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HIS Alumnus Shares His Grammy-Winning Career!
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Our Publications team had the opportunity to interview Mr. Kenta Yonesaka, an HIS alumnus, about his accomplishments in his career as a recording engineer!


HIS Alumnus Shares His Grammy-Winning Career!

1. What do you mainly do as a recording engineer?

I work with music artists directly in the recording studio and am responsible for operating the recording equipment and making sure the music sounds how the artist wants. 

2. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a recording engineer?

In order to start a career in the music production world, I studied audio engineering at a university, and then did an internship at a recording studio. I worked my way up through various positions at a recording studio. At first, my job was to prepare the studio for the artists (cleaning the studio/making sure food and water was provided). Once I proved that artists were comfortable around me, my job was to assist the main recording engineer with technical matters. And now I have my own assistants!

3. Has music always been a passion of yours? In what way, if any, did your time at HIS help you pursue that passion?  

I always loved listening to music, but didn't have musical training until I started playing guitar at age 14. I took Mr. Sugino's music class and Jazz band program at HIS, where I learned valuable lessons about music theory, technique, and most importantly, how to communicate and work with people.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges and most rewarding aspects of being a recording engineer?

The biggest challenge of being a recording engineer is that you are your own business owner, and that comes with many risks. Not all audio engineer jobs are like this, as audio engineers working for a broadcast company or live production company will tell you. But most recording engineers who work on music projects are independent contractors.

The working hours can be extreme. I regularly do 14-16 hour days.

However, the experience is still rewarding for me after all these years. I get to be at the moment of creation of something that can possibly be heard for many years to come, and become part of culture.

5. I’ve heard you also won the Grammy. Can you tell us about the project you won for and what that experience was like?

I've won Latin Grammys for my work with Carlos Vives, an iconic artist from Columbia. I was nominated for Album of the Year 2013 for my contributions to Pharrell William's "GIRL". I still haven't been to the main Grammy Awards event. Part of me thinks the whole thing is silly, but maybe I'm salty because I haven't won one yet.

6. Looking back, what's your favorite memory from your time at HIS? 

I have many great memories from my time at HIS, from hanging out every day after school until we got kicked out at 6 pm, Jazz band, basketball trips, and many more. The greatest thing about HIS is the students. I've never met a more empathetic, inviting, and tolerant group anywhere else.

7. Do you have any advice for current HIS High School students interested in pursuing a career in audio engineering?

Don't do it unless you're willing to make a lot of sacrifices in terms of time. Don't do it thinking this is the second career option if your music career fails. However, the field of audio engineering is not only limited to the recording studio. There is plenty of demand for audio engineers in film and TV (movies, TV programs, live sports & news broadcasts, podcasts, etc) as well as live productions (concerts, festivals, theatres, corporate events).

Lastly, don't be dogmatic about the genre of music you're listening to. Whether it's pop, hip-hop, country, jazz, punk, house, or metal, there's a lot of great stuff (and total garbage) from every genre. You should be the decider if it's good or bad. Don't let anyone, friend group or family, make you hesitate about listening to an artist. 

8. What are you looking forward to in the future of your career? 

I started teaching audio engineering at New York University, which has been extremely rewarding. I hope to keep getting better at my skills and work with many more artists. One day I hope that I could be a bridge between Japan and the USA for all types of musical collaborations.

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