Oscar Zambrano ’03 talks about his life after Berklee.
I have always known what I wanted to do after college. I wanted to move to a city that had big recording studios, work there, freelance and eventually own a studio. What I did not know was the how: what roads would I have to take? How long would it take and when or where would this happen?
Nine years have passed since I graduated from MP&E, and what an amazing journey it’s been thus far. I graduated in the summer of 2003 at a time when the music industry was beginning to experience a drastic change. The digital world was slowly taking over analog, home studios were starting to become more and more common, and the big commercial studios were slowly disappearing. Fortunately, New York had yet to experience the effects of home studio recordings and with a stoke of luck, I was hired at my first choice studio, Sound on Sound in Manhattan.
I started out as a general assistant (GA) – a position at the bottom of the ladder that paid minimum wage with no overtime compensation and often required working over 90 hours a week. I’m not sure why, but I was in heaven. Great engineers, artists, producers, and managers alike constantly surrounded me. I absorbed everything and anything. I met as many people as I could. Within a few months of working at Sound on Sound, I had opportunities to work as an assistant engineer on some sessions and eventually worked my way to engineering independent sessions. I was living my dream working in one of the best studios in New York City, alongside top engineers, producers and artists. Everything was going according to plan, and then it happened. I was forced to quit my job at Sound on Sound due to visa issues. I went from having everything to losing everything in a blink of an eye.
I returned home to Mexico City for a few months and it felt like forever. Not ready to give up my dream and wanting to move back to New York, I applied for another visa and this time it was approved. New York City is a place with endless possibilities and it is also a place with a lot of distractions. It can be very hard to get motivated with no apparent deadlines or anybody telling you what to do or when to do it. In an attempt to minimize the lack of productivity, I decided to start up my own company, Zampol Productions, with a good friend from college, Jorge Castellanos. Having a company forced me to take things more seriously, or so I hoped. At first I had a small studio set up in my apartment. I kept in touch with some clients I had met over the years at Berklee and in New York. This was enough to regroup and get back on track.
Through a previous internship at M Works in Boston (my first and only internship actually), word got out that I was more of a mastering engineer than a recording and mix engineer. I was not to keen on the idea of becoming a mastering engineer at the time but it helped me find more work. Most of my friends were recording and mix engineers and I was very fortunate to master their projects.
It has been six years since I started Zampol Productions and everything is on track and growing steadily. We now have a studio in the SOHO neighborhood. We have a solid team including Grammy-award winning engineers, talented musicians, producers, and artists. Zampol Productions was behind several platinum albums and mastered over 100 albums last year. It has been an amazing journey full of surprises – some good and some bad but we always find a way to stay positive and adapt to the fast changing pace the music industry.