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Where are they now? We catch up with previous winners of the MPG LIPA Prize

A look at how the coveted prize has impacted upon the careers of its winners since launching in 2010.

Last week, Sam Baker was unveiled as the winner of this year’s MPG LIPA Prize, which recognises an up-and-coming studio professional from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts’s Sound Technology degree programme. Since its launch in 2010, it has brought significant benefits to graduates at the start of their career. Daniel Gumble hears from some of its previous winners to see where they are now….

The MPG LIPA Prize has provided students on Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts’s Sound Technology degree programme with a major opportunity to further their budding studio careers.Bestowed upon a student deemed to show great promise, the prize enables each year’s winner to gain invaluable experience in some of the UK’s top studios alongside some of the world’s leading record producers and engineers, including the likes of Mark Ronson and Mandy Parnell. Any costs incurred along the way are covered by a cash prize from the PPL of £500.

The prize was initially conceived by MPG Awards managing director Tony Platt and former MPG chairman and acclaimed producer Steve Levine to help graduates on the path to a career in audio beyond their studies.

“Steve Levine and I are both Companions of LIPA – and honoured to be so – and when we were at the graduation ceremony we discussed what extra things we could do for the LIPA students on the Music Tech course,” Platt tells PSNEurope. “The obvious idea was to expand the mentoring options for them. After further discussions with Jon Thornton [head of the sound technology programme] we decided that offering a prize for the best graduate would be a viable idea and this led to the idea that we could ask various members of MPG to get involved.
“Of course, in my capacity as MPG Awards managing director, I am in an ideal position to make these approaches. What I hadn’t bargained for is the level of willingness from the award winners to take part.”

According to Thornton, the MPG LIPA prize provides “significant” benefits.

“Our overarching purpose at LIPA is to create graduates who can find sustained employment in their field of work,” he tells PSNEurope. “So we start working with them from their first day with us, to not only develop their skills and knowledge, but also to start developing skills and strategies that encourage an entrepreneurial and proactive approach to developing their careers. Hopefully we embed this so tightly that the first year out [of a three-year degree] is almost like a fourth year. The opportunities afforded by the MPG prize can often act as real rocket fuel for this fourth year.”

To find out just how big an impact the prize has had on its recipients’ careers so far, PSNEurope heard from some of its previous winners…

Sivert Hjeltnes Hagtvet, 2016 winner

Tell us a bit about your career in audio so far.

During the last semester at LIPA, I partnered up with Viljar Losnegård (a graduate from the music course at LIPA) and built a small production suite/studio as part of Whiteroom Studios in Asker, Norway. Gradually more and more time went into production and songwriting with and for artists, rather than the more technical recording and mixing, and now I find myself doing both equally.

How did the prize impact your career?

One of the best things was seeing how people work. For instance, witnessing Steve Levine (at his studio in Liverpool), Olga Fitzroy (at AIR Studios in London) and Catherine Marks (at Assault & Battery in London) prepare and set up their sessions, albeit quite different kinds of sessions, to be both effective and creative in their workflow. Visiting AMS Neve in Burnley was also an eye opener in terms of providing a look at the people developing the technology that engineers, musicians and producers use every day. Most of all, the prize allowed me to gain insight on how different parts of the industry operate and interact with each other, such as a glance at what the role of a major label is in the current music climate.

What projects are you currently working on? And what are your career ambitions for 2018 and beyond?

These days I do a lot of different projects, like composing music for commercials and companies, recording and mixing bands, and doing writing sessions with various artists and songwriters in all sorts of genres and projects in Norway and abroad. Lately I’ve spent more time on writing sessions and working with artists and bands more closely on a song from scratch. I think you can learn a lot from being in a room with people you don’t necessarily know that well, with a common goal of experimenting your way to, hopefully, something new and exciting.

Chris Pawlusek, 2013 winner

Tell us a bit about your career in audio so far.

My first experience in a commercial studio was when I was 17 and had the opportunity to sit in on some sessions at Far Heath Studios in Northamptonshire. From there I was hooked and was lucky enough to continue gaining experience over the next few years from the owner and head engineer Angus Wallace. Soon after I graduated from LIPA in 2013, I landed a job at a production music company called West One Music in London, where I’m currently the mixing and recording engineer. Through working here I’ve engineered on lots of interesting recording sessions, including for sessions at Abbey Road Studio 2 and Real World.

How did the LIPA MPG prize impact your career?

The LIPA MPG Prize was fantastic for me in that it has earned me lots of really valuable experience from the people and sessions that I’ve shadowed. This has been anything from technical advice and tips, to the often overlooked importance of professional etiquette. Notable highlights include spending a day at AIR on a strings recording session – sitting in for a couple of days with Charlie Andrew was fascinating. Finally, spending time with Matt Colton at Alchemy Mastering, who is immensely knowledgeable, was a great experience. What I learned from sitting in with him has really helped improve my mixing skills. Subsequently, he now masters some of the projects that I mix.

What are your ambitions for 2018 and beyond?

I’d love to continue what I’m doing in terms of gaining as much exposure and experience in various genres of music as possible, as it helps keep me fresh and excited about recording, production and mixing. A long term goal of mine would be to eventually be based in the US, even if it was for a short stint.

Loic Gaillard, 2017 winner

Tell us a bit about your career in audio so far.

After leaving LIPA a year ago, my plan was to work as a freelance producer/engineer and offer my services to bands and musicians. In an attempt to give my CV more credibility, I applied for some work experience at a Liverpool-based recording studio called The Motor Museum. This studio, having seen the birth of a multitude of amazing records by artists that I’ve always loved and admired (Bring Me The Horizon, The 1975, Arctic Monkeys), was the perfect place for me to gain some insights about the reality of the music industry. After a couple of months, I was offered the position of in-house engineer at The Motor Museum, which is what I am currently doing.

How did the LIPA MPG prize impact your career as a whole?

The prize most definitely had a big impact on my career. First and foremost, the confidence boost that came with it made it a lot easier for me to get out there and find clients early on. Secondly, some of the artists that I’ve worked with seemed reassured by the fact that I had won the prestigious award and might have been a little more hesitant to work with me otherwise