MIDI mixing music

Diverse styles come together


Ashley Castildi

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface/Electronic Music (MIDI) program Director Kyle Chuah and student Taylor Ramey play around with equipment.

“This isn’t just a music class, it’s life,” said Los Medanos College MIDI Program student Gianni Torres.

LMC has a well-earned reputation for being one the best schools for Music Production and Recording Arts.

According the it’s website, “recording arts at Los Medanos College is one of the finest programs of its kind in the country.”

Also, the college boasts alumni who collectively have over 30 Grammy nominations and 20 wins, and a staff packed with successful industry professionals, including Doug Beavers, who is a Grammy award-winning musician and a composer and Duana Leslie, who has received multiple honors, such as the West Bay Opera Superstar competition, Loren Zachary Competition National semi-finalist, 1st place in National Association Teachers of Singing competition and others.

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface/Electronic Music program is a set of courses offered to students that teaches the basics of music production, mixing technology and musical equipment.

Directed by professor Kyle (Cheong) Chuah, students said his teaching style is a big part of the program’s success. Although he’s an expert in the field of MIDI, he teaches in a way that makes the complicated process of music production simple and relatable. Students Lamare Smith, Gianni Torres and David McRay all gave sparkling testimonies to Chuah’s easy-going teaching pace.

“He speaks in a way that’s easy to understand, not like he’s speaking a different language, which some professors tend to do,” said former student, turned MIDI program tutor, Felix Cordova.

The MIDI courses teach the basics of mixing music in a studio setting, whether it is a home studio, which many students of the program have, or a professional one like LMC’s.

According to Rick Shiner, the man who designed the college’s Music and Recording Arts Studio, LMC has one the best studios in the Bay Area and has state of the art equipment and computer programs. Students use it for the lab portion of their course.

“What we’re doing here is making the drumline beat sound more alive”, says Chuah as he walks them step by step through the art of mixing music as the students nod their heads to the beat Chuah created in seconds.

The success of the program can be seen in the passion of the students that take the courses. The musical mind and style of thinking that’s unique to artists is melded perfectly with the program and makes it so that even those with decades of experience in recording studios still learn a lot.

McRay, who raps under the stage name Citrukain, is an “OG”, as fellow student Smith calls him. McRay is 53 and has decades of experience producing his own music. Even so, he found there were a lot of steps that he had missed.

McRay said he believes the program and Chuah are life changing.

“Music is an important platform; Music touches people in different ways,” said McRay.

The program is versatile because it’s adaptable to many different forms of music and is able to mold to the students needs.

“I really enjoy working with some of these guys that have all these skills that can rap or can sing or can play an instrument but they don’t know how to set up a home studio,” said Cordova. He witnessed this firsthand when tutoring many students with a wide variety of music tastes, he said they where able to apply the techniques learned in class to each and every genre of music with ease.

“There’s such a diverse group of people that come in that its cool and interesting to see these people link up and start recording together,” said Cordova.

Whether it is hip-hop, R&B, electronic or others, the styles that use MIDI are relatable to the diverse student population. The diversity is what makes the process so fun for the students and the teachers. Each new student broadens the reach of the program by offering opportunities that would be hard to come by.

This idea that the MIDI Program is not only a step to a degree but also an important life step to fulfilling a dream is most evident in the inspiring stories of the program’s students.

Gianni Torres, a 20 year old born and raised in Antioch, said without music he would probably be dead. Things like sequencing a beat combined with Chuah’s explanations are already helping him to perfect the art of producing music.

Chuah himself is inspired by his students and was surprised to learn just how much his classes impacted their lives. He said after hearing Smith, a 25 year older rapper from Oakland, explain that his discovery of his love for producing music had a deep impact on him growing up in a harsh street environment, Chuah said he that he is now realizing that the work he’s doing has reached past the boundaries of LMC and into the hearts of his students.

Cordova said he knows just how exceptional the program’s students are. He couldn’t help but praise the talent of the young students that come to LMC to learn about mixing music and also expressed the sentiment, as did many of Chuah’s other students, that the business side of the music industry is one of the most important things to learn.

“A lot of youngsters just get ripped off,” said Cordova, “so knowing the business side is really important.”

Cordova is a testament to the success of the program, after earning his Associate’s Degree in Recording Arts he has gone on to work as a sound engineer and music producer.

The MIDI program is a way out of a lifetime of hard living and suffering for a lot of students. It offers an alternative; an opportunity that is not being taken for granted. Gianni Torres takes the MIDI courses instead of going to work for what he calls the ‘Steel Mill’, the local Pittsburg oil refinery that employs a large portion of local residents, sometimes for generations.

The success of the program has serious effects on not only the school but also the life of the students. To students like Gianni, “music is life.”