Finding success as a DJ is something many audio engineering students strive for, and F.I.R.S.T. Institute Audio Engineering and Music Production program graduate Frank Gutierrez made it happen! His passion for music coupled with a solid foundation from an audio engineering school led him to a career with Promo Only and as a professional DJ.
Learn about Frank’s success in various music industry jobs, the satisfaction he gets from performing his music in front of live crowds, and his plans for the future in this Audio Graduate Spotlight!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START GETTING INTERESTED IN THE AUDIO ENGINEERING INDUSTRY?
I think it was in high school. I had an art class and we had half the class divided for Photoshop and the other half for painting/art/sculpture. One of my friends, Mark Kempf, who ended up also being a student at F.I.R.S.T. Institute, downloaded some production software one day and we started messing around.
My teacher was willing to let us explore anything creative and actually let him do a whole presentation; he presented beats that he made, and from that moment I was hooked. He’s the one who showed me my first production software and that’s where I really started to get interested.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE THE AUDIO ENGINEERING INDUSTRY AS A CAREER?
It was a hobby at first but I decided to take it seriously was when I started collaborating with artists. I realized that maybe there was something there worth pursuing. That was shortly after high school. My first artist that I ever met, OVADOSE913, we actually met in a chat room on Xbox Live. I heard this guy rapping and I asked him if he needed beats and he did so he was my first time really working with someone else.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO TO AN AUDIO ENGINEERING SCHOOL VERSUS LEARNING ON YOUR OWN?
The way I found F.I.R.S.T. Institute was funny. I originally went to another college and audio engineering was so expensive there. No one really wants to pay over 100 grand for schooling, so I dropped out and was trying to find out what I wanted to do to ensure that I at least had some sort of secondary education background in the likely scenario that I couldn’t get a decent job while I was trying to make the music thing happen. I knew that I needed that education, so I ended up going to a music conference and Donney was there. This was when the school was just starting out, and I even helped them move to their Silver Star location.
So he showed up and talked about the school and when I saw it and met with him and Alan, they were interested in my stuff and I wanted to participate there.
I wanted to have that education. I didn’t want to learn something I wasn’t interested in so it had to be something I was.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WHEN YOU WERE JUST STARTING OUT?
I didn’t have any goals originally, but I did not stop searching for direction. I ended up taking the business course at F.I.R.S.T. Institute and there were so many opportunities provided on the weekends to intern at all different places. One of the opportunities was to go help the physical set up for a concert that Cox radio was holding.
I was listening to them talk about this and wasn’t very interested but the next day I was waiting for class and I picked up a F.I.R.S.T. Institute brochure and I saw a guy on the brochure, Erik Velez, who at the time was the production director for Power 95.3, which is under Cox. I was very interested in that career direction so I made it a point to seek him out personally.
I ended up doing the internship and worked really hard. I worked with the event coordinator for Cox, who gave me a letter of recommendation that led to me interning for Power 95.3 on the promotional staff. From there I weaseled my way to the production end of it, and actually ended up meeting Erik. It all came full circle and that ended up being one of my first music industry jobs.
HAS THE AUDIO ENGINEERING INDUSTRY ALWAYS BEEN A PASSION OF YOURS?
I knew I always wanted to make music but that’s not exactly a job you can apply for. The stars have to align and you have to hustle, but I knew I wanted to do something that at least had something to do with music. I’ve always been a lover of music and a collector of it, and it’s always interested me but I didn’t really realize you could make music off of a computer software until high school. That’s when I switched from an art direction to a more music direction, but I always knew I wanted to be creative in some capacity. I wanted to be a graphic artist until I was exposed to my first production software.
WHAT SPARKED THE PASSION ORIGINALLY?
It was always just a goal to be creative in some way, and music ended up being what that was.
SINCE GRADUATION, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE INTERESTING WORK YOU HAVE DONE IN THIS INDUSTRY? CLIENTS, PROJECTS, GIGS, COMPANY, FREELANCE, ETC.
In 2009, I did a tracking engineer internship at KDS, which was where the Backstreet Boys or N’sync recorded back in the day, and then a lot of big rappers came there. That was a really cool experience. I have F.I.R.S.T. Institute School Director Donney Smith to thank for that.
