By Reese Wang, Co-Managing Editor Staff Sergeant and recording engineer of the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band Michael Ducassoux remembers listening to recordings of the band he now records. “My band director was playing recordings all the time of the Marine Band. And I’ve always known about the Marine Band,” Ducassoux said. “(The President’s Own...
By Reese Wang, Co-Managing Editor
Staff Sergeant and recording engineer of the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band Michael Ducassoux remembers listening to recordings of the band he now records.
“My band director was playing recordings all the time of the Marine Band. And I’ve always known about the Marine Band,” Ducassoux said. “(The President’s Own U.S. Marine Band) was just a resource. I would listen to the Marine Band, because they put out amazing recordings, and they were really good. So for me, I always knew about the Marine Band, but I never knew that they have full time recording engineers.”
However, Ducassoux did not originally intend to become a recording engineer. He went to Temple University to pursue jazz studies and music education. He taught local students drums and jazz lessons at Temple, and went on to teach at TEMS for nine years, where he directed multiple ensembles, taught music and worked at the TV studio.
“(Teaching is) an opportunity to pass on something that you have spent so much time working on, and that you can share with somebody else and open them up to new things that they might not be familiar with,” Ducassoux said.
His time as a student at Temple also introduced him to recording. A frequent jazz concertgoer, Ducassoux remembers his conversation with Temple University’s head of the jazz program, Dr. Ed Flanagan, that introduced him to audio recording.
“(Flanagan) approached me in the hallway one day and said, ‘Mike, we’re looking for somebody that’s really responsible and really loves jazz and really wants to attend a lot of concerts and run audio for them.’
I said, ‘Well, Dr. Flanagan, I don’t know anybody that knows how to run audio.’
And he’s like, ‘Mike, I’m asking if you want to do it. You’re a really responsible person. And we’ll get you all the training you need,’” Ducassoux recalls.
By the end of his time at Temple, Ducassoux had recorded a total of a couple hundred jazz concerts. While teaching at TEMS, Ducassoux and his friends started Red Room Productions, a mobile audio recording company that aims to “bring the studio to the people”.
One day, Ducassoux was scrolling through Facebook where he saw a job posting for The President’s Own Marine Band recording engineer. Ducassoux, who enjoyed listening to recordings of The President’s Own Marine Band and always wanted to serve his country, applied and joined the band in 2016.
“I’ve always been involved in audio, I’ve always been doing projects, but one day I decided, you know, what happens if I kind of really go for it?” Ducassoux said. “I’d never even known that I had the ability to serve our country and simultaneously work with one of the best musical organizations in the world full-time.”
Since joining The President’s Own Marine Band in 2016, Ducassoux has audio recorded, video recorded and digitally archived performances from all over the globe. Recently, he recorded the band’s performances at the 2020 presidential inauguration. There, he worked with other recording engineers and TV broadcast teams to get the best sound out of the band as possible in cold weather. Ducassoux’s favorite part about his job is not only getting to be at the band’s performances and historical events, but also getting to preserve these events for other people.
“Getting to hear the full ensemble play and just do what they do and for me to be able to record that so that it will live on not just for me, but so that it will live on for generations to come. That’s the coolest thing about when I get to do: I get to preserve that awesome moment in time, forever,” Ducassoux said. “And that goes for any of these historic events that we get to work on. It’s really special.”
While Ducassoux’s current teaching is mainly made up of mentoring other recording engineers and participating in The President’s Own Marine Band’s student outreach programs, he believes his experiences playing music, conducting ensembles, and teaching students have helped him in his current career.
“(Playing music and recording are) very different, but very much the same,” Ducassoux said. “It’s one of those things where my time performing all the time was amazing. My time conducting orchestras and bands was amazing. Recording is just a different avenue of the music industry. And it literally runs in parallel with everything. And it’s a situation where all of my experience up to now with conducting and composing and working on scores and all that stuff has really helped.”
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