There’s no question that the students here at McNally Smith are always up to exciting new things, whether it’s promoting new albums by their friends or themselves, or hitting the keys on the piano that recently found its way to the corner outside our campus (and that can really only happen here).
But while I regularly hear about and get to see students and their work, it’s not so often that I get to actually chat with them about it one-on-one. I recently did just that with Dan Comerchero, a Music Production student who’s been involved in new projects left and right since he began studying at McNally Smith. His latest is a frequency ear trainer for audio engineers called Quiztones. Last month, Dan partnered with Audiofile Engineering to release Quiztones as an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. When I heard about all of Dan’s accomplishments so far, I knew I had to learn more about his experiences. Here’s our interview:
Harry Chalmiers: Dan, I’m so glad to talk with you. You’ve been making waves in the digital music realm, and you haven’t even graduated yet. Why don’t you tell me, where are you from and what is it that brought you to McNally Smith?
Dan Comerchero: Well, I was born in Arizona and lived in the Netherlands from ages 4 – 10. After that, I lived in a suburb of Boston until moving to St. Paul in 2006. I guess what really attracted me to McNally Smith was how nice the weather was when I visited in the summer – just kidding. What actually got me excited about the college was experiencing the close-knit community of students with a faculty of industry professionals. Networking is so important in the music industry, so that was a major appeal. Unlike some schools, McNally Smith doesn’t feel like a factory where you just get lost in the crowd.
HC: That’s true. Anything else?
DC: I like how the faculty here have personal one-on-one relationships with students, and they’re willing to guide and mentor you. Of course like with any endeavor, the more you put in the more you’ll get out. I also dig that McNally Smith invests in its own resources and technology.
HC: Well, that’s great. Dan, you’re a Music Production student now, right? Was that always your plan?
DC: Actually, I started off pursuing an AAS in Percussion Performance. At the time, I was focused on becoming a professional drummer. I thought one day maybe I’d open my own music store or lessons studio to teach out of. It’s interesting to look back on my intentions, because three years later – after various experiences – I know now that I definitely don’t want to do that!
Soon my focus shifted away from performance, and more towards production, recording, and technology. Since many credits transferred from my performance degree, I decided to get an AAS in Music Production. Soon a Bachelor Degree was within close reach, and that’s where I’m at now.
HC: In other words, you adapted and took advantage of the changing resources that were available to you. Do you feel like this was the best path for you to follow?
DC: Currently I have two semesters left until I graduate with a Bachelor in Music Production. Even though I spent two years studying music performance and it’s currently not my main focus, I don’t regret that pursuit at all. There are so many meaningful events and experiences that occurred during that time, which shaped me and lead me to where I am today. I’m grateful for that.
HC: Have any courses or faculty members in particular helped you to get where you are today?
DC: I’ve had a lot of memorable classes. One that particularly sticks out was Dave Stanoch’s class based on the concepts in his award-winning book: “Mastering the Tables of Time.” His teachings opened up a lot of new musical doors for me. I still walk up the stairs subdividing in 3 over 2 rhythms. It was also cool to be in class with him while his book was taking off and getting recognized in the Modern Drummer 2009 Readers Poll as ‘Best Method Book.’
Also, I think everyone should take a class with J. Allen, or at least pick his brain. I usually leave his Songwriting & Composition class totally whoa-faced. He’s a wealth of unique knowledge about music & technology, as well as the most random things you could imagine – or actually – probably can’t imagine.
Of course, I’ve had many great experiences in other classes with a variety of faculty members. Almost every class and teacher has influenced me in some subtle or extreme way, whether I was aware of it or not at the time. Also, shout out to Joe Mabbott for sparking the idea for Quiztones by quizzing our class with a tone generator in Mix Lab I.
HC: I’m curious about your pursuits outside of regular coursework. Obviously, you’ve been doing a lot of work relating to music and technology, and making it more available through the Internet. Tell me a little about that.
DC: I’ve always had a knack and an itch for business, marketing, and technology. To fulfill my raging entrepreneurial desires, I began launching websites based on some music-related ideas I had brewing.
It started two years ago with Staffnotes, a unique printable staff paper design I came up with in music theory class. Then this past summer, as I delved deeper into music technology, I gathered some talented writers and launched a pro audio blog called theProAudioFiles.com.
Currently though, my main focus is Quiztones, a frequency ear training website and app for audio engineers & musicians. My inspiration for Quiztones and theProAudioFiles.com was simply a desire to learn by doing, and to help others along the way. I feel that the most rewarding experience in life is helping other people. Getting that first email of positive feedback hooked me forever.
If it weren’t for the decision to pursue a Bachelor Degree and fulfill my internship requirement, I never would’ve crossed paths with Audiofile Engineering, my partners for the Quiztones iOS app. That happened just two months ago, and it’s scary to think what I would’ve missed out on if I didn’t get connected with them. Now we’re working on a huge Quiztones update that is really going to take this app to the next level.
It always amazes me how certain decisions in life lead you to incredible, unpredictable opportunities. My internship almost instantly became a partnership, and if it weren’t for pursuing that internship, my reality today would be drastically different.
HC: Well, Dan, it’s been great chatting with you and seeing how far you’ve come. I’m always excited to learn about McNally Smith students and their achievements both inside and outside the classroom. I’d wish you luck in your last two semesters, but something tells me that you don’t need it! I hope you’ll keep us all updated on your successes.