Introducing the Jack Ballard Recording Studio

The Cate School music department is proud to unveil the brand-new Jack Ballard Recording Studio.

Located in Booth Commons, the state-of-the-art studio includes equipment used by professional musicians and features a 32-channel SSL console, Warm-Audio compressors, EQ, Shure, and Neumann microphones, and more. 

“Since my arrival nine years ago, more and more students have arrived at Cate creating music on computers, while partnering with singers and other instrumentalists who have studied a more traditional path,” said Cate’s Director of Instrumental Music John Knecht. “Now they can all work together in a pro-level space and make music that sounds like everything they hear from a top record label.”

Experienced audio engineer and Head of Audio at the Granada Theater, Jon Fowler, designed the entire room from selecting gear, collaborating with the construction team, and fixing software issues to nailing in the final bolts; he even polished the floors himself. 

“The idea was to build a space that students could learn in and then go into any commercial space in the world and know how to run the room,” Fowler said. “It’s a smaller version of what you’d expect to see in a major commercial studio.”

Fowler, who met Knecht by chance after listening to him teach an African Drum Circle in Carpinteria, began coming to Cate to speak to students about working in the music industry. Before he knew it, he was assisting with audio issues in the Hitchcock Theater, and ultimately was contracted as the lead designer when the dream for a new recording studio became a reality. Fowler has ties to Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, where artists like Rihanna, Shakira, and Justin Timberlake record, and Knecht hopes to build the partnership further and eventually send students for internships to learn from professionals in the industry.

“It has been amazing to be a part of the development process of this new recording studio,” Knecht said. “The whole project, from concept, funding, research, design, and construction, has held the spirit of creating a music program for the next 50 years. Special kudos to Jon Fowler, as well as Sarah Preston, and Lindsay Newlove from the Cate Advancement Office, Director of Strategic Initiatives Hallie Greene, Santa Barbara music producer Elliott Lanam, and the amazing construction crew of the new dining hall space.”

The new space will allow for a program where beginner students can enter with little to no experience, and gain enough skills to head to Los Angeles and work in a professional studio. Students will learn basic songcraft with software like GarageBand or can sign up for Modern Styles Ensemble to learn more advanced software like Logic and Pro Tools. Knecht plans to also incorporate advanced studio production and songwriting classes into the curriculum so aspiring artists can grow, create, and explore using the best resources available.

“I hope the studio will serve as a way to connect with the broader music community outside of Cate,” said Knecht. “We’ve already had inquiries from local musicians who have heard about what we now have up on the Mesa and are excited to come check it out. We hope Cate alumni in the music community will also be interested in returning to Cate to make music with us!”