Connor James Modugno is a second year Music Industry student in Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design. He balances being a full-time student as well as a full-time self-employed Audio Engineer. We caught up with Connor to talk about mentors, passions and his roots; learn more below.
What inspired you to choose Music Industry as your major?
Throughout my life, music had always been my passion outside of the classroom – whether that be playing piano, drums, or making beats. In high school, I decided to take music production a bit more seriously by taking classes in the Sound Arts major at College of the Canyons, my local community college, and producing more in my own free time. I eventually built up a portfolio of beats, scores to trailers and commercials, and songs that I engineered. While building my portfolio, I decided that I was going to follow my passion going into college and search for schools that have music production, music technology, or music industry programs like Northeastern. It was really exciting when I was accepted into Northeastern’s Music Industry program as it would provide me a well rounded music education, focusing on not only production and recording, but music business and music history as well.
How did you come to love music and the art of music production/making?
I have been in love with music ever since I was a baby. My parents always played me classical music and I loved every second of it. By the time I was three, I was conducting the LA Philharmonic at home to VHS tapes alongside my favorite conductor, Leonard Bernstein. I took frequent trips to the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall to learn more about classical music and watch conductors in person. My love for classical music turned into an obsession and at the age of four, I developed a stutter overnight. My parents took me to a therapist who explained to them that the auditory part of my brain had developed too quickly, putting my speech on the back burner. For the next few months, I met with a musical therapist who exposed me to all types of instruments in the orchestra, helping to get rid of my stutter. My time spent with my music therapist guided me through playing a musical instrument of my own, the piano.
For the next 6 years I played piano, and then after that I picked up drums until graduating high school. I never truly enjoyed or became skilled at either of these instruments because I wanted to have the whole metaphorical orchestra in my control, much like when I was younger. Because my classical music obsession died down around the age of 6, and I longed for something more, I started making my own music around the age of 14. While it was a slow process at first, I came to love it much more than playing individual instruments. Since then, I have strayed away from producing and taken up audio engineering where I can express my creativity, have control over sounds in a more technical way, and have an outlet for my perfectionism and desire to problem solve. This is basically my whole musical journey up to this point. I am, without a doubt, going to make audio engineering my career, so I have much of my musical journey to come.
What are some things you feel you’ve learned through your participation with music at Northeastern?
I have learned so much at Northeastern about music both inside and outside of the classroom. Because it is my second year, I have only taken a few specialized courses, but many of my musical abilities have gotten better since making this my major. Theory, recording, mixing, business, and history are just a few areas where classes have taught me tons of information.
Outside of school, I have learned the most because of the people I have met at Northeastern. Most of the artists I work with like 2LATE, WES., LEEWAY, Heath 240 and more all go to Northeastern. Without meeting these artists on campus I may have never found my love for audio engineering. Especially the first artist I ever completely and solely engineered for: 2LATE. His real name is Aidan Fox and he happened to live right next to me during my freshman year in Speare Hall. He is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and producer, and I believe we will both have long careers as musicians together. I also have had good experiences with Green Line Records, specifically their recording department. During my first year, I attended a lot of meetings and got to work on a few sessions as an assistant engineer, one of which being Brandi Blaze.
While I haven’t been as active this semester because of my own freelancing business, I do still keep up with the email list and attend a meeting now and then.
Tell us more about being a Grammy U member and interning for Chris Collier!
Grammy U has been great. I’ve gotten to go down to New York to meet Travis Scott at Madison Square Garden, and H.E.R. at Brooklyn Steel. They have so many more opportunities that I am excited to be a part of, they really help bring students close into the professional world. During high school I interned for Chris Collier, a mix and mastering engineer who works on mostly rock and metal music. He was from my hometown, working remotely at his home studio or in studios around LA. He truly is the first one to teach me about mixing in a professional environment and has been one of my mentors throughout my journey.
You’re freelancing full-time as an Audio Engineer – tell us about that.
I have been doing freelance audio engineering work for just about a year. Basically audio engineering is broken down into three parts: recording, mixing, and mastering. Recording is self explanatory–you record and help guide an artist to give their best performance for the song you are working on. Mixing is blending all the elements of a song together with both technical tools and creative effects. Mastering is taking the mix of a song and making it sound loud, balanced across the frequency spectrum, and adding the little extra character to the mix. These three parts make up audio engineering. I started my own freelancing audio engineering business a year ago where I work out of my professional setup that I somehow managed to fit into my tiny IV dorm room.
Over the past year, I have learned so much and developed my abilities and business. I have engineered over 40 songs on all streaming platforms, with around 40 more releasing in the next few months. My website is live, and my business cards are printed. Now, I am focusing on balancing my school work and freelancing business, a very tough task that I struggle with daily. Ultimately, I want to be doing freelance audio engineering as a career after I graduate and manage my own business, eventually opening a studio. Outside of school, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else than audio engineering, my passion.
Have you had any mentors along the way?
I have had a few mentors throughout my life. The first I mentioned earlier is Chris Collier. He was the person that took me in with nothing to offer, and taught me how to be a great freelance audio engineer. I truly learned so much from his worth ethic, personality, and abilities in communicating with artists. Chris ultimately introduced me to my passion. My drum teacher, Dan Stone, was also a great mentor and influence. He enlightened me to so many artists and genres of music, shaping the type of music I love and enjoy today. Finally, my mom, dad, and uncle have all shaped me into the person I am today, pushing me to pursue my passion as a major and career, instead of a safe route. They taught me that doing what you love and valuing education are the two most important aspects of a meaningful life, something that I think about and practice everyday.
Check out Connor’s website here!