This month, I wanted to highlight some of the amazing women in our area who have made a career in sound. Modesto Sound, founded by Brenda Francis, is a non-profit organization that empowers youth with job skills related to music production. I spent a moment with Brenda to find out more about her and Modesto Sound.
Tell us about Modesto Sound?
Modesto Sound combines youth arts education with music technology services. The combination enables a thriving business (music recording, concert services, and media duplication) to provide youth with an exciting hands-on educational experience. Theory and lectures are replaced by actual music projects that often get airtime on public radio and TV! Sought-after skills of creativity, communication, teamwork, and leadership, are imparted to youth while they work on real-world audio projects.
When was it founded?
Modesto Sound has been in business since 2005. The control room started in my kitchen, and then another audio engineer said it would be better acoustically in my living room (laugh). My first motto was “Improving Teen’s Self-Esteem”. But then I found out teens didn’t think their self-esteem needed improving, so I changed it to Empowering teens…and now the mission has grown to become: Empower youth with real-world job skills to create music and artistic media.
How did you get into sound?
I felt unfulfilled as an office worker and wanted to do something with music. So I attended college and got a Master’s in Art & Entertainment Business. Business because that is where I had worked for years, and I felt it would be a natural fit. Every paper and assignment I based on music and I made sure just to work at music-related places after that: the Modesto Symphony, the Dave Brubeck Jazz Music Camp, University of the Pacific Conservatory, and various large performing venues as a stagehand. I found in the college’s recording class that I loved the combination of electronics, listening to music, and communication in small groups. So I planned to open a recording studio that catered to teenagers but was nonprofit so it would be low-cost to them. About 500 individuals were recorded at my home. Of all things Death Metal was something I recorded a lot of, so when Kranial Damage won an award for Heavy Metal after recording at my studio, I posed with them.
After one year at my studio I started an intern program, and then the next year a live sound reinforcement service was added to the line-up. Finally, I invested in a CD duplicating machine so we could press CDs too. To become a non-profit, we added a board of directors, which now includes many successful interns and community professionals.