If you ask Alex Perialas what he's been listening to lately, he will likely laugh and respond by asking you the same question. As a veteran of the recording industry, assistant professor and director of the sound recording program at the School of Music, and owner and engineer at Pyramid Recording Studios in Ithaca, New York, Perialas has worked with talented and award-winning artists in just about every music genre. The real question for someone inquiring as to what's playing on his stereo is, "What hasn't he been listening to?"
Perialas built his career around music as a producer and engineer. And now the 30-year veteran wants his students in the School of Music to have that same appreciation for the rich diversity of music.
Perialas's introduction to music production came at a young age while growing up in Ithaca. He played trumpet and saxophone and his father worked in the recording industry, traveling to work in New York City every week.
Since going with his father to a recording gig at the age of eight, Perialas has felt at home in recording studios. His time as a producer and engineer since the '70s has involved him in hundreds of projects and introduced him to big-name groups including Metallica, moe., John Brown's Body, and many more. His work in field audio production has even earned some of the highest recognition possible, including a Grammy Award nomination.
"It's always great to be recognized for your work," he says. "Those are all really gratifying moments, but it comes down to being lucky enough to work with really talented people. None of us can do what we do without the people we work with."
His strong work ethic and goal-driven philosophy is what Perialas tries to instill in his students today. He says the change from working "in the field" to education is one he has enjoyed.
"It hasn't really been that hard of a transition because I've always tried to help people get better at their craft, and I've always worked with younger bands anyway."
The music school's studios contain some of the most advanced forms of digital sound recording and editing technology as well as classic equipment. Perialas says it's important for students to develop proficiency in multiple technologies, as each has its own advantages. The difficult part, he says, is in answering students' questions in a manner that resonates with them.
"I think the hardest thing was to understand how to answer the questions that students would ask. If you were an old grumpy engineer, you'd say, 'Well, that's just the way I do it!' But that isn't my mission here. My mission is to explain all the ways that someone could understand a technique or a process."
Haley Rowland is now a senior sound recording technology major. As a prospective student, she was interested in performance but was also drawn to the business side of recording music. She looked at several schools with similar programs; however, she says she found Perialas's studio to be the best.
"I was really impressed with his enthusiasm and experience right from the beginning," she says. "He made it so personal and helped me figure out ways to make it work for me." She says she feels confident about the opportunities that await her as she graduates and that her studies under Perialas will be the key to launching her career in a field she loves.
"I will make my career because of my work with Alex," she says.
While helping students develop their skills in producing and engineering music recordings, Perialas says that being a teacher has also improved his own abilities by causing him to self-analyze and try new techniques.
"As audio engineers, we go through multiple years of experimentation," he says. "Because if you don't experiment, you never really grow, and life gets boring."
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