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Studio Has Setup to Start Training Entertainment Industry Artists

MEDIATECH OCEANSIDE

Founder and CEO: Russell Whitaker.

Annual budget: N/A.

No. of employees: Three in Oceanside, 60 in Texas.

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Headquarters: Oceanside.

Year founded: 1998.

Mission of organization: A professional studio that operates a private school established to teach students behind the microphone and behind the camera skills for jobs in the entertainment industry.

Dallas-based, privately held MediaTech Institute, which opened a 5,000-square-foot “Hollywood caliber” sound and video studio in central Oceanside in September, is starting a private school to train students for jobs in the entertainment industry.

Classes begin June 27.

The one-year session includes training in film and video production, as well as sound recording, and the school even offers classes in drums, guitar and keyboard.

MediaTech Vice President Tracy Terrell said founder and President Russell Whitaker, an avid surfer, chose the North County location because it is next to area beaches and close to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Whitaker is a 30-year-plus industry veteran who has worked with dozens of top-name artists, ranging from Phil Collins to ZZ Top, as well as a number of films such as “Titanic” and “Leave It to Beaver.”

“Russell was in Oceanside surfing, and found the perfect building and the perfect location to build a school,” said Terrell. “Now, we’re opening our school,” which she said is oriented toward learning hands-on skills required in the entertainment industry.

“We are a real studio, we’re not just for instruction,” she said. “The equipment is professional grade, and real production will be going on. That’s how the students gain their experience — by working on real world productions.”

Terrell said the school hopes to draw students from population centers in both San Diego and Orange counties.

Partnering With Professionals

She claims MediaTech partners with professionals working on music or film, and the school works to help get students paying jobs while enrolled.

“As long as they’re enrolled in school, they have free access to all of the gear,” said Terrell. “They are encouraged to go out and find work, and use the equipment. It’s very hands-on.”

She said the company is financing the school through profits earned at its Texas schools.

“There is a huge demand for these jobs, as it is now a multimedia world,” said Terrell. “Everything in our lives today has sound and pictures, and somebody has to write, shoot and distribute the material.”

Whitaker started his recording business with the opening of the Dallas Sound Lab in the early 1980s, the largest facility of its kind in the Southwest, and added a school after noting the failure of traditional education facilities to properly train students for work in the recording industry.

The first classes began in 1998.

Today, the school has a capacity of 48 students, or a student body of 425 students, she said.

The four Texas schools have graduated about 1,300 students.

The graduation rate, or the rate of those obtaining a diploma, is around 75 percent, she said.

The schools are recognized by the Texas Workforce Commission, as well as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education so that students can obtain loans to attend.

The cost to attend MediaTech ranges from $20,000 to $25,000. Students receive a diploma if they successfully complete the course work.

“Most music schools take a purely academic environment and attempt to drag the profession in kicking and screaming,” Whitaker said in a prepared statement. He noted that most public schools operated with instructors who haven’t worked in the business and with equipment that is antiquated.

However, Dana Smith, dean of arts and letters at MiraCosta College in North County, said her program offers similar training for less, with instruction by professionals in the field on the latest equipment.

Tom York is a contributing editor for the San Diego Business Journal.

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