NEW YORK CITY—A legendary studio that has recorded mega-hit songs for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Madonna, Pat Metheny and the cast of Hamilton to name a few, is not shutting down as some in the music industry had feared.
New York City announced on Tuesday the iconic The Power Station, which most recently has been operated as Avatar Studios, will be renovated and transformed into the Power Station at BerkleeNYC. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the New York City Economic Development Corp. and Berklee (School of Music) of Boston are partnering on the project at 441 East 53rd St. The plan calls for the facility to be renovated into a state-of-the-art recording and video production facility for the city’s music, theater, television and film sectors. New York City is contributing $6 million to the project, while Berklee has raised approximately $25 million for the initiative, according to multiple published reports.
In addition to the substantial studio renovations, the building’s lower level will be converted into a flexible-use practice/performance venue, including an affordable rehearsal space featuring a professional-size stage and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video technology. It will also include a video control room to capture and post-produce video from all over the building, a virtual reality/augmented reality studio and flexible spaces for ensemble practice rooms and classrooms.
Peter Muller, the founder and CEO of New York City-based quantitative investment firm PDT Partners, who is also an accomplished singer-songwriter, spearheaded the project. Muller recently played at the Montreux Jazz Festival and is a pioneer of quantitative investing. Berklee, which plans to continue to operate a commercial recording studio at the site, has named Stephen Webber, executive director of BerkleeNYC and Berklee’s dean of strategic initiatives, and former director of the master of music production, technology and innovation program at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, to lead the Power Station at BerkleeNYC center and develop its programs. Berklee operates the College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee in Boston and since 2014 the college’s faculty has trained more than 300 New York public school teachers to teach Berklee’s free PULSE curriculum to more than 60,000 students through the Amp Up NYC program.
“The Power Station is one of the world’s most iconic recording studios. Preserving it honors New York City’s music scene and all the great artists who have recorded there,” says Muller. “To know that we are saving a studio that has hosted so many legends is awe-inspiring. I am honored to be part of such an important project.”
“Renovating this amazing, historic music venue is a powerful nod to New York City as a continuing center for innovative art, culture, and creativity. I commend Berklee and Trustee Pete Muller for their investments, their vision, and for the public programming space that will benefit many budding and future New York recording artists,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Funding from MOME and EDC will establish programs at BerkleeNYC including continuing education, career strategy, grants, and skills acquisition for New York musicians, composers, producers and engineers. The public will have opportunities to attend artist lectures, workshops, performances and master classes, while New York City’s public school students can take courses in performance, songwriting and production at the site. Teacher training sessions will also be available for Berklee City Music, Amp Up NYC, and Little Kids Rock; programs exploring the intersection of music, dance, theater, and technology; talent incubation; and internships for Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee students. BerkleeNYC will also feature exhibits, which will be open to the public, memorializing the rich musical history of the facility.
“The Power Station is an iconic, creative hub of music,” says Berklee president Roger H. Brown. “So many influential recordings have been made there and it puts us at the nexus of the vital music, theater and dance communities of New York City. We intend both to re-imagine the recording studio of the future and add a powerful educational program to support our many Berklee alumni who intend to live, work and create in New York.”
Power Station Studios was founded and designed by Tony Bongiovi and partners in 1977. Located in a former Con Edison power plant, the studio quickly became a success due to Bongiovi’s acoustical design, providing rooms designed specifically for multitrack recording that generates a “live” sound. In 1991, Power Station became the first recipient of the Les Paul Award from Mix Magazine for audio excellence and creativity.
Chieko and Kirk Imamura have owned and operated the facility as Avatar Studios since 1996. The Imamuras built additional studios and integrated modern digital audio capabilities at the studio that hosted such clients and recording artists such as Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow, Bruno Mars, and Berklee alumni John Mayer ’98, Diana Krall ’83, and Esperanza Spalding ’05. Dozens of Grammys and gold and platinum records have been awarded to projects recorded at Avatar during the last 20 years, Berklee reports.