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Recording studio brings together music and service

Olivia Biro, Editor in Chief

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Inside the tiny space that is Cedars Production Studios in downtown Clayton, creative teenagers are welcomed with a friendly atmosphere and plenty of music.  Cedars, a non-profit recording studio that gives young musicians 32 hours of studio time in exchange for eight hours of community service and provides mentoring for the artists, may sound too good to be true, but it is founded on a genuine sense of charity and empowerment.

“Our idea is to help artists go to the next level, and while they’re here, we’ll mentor them, walk alongside them,” Mike Brock, founder of Cedars, said. “We’re just trying to encourage them. A lot of people don’t have people pouring positive energy into them, so that’s what we really want to do.”

Since Cedars is a non-profit, meaning it runs on donations, it is unlike other recording studios, which need to make money.  Brock believes that this allows him to focus more on the well-being of the artists.

“Since we started I’ve had one person come in here and she sang for me and she had a really pretty voice—it wasn’t anything over the top spectacular it was just pretty—and I said, ‘You know, you’ve got a really pretty voice,’ and she started crying and she said ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a compliment,’ and that just wrecked me. We’ve had other people come through that are cutters, that have been suicidal, people that have been just down in life, and even though we say 32 hours of studio time we don’t hold anybody to that; that’s just a target. You know if you come in for your studio time and you need to talk, we’ll talk. That’s why we’re really unique from a regular recording studio because they need to make money, they need to book constantly, and I don’t. That gives us the ability to say, ‘Hey, I don’t need to record you at all today, we can talk, what’s going on in your life?’,” Brock said.


Mike Brock, founder of Cedars Production Studios, spends countless hours recording, mixing, and editing music for the young artists who come into his studio.

Cedars opened its doors about a year and a half ago, but the vision has been in Brock’s mind for nearly 13 years.

“Growing up, I played the string bass, and I was pretty good and was about to audition for the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra, and I was being picked on and bullied, and because I got picked on and bullied so much that I didn’t want people calling attention to me. I was second chair in my high school orchestra, second chair in All County, and I look back at a talent wasted. I didn’t have somebody teaching me to stand up on my own in my immediate household and so I kinda struggled in standing up for myself and doing all of those things,” Brock said. “As life went on, I said, ‘You know, I want to be able to give back.’ I can sit here and be sad about the things that I do or I can take what I learn and use it for good.”

After becoming a certified music engineer, Brock invited two kids from his church to record in the studio he was working in. The kids had never been to a studio before, so they were excited about everything.

“When they heard themselves fully mixed and professionally recorded, it just took them to another level,” Brock said.

Another unique thing about Cedars is that bands are not the focus. Last winter, Lexie All, senior, recorded “Silent Night” on her flute. Major music schools, explained Brock, want demo tapes, so the studio has two GoPro video cameras mounted in the booth for students who wish to send recordings to colleges. Anyone can record at Cedars.

“It’s not about, ‘oh, I’m a terrible singer,’ it’s about completing a project, building yourself up and going, ‘I started something and I finished something,’” Brock said.

A tangible result of all that hard work, in the form of an album, is a goal for some of the Cedars artists. Clayton High School junior Alex Christie records mainly indie rock and pop music, including covers and original material. She recently finished her second album, a Christmas record.

“My first album came out in August and we had a CD release party for it at The Comedy Zone. We’ve made quite a bit of money off of it so far, which is really nice. I give half back to the studio since it’s a nonprofit,” Christie said.


Alex Christie, junior, records her cover of Kelly Clarkson’s version of “Run Run Rudolph” for her Christmas album. The album features other students, including juniors Savannah Fox and Ragan Keefer and Clayton High School graduate Erik Gotelli.


Teenagers who work with Cedars also gain hands-on experience in the studio. The organization takes on interns who want to learn about the music industry.

“At most of these places that you intern, you don’t really do anything, you know, you take out the trash, make coffee, but you don’t really touch any equipment. That doesn’t really do anything good for the industry. If you enjoy the industry, you want to promote the industry. We get kids that come in and want to record and they have to do the community service, so that gives back to the community, and then you’ve got these other people that come in and want to learn how to do this, so we help them out,” Brock said.

Chris Soles, a recent graduate of Corinth-Holders High School, was Cedars’ first intern.

“I’ve been learning for quite some time about music engineering and all that, but I’m switching my focus to videography. I would love to do that professionally,” Soles said. “Working with Cedars has taught me a lot; it’s really built my character, and it’s definitely taught me a lot about the electronics side of music production.”

Cedars is very focused on youth involvement. As secretary of the youth advisory board, All helps set up events, communicates information to others involved, and works with the artists. She first worked with Cedars as an outside volunteer.

“I am the co-president of Comets Care, and one of the artists at Cedars recommended that we help them with a volunteer project, which was their first chili cook-off, so I started working with the founder, Mike [Brock], to arrange volunteers, and then I kinda hung out there to help set up and do some extra stuff for the chili cook-off, and then he asked me to be part of the board,” All said.

Peer mentoring is an integral aspect of the Cedars experience. Youth mentors not only provide advice about music, but offer an ear for people who want to talk about things going on in their lives.  When an artist books the studio, they will be paired up with one of the volunteer mentors, who are also musicians, based on personality and characteristics.

“Somebody will come in for a music session and I’ll be there and we’ll talk about life and how they like music and what they love about music and their style of music, and if they need help on anything like voice parts or if they need any suggestions. We’ll also talk to them if they just need somebody to talk to. We don’t want it to be about just music, we want it to be about your life and stuff, so we’ll mentor you, and we’ll try to put Christ as an aspect in it, so we try to mentor through God, too,” Christie said. “I feel like I get a lot of leadership experience, being able to work with people younger than me and influence them on their music. I also get a lot of experience myself from learning from people that are older than me; they can help me out with my music and stuff, which is really cool.”

Although Cedars is not a specifically Christian organization, Brock’s faith has been a major motivator for him to implement his idea of a music and mentorship program.

“In the Bible, there’s a passage about Eutychus. [In the story] Paul is preaching, and he’s going on and on and on to the point where people are starting to get bored. Well, Eutychus is there and he’s starting to doze off, and he’s sitting in the window and he falls three stories out the window and dies. So Paul gets up and goes down to where Eutychus is and lays on top of him and he says, ‘Don’t worry, there’s still life in him yet,’ gets up, Eutychus wakes up and goes home, everybody’s happy, and that’s it,” Brock said. “Society tends to write off teenagers; I don’t think they invest enough in the next generation. Regardless of your faith, I think it’s very important for us to take more time in dealing with teenagers. Whatever [someone’s] foundations are as a teenager, when they go off to college or whatever the next step is, if you don’t help them find that next thing, what are you doing to them? You’re just kinda pushing them off the edge of cliff, and hopefully they’ll fly. So what you see is, in that scripture, Paul didn’t have Eutychus brought up to him, Paul went down to where Eutychus was. He met him there. If you try to bring somebody to your level, you’re skipping the process of growth. The best thing you can do is go to where they are and walk with them up to that level. Every teenager has life in them.”

Brock’s vision is certainly resonating with the teenagers who work with Cedars.

“I love the message behind it, of using music to bring people to Christ and having a mentorship kind of setup, and it kind of comes down to a teen’s level, what they understand and are passionate about,” All said.

The Cedars crew hopes to expand to include an ambitious array of services, including a house band, music lessons given by volunteers, and multiple locations throughout the nation.

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Recording studio brings together music and service