John Bolduc sits in a room on the third floor of an Asylum Avenue house converted into a school, surrounded by a computer, a keyboard and a sound mixer.
“It’s so cool to do what you love to do and get paid for it,” he says. “Arts have taken a backseat for so long, but with music you get to dip into that well of possibilities and find your artistic voice. It’s great, man.”
Bolduc, the dean of recording arts for The Hartford Conservatory, prepares students for a variety of jobs ranging from producing music to starting studios to scoring films and television shows.
“There is so much someone can do when they leave here,” Bolduc said of the conservatory’s two-year recording arts major program. “I ask every student to make me a list of what they’d like to do. Because it’s such a small group, I’m able to adjust my program for each student’s goals.”
Bolduc said that about 40 percent of his students — there are about 14 enrolled in the program each year — concentrate on starting their own business by opening up a studio. Others come just because they love music and want to get into the industry.
“One girl came in wanting to be a manager for bands,” Bolduc said. “She wanted to communicate with musicians and know what was going on.”
The Right School
Brenner Eugenides is a typical Hartford Conservatory student. He came to the school after spending one year at Central Connecticut State University.
“I just knew that wasn’t for me,” Eugenides said. “I wanted to do something along the lines of what I loved, and I loved to play the guitar.”
For the past two years, Eugenides has been a recording engineer for the Hartford recording studio Planet of Sound. In his spare time, he teaches guitar. He credits the conservatory with putting him on a positive career path.
“I use so much of what I learned there every day,” he said. “We called all our teachers by their first name, it was so different than any other educational experience I’d had.”
Bolduc said he believes there is a special bond that develops between him and his students thanks to location in “rustic, historic buildings” and the atmosphere.
“You can go to a fancy, expensive school like Berklee [College of Music in Boston], but you’re getting the same education here,” Bolduc said. “And there’s no competition here. Everyone is trying to help each other out. It’s not about taking spots or being number one. I really feel that our strength is allowing people to blossom.”
The Internet, according to Bolduc, has only strengthened the opportunities for recording. “It’s just exploded,” he said. “There are so many more opportunities for bands and musicians to get their music heard and to make a better living.”
The Hartford Conservatory is also constantly looking to expand its offerings, as shown by its new two-year piano technology diploma program, one of only four in the country.
Linn McGlade, the conservatory’s interim executive director, said the program was introduced in response to waning membership in the Connecticut chapter of the Piano Technician Guild.
“It gives students the opportunity to become certified with the guild to take care of pianos, learn tuning and maintenance,” McGlade said. The diploma allows students to be prepared for entry-level positions in the piano field that could lead to their own business of building or restoring pianos.
“We saw that there was a need out there and we believed that we could fill it,” McGlade said. “There aren’t many accredited programs like this in the entire country.”
The conservatory doesn’t stop at preparing students for careers. It also aims to give back and entertain the community.
McGlade is especially proud of “Duke Ellington’s Jazz Nutcracker,” a school production that puts a different spin on the holiday classic. In its eighth year, the show will be performed in early December at the Hoffman Auditorium at Saint Joseph’s College.