From AMR to 'SNL': Hopkins grad mixes some of the biggest names in music

Brennen Jensen / Spring 2014 Posted in Arts+Culture Tagged alumni, television, music

Image: Michael Paras

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Spring 2014
Renee Lenkin, a member of the first class of women at Johns Hopkins, rescues horses from unwelcome or dire situations. / Johns Hopkins Magazine

Quick, what's the connection between the basement of AMR II dorms and Sir Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, and Adele? Answer: Josiah Gluck, A&S '81, an audio engineer who has mixed these superstars and many others. His sound career started in that subterranean space when it housed WJHU, which was then a student-run, 10-watt FM station. Gluck was classical music director and a jazz DJ. "It was a great way to learn about technical stuff, like how to edit tape," he says. "My interest in audio engineering began there."

Armed with this experience and two classes in audio production from Peabody, he became chief engineer at New York's GRP Records shortly after graduating. There he recorded and mixed scores of notable performers, including George Benson, Judy Collins, and Kevin Eubanks, and engineered and co-produced the Grammy-winning album B.B. King Live at the Apollo.

He began television audio work in 1988 for the program Sunday Night Music. Though the show only lasted two seasons, it had the distinction of being produced by Lorne Michaels, better known as the co-creator of Saturday Night Live. This was the connection through which Gluck began his 22 years and counting of work on SNL, where he does various recording work and live mixes the musical guests, including the stars mentioned above.

So what's it like palling around with the show's sonic chart-toppers, such as the Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire, or Sheryl Crow? Alas, chances are Gluck doesn't know. He is behind the mixing board when they are performing, working hard to make them sound good. His job doesn't usually include hanging out in their dressing rooms or chewing the fat backstage.

"You'd be surprised—a number of artists, I never even meet," Gluck says. "Some of the big names I do, but usually I deal with their producer or their tour engineer."

It's a super cool job, of course, but a long and hard one, too. "It's a push of about 40 hours across three days to get the show produced," Gluck says. "And at the end of the show, I'm exhausted."

Most viewers don't likely know that when the show kicks off live at 11:30 Saturday night, the cast and crew have already a completed a full dress rehearsal before another audience, beginning at 8 p.m. A long day's night, so Gluck doesn't attend too many late-night cast parties, especially since his twins Samuel and Sofia were born in 2008.

Artists he's enjoyed working with the most include Tom Petty and Dave Matthews. "This season I was mixing Miley Cyrus and working with her on a digital short," Gluck adds. "She was surprisingly pleasant and professional."

Oh, and when Sir Paul was on SNL, Gluck had a chance to briefly interact with him while doing some recording.

"There were so many people that crammed into our studio just to watch Paul sing on a microphone; it was a crazy, very surreal moment," Gluck says. "But now I can actually say I recorded a Beatle."

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