Shortly after that, I was the production studio assistant at Cox radio under Erik. He was not only the music director for Power 95.3 but also a touring DJ and remixer. I was already remixing a little bit when I met him but that’s when I was exposed to DJing. In 2010, I got my first opportunity to DJ at Rix Lounge through him, and from there I was able to apply my music-making that I’d learned and use that as an outlet. I was able to play my own stuff and my remixes when I DJ’d.
After that I landed at Promo Only (again, thanks to Erik Velez). Promo Only is the #1 DJ service and the nation’s largest provider for promotional content. We are a humongous distribution service, basically the labels send us new music every month and we have a subscription base of DJs and radio stations who we provide with the latest music.
Through this job I got more DJ gigs (at The Groove, Splitsville, and Kings Orlando). Here, I am the Audio Engineer responsible for CD mastering and audio editing. My M.O. here is to make explicit music clean and put together CDs, or issues, of music for our monthly subscribers and then I master those CDs.
WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB?
I have my own studio that I work in and I don’t know how many people outside of audio engineering can say they work like that, in their own space with all of their own equipment. This is my thing and I get to listen to music all day, and for me that’s amazing. The service that we provide directly correlates to my second passion, which is DJing, so I get all my music from my job and turn around and work at night using the stuff I was working on all day. I get paid for both things, it’s music related, I’m up on all the newest stuff, exposed to a lot of different stuff, and it’s awesome. Everything that I do has something to do with music in some way, shape, or form.
IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING COME FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE?
On my Soundcloud I’m always putting out new music. Recently I released a Beatport release. I put out free music every few months for DJs to download.
About a year ago DJ Chuckie supported one of my original works, and I recently won a Beatport contest, but really look forward to new music coming from me.
3-5 YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT DO YOUR CAREER GOALS LOOK LIKE?
I hope to still be doing something similar to what I do now, but hopefully more traveling as a DJ. It’s the best outlet for me because everyone can make music but not everyone has the opportunity to perform the music they make. For me, what I love is making a remix of anything I can get a hold of and going to my gigs and seeing how the crowd reacts. Once I know I have a winning formula, I release it on my Soundcloud, and it’s really rewarding. Hopefully I do more of that in the future.
WHATS THE BEST PART OF PERFORMING YOUR MUSIC LIVE?
That people agree with it and I can tell when they’re really enjoying it. You know, I’ve played music for people that they’ve hated, but it’s all trial and error and it’s all about figuring out what works for your audience. Making people dance is the best feeling.
HOW DID ATTENDING F.I.R.S.T. INSTITUTE IMPACT YOUR LIFE/CAREER?
F.I.R.S.T. Institute provided just about every opportunity that led me where I am right now. Every little step that I took was rooted from being at F.I.R.S.T. Institute and taking the extra opportunities that the other students maybe didn’t want to take. I learned that you can jump from one thing to another and it really keeps going if you run after it.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO GET STARTED IN THE AUDIO ENGINEERING INDUSTRY?
Honestly, don’t be afraid to intern. Don’t be afraid to work for free, even when you think you can’t afford to do it. Everyone wants a job to pay the bills and it’s hard, but I can say from experience that the top guys in the industry respect you when you’re willing to learn from them. Once you’re at the internship, then you can grab anything that comes up, but just prove that you’re hungry and willing to be around the studio and the equipment and you’ll be so surprised how many top guys in the industry are willing to take you under their wing.
Would You Like to Be Our Next Audio Engineering School Success Story?
You could follow in Frank’s footsteps and be featured in our next Audio Graduate Spotlight! A quality education from a good audio engineering school like F.I.R.S.T. Institute, one of the best audio engineering schools in Florida, can teach you the skills you need to succeed in all types of music industry jobs. There you’ll learn what you need to get your new audio production career off the ground, you’ll even learn your way around a studio and things like how to make your own music and how to make beats.
You won’t get our quality, hands on learning experience with passionate audio industry professionals anywhere else! Check out the Audio Engineering and Music Production program at the F.I.R.S.T. Institute audio production school today. You’re only months away from your dream career in the audio engineering industry!