The man behind the music

LMC instructor Len Haynes sheds light on his musical career.

Len+Haynes+sits+in+his+studio+with+music+equipment.

Photo courtesy of Len Haynes

Len Haynes sits in his studio with music equipment.

Chase Wheeler, Staff Writer

The music industry may seem welcoming, but it is difficult to grow past just being a small-time band with a few friends. Many aspiring musicians learn the reality quickly, but those who stick it out have a chance of making a name for themselves. One Los Medanos College professor has turned his dream of working in the music industry into a reality.

 Artist and sound engineer Leonard Haynes now teaches mass communications, a GE course that discusses the development of the recording industry.

“Just going and seeing a band play on stage and buying records,” said Haynes, “really inspired me to become a musician.” 

When he started his first band, Anubian Lights, no one in the band knew how to properly record a professional demo. So he took it upon himself to learn, first through books then by taking classes at Los Angeles City College. 

“They had a full recording path in courses very much as Los Medanos does,” he said.

Those classes led to an internship at Studio 56 Productions and he was later hired by the company as a second engineer. Hands-on learning also helped his own music, as he was trying to get his band off the ground.

His job involved “setting up the sessions, setting up the mics, working with the talent and artists who would come in with their own first engineer,” explained Haynes. “That really helped me learn. When you’re actually kind of thrown in the fire, you have to learn.”

Through his classes and on-the-job training, he was able to become a successful sound engineer and could apply those skills to improve the quality of his band’s music.

When you’re actually kind of thrown in the fire, you have to learn.”

— Len Haynes

A career as an artist in the music industry is anything but stable, but with Haynes’s background in sound engineering, he always had something he could fall back on. It wasn’t until his first band was signed to a record label that he decided to further his career as a musician. 

“I kept at it for decades,” he said, “you go from one label to the next just trying to get to a better label that actually gives you money for an advance or a studio, or at least pay for the recording.”

While he still produces some music, his focus has shifted toward the next generation of aspiring musicians and recording engineers. 

In his own home studio, he now produces music for Anubian Nights and has a keyboard for when he works through analog, but most of his recording is now done digitally. Behind his desk, he has cabinets full of records, some of which he has had since he was a kid, and studio posters line the walls. 

Working as a musician eventually, you “kind of hit a plateau,” he said adding that when you have done all you wanted to within the industry you can keep doing what you have done or you can move on. 

When Haynes hit that “plateau” he decided to go back to school at Los Angeles City College where he earned an associate’s degree in film/cinema and video studies. 

“When I was going to school at L.A. City College I was also a teaching assistant because I had a lot of audio knowledge,” said Haynes.

Using his background in the industry he was able to utilize those skills to help other students who were struggling. 

“The department chair at L.A. City College took me aside one day and said ‘you know I think you do a great job as a teaching assistant. Have you ever thought of becoming a full-time teacher?’” said Haynes.

Haynes decided that going into teaching would be better than “getting an entry-level job as a video editor, in my 40s.” At the time he was mostly interested in video editing and had not thought about becoming a teacher.

He then attended San Francisco State University where he would earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in broadcast and media arts. 

As a graduate student, he was already working as a lecturer at SFSU and was hired as a faculty lecturer after he graduated.

“I like the hands-on experience in the recording industry that Len Haynes brings to his mass communication class,” said Cindy McGrath, the Communication department at LMC. “I think it’s wonderful when students can learn from someone who has actually lived through it.” 

Working as an instructor at three colleges —LMC, SFSU and Santa Rosa Junior College — does not leave Haynes much time to work on his own music. He finds the most time he can dedicate to creating his own music is during summer and winter breaks. 

“My music career takes a back seat to my teaching career,” he said.

Without the heavy time constraints that come with a label, and being able to work on his sound when he wants, Haynes has been finding more enjoyment in music than before.

“Now it’s more fun,” said Haynes. “When I feel like I’m in the mood I’ll get the keyboards out and open up the software and start working on songs.”

If you would like to learn more about Leonard Haynes you can visit his website and if you would like to learn more about his music career, visit his Discogs page.