Once junior and City of Palo Alto Teen Arts Council member Jonathan Sneh wraps up the drum pads in the Media Lab and adds the finishing touches on his very first self-produced, self-composed track, he knows he wants to ensure that everyone can experience the joy of making music, just as he does.
Traditionally confined to professional producers, the ability to record, edit, mix and produce music and video has often been out of reach for the average person because of a lack of accessibility due to the price of the equipment. The TAC, a youth organization that holds events for teens in Palo Alto and the surrounding community, seeks to change this with the introduction of the Media Lab on Oct. 12, a free recording and editing studio for members of the community.
The TAC has always been focused on the visual and performing arts, according to Co-President Leo Marburg. In the past, the TAC has accomplished this goal through hosting concerts with student performers and Open Mic Nights, where students get a short set to perform, throughout the year. However, the Media Lab is different from their usual work — it’s the first time they’ve offered a resource rather than an event.
“Our focus has always been events,” Marburg said. “That is easier to promote because we can just say, ‘come this Saturday.’ But this is quite a different situation for us because rather than a one time event, it’s year-long.”
The Media Lab is a new work space for editing audio and video, meant to help students develop producing and editing skills, which is located in the Mitchell Park area. The lab boasts professional microphones, synthesizers, drum pads and computers loaded with premium software such as Logic and Ableton to satisfy the creative needs of all its users.
“We had the idea that we wanted to create a space where teens could create audio, video and different media,” Marburg said. “We acquired an old storage room and converted it into the new space.”
After the TAC, which is funded by the City of Palo Alto, obtained the necessary equipment and space to set up a recording studio, they needed a team to put the Media Lab together and oversee its implementation. TAC member junior Jonathan Sneh decided to step forward and lead the project after having a transformative learning experience from testing out the Media Lab on its trial run.
“I walked into the Media Lab (and) there was a brand new computer, a drum pad (and) a keyboard,” Sneh said. “I started figuring things out, and it was amazing. That’s why I wanted to head this project.”
Marieke Gaboury, Director of Theatre Operations for the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre and overseer of the TAC, is most excited to give teens the opportunity to use their creativity.
“I think one of the best things that can happen is to be given the tools and a platform to create,” Gaboury said. “Initiating individual creative projects, or projects with my peers, turned out to be very important life events and moments for me — having tools like this would have been amazing (as a teen).”
A major goal of the Media Lab project is longevity, according to Gaboury. She said the TAC wants the Lab to provide media tools to the community for years to come.
“My hope is that this is a place that teens will look forward to coming back to again and again,” Gaboury said. “A place without critical academic pressure, where they can create and learn and feel that the space is their own.”
The Media Lab is open for sign-ups on the TAC website and is available Friday evenings and weekend mornings. However, Sneh said the council hopes to expand those hours, as well as eventually have drop-ins and as appointments in the future.
To ensure everyone can utilize the Media Lab, the TAC has a mentor for beginners at the Lab who answers questions about the equipment. For people wanting to gain more knowledge about using the Lab’s services, the TAC is also considering running a production class next semester.
“We’re looking for ways to utilize the Media Lab,” Marburg said. “It’s just a matter of getting the word out.”
Junior and TAC member Rein Vaska, had the opportunity to use the Media Lab for music production. He said he was impressed by the system but he would also like to see space available for bands.
“I like that they have analog synths, keyboards and drum pads,” Vaska said. “They are great for production. The only limitation is that right now there isn’t proper equipment to mic (microphone) a whole band, but (the) TAC is working to get more gear in there so hopefully soon that will be available.”
According to Sneh, however, serving bands is not a goal the council is currently working on.
“It (serving bands) would be nice and I would love to do it, but right now we’re focusing on being a simple editing and recording space,” Sneh said.
With that goal in mind, Marburg said the TAC is excited to share the lab with the community and give more people exposure to recording and editing tools.
Marburg said, “I feel like it’s going to give teenagers a chance to explore this technology in a way they might not be able to otherwise.”