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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Behind the music

By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to the Toronto Sun


Twenty-five years ago, the landscape of the music recording scene in Canada changed significantly with the launch of the Trebas Institute in Montreal. Up until that point, very few institutions offered learning opportunities for those interested in music production. It was something that David Leonard, president and founder of Trebas, viewed as a golden opportunity.
-- Trebas Institute's new Toronto location offers instruction in film and TV production, recorded music production, digital video post production, entertainment management and audio engineering.


"At the time, I was managing a training services department for an aerospace company, and I was involved with audio and TV for internal training purposes," says the Montreal native. "I realized that I had no interest in the aerospace industry! But the training was fascinating ... and I thought, why don't I apply this formula to the recording industry?"

Major artists

Not only did the idea seem like a winner -- Leonard also had the experience to back it up. Through his 20s and 30s, he worked as a recording engineer in studios in Montreal, Toronto and New York with major artists such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, James Brown, Otis Redding and record producer Phil Spector.

Leonard put his industry knowledge to work and spent a year breaking down the elements of record production work and the industry as a whole to create a comprehensive curriculum.

In 1979 he was finally ready -- and so was the public. The initial enrolment at the Trebas Institute (www.trebas.com) of 25 students grew to 100 the following year, and has been climbing steadily ever since. In 1982, he expanded the operation and opened a second location in Toronto.

The program offerings have evolved over the years to keep pace with changes in the industry and in other industries as well. Today, the Montreal campus offers training in four different areas: film and video production, recording and live sound, sound design and music business administration.

In Toronto, students can access instruction in film and TV production, recorded music production, digital video post production, entertainment management and audio engineering.

The curriculum is a blend of theoretical and practical instruction, grounded in Trebas' ASK philosophy: attitude, skills and knowledge.

"Our graduates have made a major impact on the entertainment industry," Leonard says. "We have trained thousands of people who have gone on to work at record labels, vinyl pressing plants, and some who have gone on to university to become entertainment lawyers."

Indeed, Trebas graduates can be found working at the highest levels of various facets of the entertainment industry. One produced and composed the top single song Who Am I by Beenie Man; another became a world-renowned audio mix engineer and record producer who has worked with Bryan Adams, Kiss, AC/DC, Cher, Barbra Streisand and Van Halen; and another launched Moonlight Mastering in Los Angeles, a successful mastering studio.

There is also graduate Brian Hetherman, whose 1987 education in artist management, record production, music theory, sound acoustics and marketing led to a dynamic career in music production. In 1988, he joined an upstart indie record company called Duke Street Records, and immersed himself in all aspects of the business. In 1990, he landed a job as a display rep at MCA (now Universal Music Group), and worked his way up the ranks to become director of artists and repertoire for Canadian talent.

Record label

Two years ago, Hetherman decided to explore his creative talents and started Cerberus Artist Management and record label Curve Music, which currently represents four different bands and at one point had hit female vocalist Holly McNarland on board.

"Trebas was a great way to take in a lot of information about the industry in a short period of time," Hetherman says. "We were learning through teachers who were in the business, and they gave us insight into things we probably would have had to learn the hard way."

Which is exactly what David Leonard and Trebas has been working to achieve for the last 25 years.

"We teach students how to negotiate a contract, write a song, set up microphones in the studio -- the how-to stuff that will give them an edge when looking for work."

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