AUBURN - Cellophane-wrapped CDs by a hip-sounding metal band and an award-winning local poet and DVDs with intriguing titles were fanned on a table, for sale at a release party for the up-and-coming record label Cayuga Records and video production company C3 Studios.
The producers, artists and marketing teams were on-hand at the Auburn Public Theater Wednesday for the event that would announce the launch of the Web sites and Amazon.com sales of the two companies, both run by Cayuga Community College students out of the college's basement.
Cayuga Records and C3 Studios, started within the past two years as part of the college's telecommunications program, challenge students to apply both business and media skills learned in the classroom to real-life entrepreneurial ventures.
“It's experiential learning,” said Steve Keeler, the college's electronic media programs director, who oversees Cayuga Records and C3 Studios. “Any time you can show practical application of what you're teaching, it makes it more meaningful.”
Students are responsible for every aspect of video and record production. In addition to writing scripts, shooting video, recording sound and editing all of it, students also handle the business and marketing side - scouting talent, arranging meetings and advertising the finished product.
“It's kind of a soup-to-nuts approach,” Keeler said.
The soup-to-nuts approach works well for students like Chano Sanchez, who loves every aspect of video production.
“From writing and pre-production to shooting and editing - I want to be involved in all of it,” said Sanchez, 27, who began working with C3 Studios two summers ago.
He said he has picked up valuable camera techniques and other tricks of the trade from working with Keeler that he would not have learned in a classroom.
“It's kind of an art form, in that you have to figure out how to portray the ideas on a screen,” he said.
Sanchez's work with C3 has taken him on assignment to film at Saranac Brewery, as well as leaving him to edit in the college's own studio. He is currently working on the sequel to C3 Studios' “Please Pass the Salt Potatoes,” a documentary about foods native to the area, such as buffalo wings, salt potatoes and grape pie.
The company has finished two other documentaries, one of which, “A Tale of Two Lakes,” has won four awards, most recently the 2009 Classic Gold Telly Award in the non-broadcast production category.
The product turned out by the students at C3 Studios and Cayuga Records is high quality, Keeler said. And the value of the student-run record label to aspiring recording artists is equally significant.
“They get a complete album with artwork that is ready to go for sale,” Keeler said, “that doesn't cost them anything.”
Average recording studio rates range from $50 to $100 an hour; an artist can require as many as 40 hours to record an entire album, Keeler said. Factoring in graphic design, mastering and reproduction costs, a recording artist could easily drop anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 to produce an album.
Christopher Kennedy, a local poet who was at the college as a visiting scholar, was among the first to produce a CD with Cayuga Records.
“I was so impressed with the quality of everyone's work who was involved with this,” Kennedy said.
The program emphasizes both skill and professionalism. Alex Johnson, who helped produce Kennedy's spoken word album, “The Memory Unit,” said working with Cayuga Records has taught him about the recording field in which he hopes to one day build a career, as well as practical people skills.
“It's helped me talk to people,” said Johnson, 21, who said he had to get used to calling clients and arranging meetings. “The business part is most challenging.”
The most exciting part, he added, is “getting down in the studio.”
Johnson has plans to continue his studies at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, and said he hopes to open his own studio some day.
But even students who do not envision in their futures a career in the media production field can benefit from the business skills acquired through work with Cayuga Records and C3 Studios.
Yovi Langleib, 27, thought she wanted to become an environmental documentary producer. After joining C3 last spring to get some field experience, she discovered she would be better off pursuing her real dream of environmental activism through law.
“Even when I'm a lawyer, I'm still going to need everything that C3 has taught me,” Langleib said. She has learned a lot about documentary production, she said, but she has also honed her business, marketing and communication skills, which will be applicable in just about any workplace she finds herself.
Staff writer Sarah Gantz can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 237 or email@example.com