HOLLYWOOD, CA—Sunset Sound Recording Studios hosted the inaugural Csaba Petocz Master Class Scholarship at the end of August, where GRAMMY Award-winning producer and engineer Joe Chiccarelli led a two-day advanced audio workshop focusing on the essentials of tracking, mixing and production. The event was created to honor the legacy of the beloved producer and engineer by Audio-Technica; the Recording, Radio and Film Connection (RRFC); and specialized marketing and public relations agency Clyne Media.
Petocz, who lived and worked in Los Angeles and Nashville, recorded some of the biggest names across various genres, including Metallica, Larry Carlton, John Michael Montgomery, Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Al Stewart. A three-time GRAMMY nominee who had 37 number-one records and 32 platinum or multi-platinum albums to his name, he succumbed to cancer in July 2015.
“When Csaba passed, our industry lost a friend, a colleague and an exceptional engineer/producer,” said Michael Edwards, vice president, Audio-Technica. “Csaba Petocz was the heart of our community and brought a warmth and humanity to the studio that was rare. He was a friend, a teacher, a master craftsman, and a loving husband to a member of our extended family, Lisa Roy.
“We love him dearly and wanted to find a way to honor his accomplishments and to pass on his philosophies and ideals to the next generation of audio professionals. This Master Class scholarship is our way of honoring Csaba and all that he brought to his craft.”
Recording Connection admissions staff selected the five scholarship winners for the workshop, which was aimed at advanced audio engineering and music production students and apprentices. RRFC provides a network of unique educational, instructional and mentorship programs developed for aspiring media professionals.
Chiccarelli and Petocz collaborated on numerous sessions over the years. “Anytime I would produce, I would hire him to engineer. When he moved to Nashville and started producing, he would call me to go and engineer for him. Anything I taught him, he would steal—but he’d make it 10 times better. His passion, his commitment, was astounding.”
For the session, featuring L.A.-based indie rock band Slow Hollows, Sunset opened the doors to its legendary Studio 1. While the workshop focused on the technical aspects of recording a band, Chiccarelli also wanted to instill in the students some of the standards and values that made working with Petocz such a unique and rewarding experience.
Petocz’s passion should serve as an example, said Chiccarelli, whose work includes projects with Café Tacuba, the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, Juanes, the Shins, My Morning Jacket and others. “His love of the music and commitment to it is something that you have to have every day if you’re serious about this job.”
Before the weekend got underway, mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge, a multi-Grammy winner and longtime friend of Petocz’s, stopped by to offer some words of wisdom to the students. “This isn’t really a job, it’s a life,” he said. “How you feel when you hang your hat when you walk in the door is everything. The positive energy you put off makes the session go well.”
Petocz lives on, said Lord-Alge. “Any room he’s worked in, his vibe is there. When your friends move on to Studio H and the session in the sky, it doesn’t mean you’re not still hanging out with them. It’s up to you to keep their spirit alive. A lot of what you guys will be doing is to try and channel the energy from the talent that you learn from, and keep that a part of you.”
Petocz had a positive attitude to the end, said Chiccarelli. “He had a way of being really honest and at the same time loving. He had this ability to disarm any situation, to be brutally honest with somebody but at the same time be their friend. The Australian accent always did him well.”
But ultimately, said Chiccarelli, “It’s not about you, it’s about the music, it’s about the artist. You’re there to serve them and help them make the best record possible.”
Speaking after the event, Chiccarelli commented, “The students were just fantastic—knowledgeable, passionate, really committed to what they’re doing. It was great to see them interact with the band, and be so supportive of the band, and be so hungry for any kind of knowledge about anything. And I think we turned out a good track from the band on top of it. It was a really special weekend.”
Recording, Radio and Film Connection