Person of interest: Riccardo Schulz, recording engineer
March 31, 2013 4:00 AM
Riccardo Schulz, center, who has been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University for 22 years, stands with his multitrack recording class in the recording studio at CMU.
By Andrew Druckenbrod Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You could put together an entire catalog of CDs of Pittsburgh groups, choirs, soloists, hip-hop artists and bands for which Riccardo Schulz has been recording engineer and editor. As associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he runs the School of Music's recording studio and has guided many students to learn the process or to make their own professional recordings. He spends an equal time on location, documenting countless local -- especially classical music -- events.
Chief among the Shadyside resident's gigs are editing performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and by the Pittsburgh Opera for radio broadcast through WQED-FM. But he is especially beloved in the region for bringing his expertise to smaller groups' concerts and events: the River City Brass Band, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir, Chatham Baroque, Pittsburgh Camerata and others.
Involved with more than a 100 compact discs on a variety of record labels, he also records world music, jazz, alternative rock groups and hip-hop artists.
You have master's degrees in mathematics and musicology. How did you become a recording engineer?
The most valuable thing I learned when I was studying for my master's degree in mathematics was what a lousy mathematician I would make. Music was always my passion, and that became more apparent as time went on.
The day I passed my mathematics comprehensive exam, I walked from Duquesne University to the music building at University of Pittsburgh and asked to enroll in the graduate program in musicology. Once at Pitt, I was hired to maintain the electronic music studio, and eventually, to record concerts there. When Marilyn Thomas was appointed head of the School of Music at CMU she hired me to run its recording operations, and teach recording-related subjects. It was a perfect combination of music and technology and a perfect ?t for me.
What was your strangest recording situation? A woman who had a terminal illness asked Mario Lavista, a composer whose music she admired, to write a string quartet that would be played at her funeral, to help her soul on its journey to the hereafter. It was to be played only at her funeral, not before, and not after. But the soul didn't begin its journey when she thought it would, and she got curious as to what the music sounded like. She then commissioned the recording with Cuarteto Latinoamericano, which I made on the condition that I would not share it with anyone or even ask why it was being made.
What is the most difficult aspect to recording classical music compared to jazz or pop? Each has its own challenges. In classical music, the conductor (or the musicians) have already done the balancing, and the engineer has to capture faithfully the sounds as they exist in the concert hall. In other genres, the engineer has to create the balance where, possibly, it did not exist naturally.
Dead composer whom you would have loved to meet: A toss-up between Bach and Mozart. Verdi would be next on the list.
Three things always in your refrigerator: Yogurt, tofu and lots of veggies, and in the freezer, ?our for homemade bread.
Your favorite spot in Pittsburgh: Anna Singer's outdoor deck on Mount Washington.
Guilty pleasure: Cooking dinner at home for students or friends -- Italian style, with salad at the end.
The best piece of advice you've ever received: "Go with your passion," which for me was music.
Can't live without: Pittsburgh Symphony and WQED-FM.
Might be surprised to know: I don't have a cell phone or a television.