Grad Spotlight: Daniel Hilsenbeck

People ask all the time if going to school is “worth it”. Especially in the field of music and audio recording, there seems to be a divide between pro-school and self-schooled learning. At the Conservatory, we take pride in our strong curriculum that focuses not only on how to run studios and gear, but even takes it to the fundamental aspects of what sound really “is”. I believe that is why we can have countless success stories like the one I’m going to share you with now!

Starting the CRAS adventure in late 2010 and graduating in mid-2011, Daniel Hilsenbeck has just recently made a monumental achievement. As you can see at the top of this page, we like to collect gold and platinum records that our alumni have worked on, and now we have one more to add to the wall! At this rate we’re going to need to build another campus just to house these things. The other day he was notified that he is eligible for a gold record, and we had the opportunity to go ahead and let him know that it is actually going to be a platinum one instead.

So with pride I write this and I’m looking forward to seeing the platinum version of an album I own and love, The Black Keys “El Camino”. He contributed to engineering this album that has sold over 1 million copies in the US alone, and near a million in other countries world wide, as well as winning the 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

He was nice enough to take the time to sit down and answer some of my questions, so here it is, from his mouth to your ears!

Did your internship go as you expected?

Well I would have to say it went beyond expectations. Of course I started out doing the cleaning and food runs. Then I went to Nashville to gain more experience in the field and basically landed the gig with The Black Keys as an Assistant Engineer. I was at the right place at the right time and my knowledge of microphone placements and patching played a big role.

What was your most memorable internship success story?

The success was going in to Easy Eye Sound Studio, which recently opened up for the band by Auerbach. Already almost done with the album, the manager asked if I had experience with microphone placements and patch work. So after the band set up the equipment I went in and placed all the microphones as they asked. I made the needed patches into the board and recording started.

How did you end up in your current position?

Well after the album was released I moved back to Arizona. With all the new knowledge I obtained from working at The Saltmine and at Easy Eye, a very close friend of mine wanted to open his own studio. Having all the needed equipment he still needed someone to engineer, so I took the part.

Have you ever found yourself star struck or in an unreal moment?

Star struck, no, because I know they are people like us. The unreal moment was when I was asked to work on The Black Keys album as an assistant engineer. It was a dream come true. That moment will live with me forever. Also finding out that I would at the least receive a gold record from it.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new students?

Never give up on your dreams. Always strive for excellence. Hard work and dedication will pay off in the long run. Of course you have to start at the bottom of the pole, but as long as you put your heart in to it and show that you are passionate they will notice. During your internship try to go above and beyond. Do the small things before the staff even has to ask you to do them.

Are there any tips or workflows that made your internship or job easier?

Yeah i used my own advice about always trying to do things before I was asked to them. Had a little routine I would do every time I came to work. It made the day that much easier. Also the manager and other engineers noticed and earned me a few spots helping out on major projects.

If you could go through the Conservatory program again, would you change anything? Either on a personal level or a change to the curriculum?

To be honest I wouldn’t change a thing. I spent most of the time at the school even as a 1st cycle student sitting in on sessions. The higher cycles giving advice and I would take that in to consideration and use that to my advantage.

Were there any instructors who you felt stood out or imparted some wisdom that stuck with you?

All the instructors at CRAS are unbelievable. Each one shared some light and knowledge that helped me get to where I am at today. The entire staff at CRAS are down to earth wonderful people. Im really honored to have had the opportunity to attend the school, and now I’m doing what I love to do. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing experience and would like to say thank you to each of you.

Thank you, and congratulations! It is always wonderful to hear success stories, especially when it hits close to home like this album has for me. Keep up the great work!

Lonely Boy