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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Gasparka

Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts Launches Les Paul Sound Engineering Program for Milwaukee Youth

A series of free evening workshops will be offered at the community arts space to help train and teach audio engineering skills to local young artists

Jazz musicians play together on a stage, surrounded by paintings, at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts
Image courtesy JGCA

Milwaukee’s music scene is about to see a wave of new sound engineers in the making. After receiving a grant from the Les Paul Foundation, the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, a multidisciplinary arts and community space and music venue located on Center Street in Riverwest, will launch a series of workshops to empower Milwaukee youth to explore and expand their knowledge of and comfort with operating sound equipment.

The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts is the newest incarnation of an iconic music venue that in the past held performances by musical legends including Dizzy Gillespie and Sun Ra. After its storied beginning, the space went dormant for a time before it was purchased in 2008 by the Riverwest Artist Association. In more recent times, the organization has returned to a programming focus that includes a robust emphasis on music. Offerings including diverse concerts ranging from jazz to rock to experimental indie music, and weekly jazz improv sessions held in collaboration with Milwaukee Jazz Institute, are just a part of the ongoing, regular programming at the arts center.

With a reemergent focus on music, the organization is steadily building an audience through concerts, including the recent triumphant Riverwest Jazzfest—a brand new festival of free jazz music at Center Street venues, which attracted throngs of music lovers to JGCA and other venues on Sept 29. Now, the JGCA is seeking out additional community members to help support the steady stream of performances by local musicians and touring acts. Jazz Gallery leadership hopes that the Les Paul Sound Engineering workshops will help to inspire a new generation of volunteer sound engineers to help with those events—while also illuminating career pathways for artists, and adding more engineering-savvy artists to Milwaukee’s music creative ecosystem.

A Hip Hop artist performs on a mic at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts in close proximity to the audience
Image courtesy JGCA

"A few years back I was talking with the owner of a sound equipment rental company about the shortage of qualified potential employees in Milwaukee in this field. It's also the case with running sound for music shows at venues, sound engineers for radio, television stations, and recording studios,” said Mark Lawson, the President of the Board of Directors at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts. “Sound engineering is a profession that few young people are even aware of. If you're interested in music, it's a viable way of making a living. More than that, knowledge of this field and the equipment involved can expand your own horizons as a musician significantly. Whether it gives you greater knowledge when recording your music, or you use it like another instrument in producing the soundscape of your creative work."

A figure stands in darkness on the JGCA stage in front of a body of water projected onto a screen
Image by Chris Thomson

The Les Paul Sound Engineering Program workshops will utilize the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts’ new digital sound system, an Allen and Heath QU-16c, which enables remote mixing through a tablet and has multitrack recording capabilities. Older, more traditional sound equipment will also be featured in the workshops, including an analog sound system with a mixing board, a DJ controller/mixer, and more.

The workshops will be led and facilitated by local musicians, performers and sound engineers. Some of the talent includes Trace Ellington, who will lead a session on running a recording studio and doing production work; local musician Klassik will teach about using sound equipment in live musical performance; Paul Krajniak will present on Les Paul and the history of sound engineering; Tyrone Miller, know as DJ Bizzon, will instruct on the equipment and profession of DJ work. Musician Nicholas Elert will lead the first workshop on Nov 7 with a focus on the principles of electronics and sound.

"The Les Paul Sound Engineering Program will help facilitate the growth of Milwaukee's music community through providing aspiring musicians and sound engineers with the skills to record, produce, and mix their own music, ultimately fostering their autonomy and creative growth," reflected Eli Smith, a volunteer who leads the Music Committee of the JGCA. "The music community in Milwaukee needs to equip the performers and producers who sustain it with these tools in order to create a culture in which artists retain creative control and cultural activity occurs on a grassroots level, and this program will enable these processes to flourish."

The Les Paul Sound Engineering programs will run on Tuesday evenings Nov 7- Dec 12 at 5 PM. You can learn more, or RSVP by contacting

The current roster of workshops is:

November 7th : Nicholas Elert

Principles of sound and how it works with electronic devices

November 14th : Trace Ellington

Running a recording studio and doing production work

November 21st : Kellen Abston (Klassik)

Using sound equipment as an instrument

December 5th : Paul Krajniak

Les Paul and the history of sound engineering

December 12th : Tyron Miller (DJ Bizzon)

The equipment and profession of DJ work


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