CITATION OF MERIT ~ DAJHELON STUDIOS
Project: Dajhelon Studios
: Citation Of Merit, January 1994 Contract Design
Perhaps Rochester, N.Y., should consider changing its name - now that recording powerhouse Dajhelon Productions Inc. is on the music scene with a vibe-filled design by N.H. Architecture
By: Amy Milshtein
Where is Americas next hot music center? A spot that can compete with New York, Los Angeles and Nashville? No, it's not Austin, Texas, Seattle, Wash., or Branson, Mo. It's Rochester, N.Y. That's right-the home town of Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch & Lomb now attracts world-class musicians to Dajhelon Productions Inc., a recording studio with a bi-coastal design by N.H. Architecture.
One doesn't think of Rochester as a recording/production center, and until recently it wasn't. That is, until three teenagers started a band seven years ago. Whether or not the two 16-year-olds and the 14-year-old had the talent to make it big we will never find out, because they were summarily dismissed from the industry's door. Undaunted, David, Jennifer, and Lona teamed together their names, drive and talent to create their own recording studio.
Admittedly their start was small. David Schumaker, Jr., president and owner of the company, set up shop in the basement of his father's tire re-tread business. Over the years the studio nudged out the tire shop and now Dajhelon occupies the entire 11,000sq.ft. commercial building.
The client's vision was clear. "David didn't want just a nice place for the locals to package their music," says Norbert Hausner, of N.H. Architecture. "He wanted to create a cutting edge, state-of-the-art studio that can compete with the big boys." The fact that Rochester is, as Hausner says, "the hub of nothing," helps set Dajhelon apart.
"Usually the most apprehensive artist or producer changes his or her mind about Rochester by the time the stay here is over," insists Schumaker. "The city has a lot to offer, at about one-third the price of New York or Los Angeles." Considering the cost of financing a group of artists and a crew for a few weeks, Rochester starts making more and more sense.
Rochester has more than price to offer its guests. The city boasts museums, galleries, the Rochester Philharmonic and the Eastman School of Music. "Artists like it because it is not touristy at all," says Schumaker. "And they can tour around and not be mobbed."
Of course, local amenities mean nothing if the studio doesn't cut it technologically. The fact that the warehouse, built in the 1920's, had wood frame floors and masonry exterior didn't help sustain an acoustically perfect atmosphere. Hausner admits that his learning curve in this area was steep. However, consultants were called in, and computer assisted design technology was used to produce and acoustically accurate and isolated environment. The architect also employed floating floors, decoupled walls and ceilings, RPG acoustical treatments and an independently decoupled monitoring system.
Dajhelon consists of four studios, each offering a distinctive audio setting ranging from a "live" sound to something decidedly more "dead." Because the studios are connected to all control rooms, producers can manipulate a diverse pallet. They can even record different artists simultaneously in separate rooms.
Schumaker is proud of the sheer amount and diversity of equipment that can be found in the studio. What was it like designing such a technology-driven job? "We really designed around the equipment," remembers Hausner. "Of course, we over-designed the wiring capabilities for the future."
Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles aside, artists need visual inspiration when working in a recording studio. "I don't care if you have the best, most expensive equipment around," says Schumaker. "If a studio doesn't have the right vibe, the artist won't perform up to par." Since artists can be a temperamental, unpredictable breed, the right vibe varies as widely as the music. Each of Dajhelon's studios thus has its own visual persona.
Studio A is Dajhelon's largest. It maple walls and rough-hewn stone brink treatments give it a warm, comfortable feeling while imparting a polished, corporate, Los Angeles feel. Accordingly, a lot of film scores are cut there as well as business recordings.
With its cobblestone walls, parquet floors, black fabric and pine treatments, studio B feels like the underground New York City studio. "This was actually the last room done," says Schumaker. "Yet it looks the oldest." With its down and dirty, living room appeal, this room attracts the edgy set.
Artists usually record voice overs in studio C. Dajhelon's most commercial room. The gray and white interior appears professional without losing its comfort. The smallest and least expensive room is studio D. Pre-production, brain storming and a lot of Dajhelon's internal work goes on within this small yet efficient room.
Along with the four studios, the building houses Dajhelon's head office. As one might expect, the offices do not look like an insurance company. Comfort, stimulation and vibe are king, and the 17 full time employees and their guests notice and appreciate it. To keep the office fresh, Schumaker hangs work from local artists in the halls.
Unlikely location aside, Dajhelon stands as a success, with producers, engineers and independents lining up to use its studios. So far Dajhelon has worked with Warner Brothers, Sony, HBO, and EMI, to name a few. Recently, Powerstation, a famous recording studio and production company, named them an affiliate, pumping up Dajhelon's appeal.
Schumaker plans on growing the business, eventually acquiring a record label and adding video capabilities. Hausner reports that he has already felt the ripples. "This studio has really had its impact on the area and my work," he says. "I've gotten other jobs in the city from it."
Looks like Dajhelon may have started something. Rock on Rochester.