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Josh Kaufman – Graduate Success Story

Last week I connected with Josh Kaufman for the first time since graduation. He’s doing well, staying busy, and continuing to pursue his love of songwriting and all things musical. Josh seemed a little reluctant to make his information available for a graduate success story. He pointed out he just graduated in December 2010. He basically said “I’m just getting started with my career, I’m not sure I’d call myself a success yet”. Even so, he rose to the challenge.

When I first met Josh, I knew right away he was a pretty focused guy with a strong passion for songwriting, engineering, and production. And, based on the pre-IPR demo he gave me back then, he was already pretty dang good at this audio thing… from scratch. He had taught himself and picked up enough knowledge along the way that I knew he would be able to come into IPR and push himself in ways most students don’t until they’re last couple of quarters here. He left the gate running, and he’s still at it. If you don’t know him yet, meet Josh Kaufman.


I moved to Minnesota from Chicago, where I was in the wonderful world of Corporate America, being rewarded with great pay and a miserable working life. Once I quit my job in Chicago, I started to seriously consider my next step and decided it was now or never to make a permanent change.

This, and a wonderful sales pitch by Christian Groves, led me to IPR. I relished the opportunity to take my former hobby and make it a career. I didn’t move to Minnesota for IPR alone, however, rather, I moved to follow my wife who was starting her residency at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

This required a three hour daily commute, but I made up my mind and made the journey every day. My third week at IPR, there was a career fair, so I printed up some resumes and handed them to all the businesses I could find. I got a call the next day from Pachyderm Studio’s, where I interned for a little less than a year. It was there that I learned large format consoles, how great rooms are supposed to sound, took some great notes from some very talented engineers and producers, and was able to engineer some records of my own in the legendary studio. In addition, I met a former IPR grad at Pachyderm, and I signed on to do the mastering work for Twin Town Tapes, a local live show recording outfit.  I’m still mastering for Twin Town Tapes today.

Throughout school I learned a bunch and made a lot of good contacts. One of which (Eric Olsen) led me to get an assistant position with Brian Setzer. In addition to this, I sought out a part time job at a local TV studio. I started in the master-control room but quickly worked my way up to being an Audio Operator and Production Assistant. All the while, I was recording different groups and artists, on the side, to build my demo reel, and I started getting some paid gigs. Marketing myself as a recording engineer also brought me some live recording gigs for local events, High Schools, etc…

Now that I’ve graduated, I’m still doing all of the above jobs, recording my own music, I have a few full length records lined up, and I’m working on a few business ideas. I intend on owning a business that will someday make me several billion dollars a year; if not by the merit of my work, then certainly by currency inflation.

Q & A:

What would IPR students and instructors say they remember about you?

Well, I hope that people would remember that I am dedicated and excited about this industry.

Were there any big projects you undertook in your production or engineering capstone that laid the ground work for some of the things you’re doing now?

I think the entire capstone system was the jumping off point for me to understand that I could do this as a career. I’m having the opportunity to produce and engineer records now because of the examples that I came out with from IPR. When you are pitching someone to produce their album, it’s far easier to let them make up their own minds about your work then having to sell them on it, so I think the Capstone 1 and 2, along with Mixing and Mastering, gave me good additions to my reel.

Out of all your instructors who would you say worked most closely with you and had a special interest in your success?

Eric Olsen was my biggest influence as an instructor. Not only is he the most capable person to do pretty much everything in the industry, he is also so enthusiastic, so creative, and so earnest that he inspired me to do more and more with my projects. I was his TA the last quarter at IPR and through that he got me the assistant position that I hold now with Brian Setzer. He is completely intentional and generous with his knowledge and was a great help to me in a variety of ways.

How do you feel your IPR education prepared you for the industry?

I think IPR prepared me well to deal with a lot of the technical side of things so I could troubleshoot problems in the studio, but also gave a great example through the instructors of what it looks like to be a working engineer/producer/worker in this industry.

What types of things did you have to wait for industry experience to learn?

Learning the communication skills in dealing with artists, troubleshooting, or just getting good sounds in a recording setting can only really be done out in the field because even if you are in a capstone, you are still a student. Once you start getting paid, there is an inherit expectation that you know what your doing.

What do you think it means to be successful in this industry? What advice would you offer to students who are either just getting ready to graduate or who are wondering how to find their place in this industry?

For me, simply being able to make a living in this industry is success. The only advice I would give those that are graduating would be to keep an open mind, work hard at everything you do (even if that’s cleaning the floors), and do what it takes to stay busy in the industry. For me that means I work as an audio operator and production assistant at the NBC and FOX affiliates in Rochester, do live recordings for local high schools and choirs, Assist for Brian Setzer, record my own music, do mastering for Twin Town Tapes, and do freelance recordings for local bands and artists in the area.

What types of engineering work have you done?

I was able to engineer at Pachyderm, have done a bunch of smaller projects for local artists, record my own music,  do some live recording for high schools, and engineer audio for local newscasts.

Do you have experience with audio and video editing?

I did some video work for Pachyderm and I edit audio and video for NBC and FOX for my production assistant position there, along with all the editing of audio that comes with freelance recording!

How important do you think attitude is when it comes to success in the audio world?

In some ways, it’s the most important thing. I know that everyday I wake up with passion and excitement for this industry and that I have big ideas for the future. I think those that will succeed will be dedicated, positive, and patient throughout all the deviations that there is bound to be. I’m just starting and I never thought I’d be doing half the things I am. As the industry has changed, so must the attitudes of those that truly want to be a part of it.

What one trait/ability/skill do you feel has helped you more than any other to be successful in this industry so far?

Probably persistence, but I think being creative is equally important. And not just creative musically, being creative in a career sense will give opportunities that others never would have thought to pursue.