MAYVILLE - Winning recognition in the talent-rich world of music, especially when that recognition is a Grammy, comes to a relative few. So Stephen Roessner was happily startled when he checked online and learned he had won a 2010 Grammy the night before.
"I didn't know I was nominated for a Grammy," he confessed to about 50 Chautauqua Lake students when he spoke Friday, Dec. 7 at one of Chautauqua Lake Central School's "Directed Learning Lab" sessions.
He called his brother for confirmation because, "it was just a weird, surreal moment."
Photo by Dave O’Connor
Grammy Award winning sound engineer Stephen Roessner, standing, was a guest Friday, Dec. 7 at Chautauqua Lake Central School for one of the district’s “Directed Learning Lab” programs. About 50 students attended and heard Roessner describe the art, science and business of music in the 21st century.
"Steve, you won a Grammy," were the first words he heard from his brother.
The SUNY Fredonia graduate was the engineer/mixer for the recording of Messiaen's "Livre Du Saint-Sacrement" which won in the Best Solo Instrumental Performance (without an orchestra) category.
Roessner earned a degree in sound engineering from Fredonia in 2004 and is presently working for his doctorate at the University of Rochester. The Binghamton, N.Y., native plans to teach.
He was 24 and living in his parent's basement when he decided to move to New York City with his $3,000 savings. Almost immediately he "got lucky" and found work with cable channel MTV followed in 2006 with a position at the Juilliard School at Lincoln Center in New York where he remained until August 2010.
Roessner has played percussion on background music for "Jersey Shore" and HBO's "24/7," but his best paying job was helping provide the accompaniment for a 30-second SONY commercial which ran during a Super Bowl.
The business reality of present-day music meant each musician received $1,000 out of a total $30,000 pay day. That was what remained after various "splits" to others, and this, he said, is routine for most musicians.
While Roessner plays various percussion instruments, his engineering and mixing experience have enriched his perspective.
"Now the studio itself is an instrument," he told the students.
Because sound is subject to physical laws, Roessner was required to take calculus and physics at Fredonia.
"It was tough," he said. "I should have taken it in high school, but I didn't think I'd need it.
"I fell in love with sound," is how Roessner describes his time at Fredonia where he worked with producer David Fridmann.
The work that won him a Grammy was recorded in four nights at St. Mary's Cathedral near Times Square from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Because of the location, recording was frequently interrupted by homeless people banging on the doors, he related. The homeless were used to freely entering the sanctuary to spend the night and had to be directed to other parts of the cathedral while the recording sessions took place.
Roessner is a graduate student in ECE and acoustics at the University of Rochester. His website is calibratedrecording.com.