the chorus or the band and produce fund-raising CDs. Mack and Curtiss produce the CDs in their 750 square foot studio, allowing the organizations to make a healthy profit. Not surprisingly, computer technology makes it possible. “Technology makes it accessible,” said Mack. “A few years ago you had to go to a duplication house to make CDs, which meant a significant amount of money. There are large minimum order requirements.”
This type of recording, done on site, is a two-track recording, offering left and right stereo, Mack said. A multi-track recording that records each instrument and vocal performer on a different track, can be accomplished on site in the tracking rooms, allowing the technicians to adjust levels in a process called “mixing.” But, they say, even with a two-track, they can eliminate extraneous noises and polish up a performance nicely. Most recently they recorded chamber music at the summer classical music series at the New Marlboro Meeting House called “Music and More.”
Curtiss, a 1997 graduate of Mt. Everett high school, is the technical whiz. “I’ve always liked the process of constructing a song … bit by bit. There’s no limit to what you can do. I like listening to other people’s ideas and helping people reach their goal of making music. To call it my job is a big plus.”
The duo recently recorded at the Northampton home of radio personality and Newbury Award-winning author Julius Lester. Lester’s children’s book, “Ackamarackus,” is a collection of stories and fables. “He’s an amazing storyteller,” said Mack. “And a cantor … a religious leader, as well. His stories are great.”
The partners enjoy the variety their work affords, and have recorded business presentations for a company’s archives as well as “Shakespeare in Song and Word.” But they don’t hide their enjoyment in playing and recording their own music when business permits. Mack has a guitar collection and plays and sings vocals in the roots rock band “Big Blue Holler.” Curtiss, a bass player, is also in the band. “That’s really where our passion is,” said Mack.
It took Mack nine months to convert the barn into two tracking rooms, an isolation room and a studio apartment. The walls are covered with “sound stop,” a material that keeps the sound in the studio and not wafting though the windows of their Southfield neighbors. Some parts of the wall are one foot thick. According to Mack, the building is soundproof at between 10-15 feet away from the building. “In general,” he said, “The community has been very supportive of us.”
Mack said he has lofty ideas for the studio. Using the house he lives in with his wife and two children, he envisions the studio as a retreat for performers who want to relax in the Berkshires between studio takes - a kind of studio bed and breakfast. “We want to bring in artists from all over ... the region, the country, the world, and lodge them in the house. We’ve already started marketing it to soloists.”
The performers can stay in the studio itself, which contains a small apartment. The weekend package includes studio time, CD and meals. “Just show up with your songs and guitar,” Mack said with a grin.
Mack opened his doors in May of this year. “The challenge is to reach out to everybody,” he said. Years from now, he added, “I hope we’re still doing everything.”
The studio is hosting an open house on December 8, for tours, to provide samples of their work and recording demonstrations.
Off the Beat-n-Track is located at 176 Norfolk Road, Southfield, and can be reached at (413) 229-9939 or toll free at (866)588-6800.