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Berklee Creates Scholarship Fund in Honor of Recording Legend Al Schmitt

Christian Wissmuller • News • November 29, 2021

Al Schmitt

Berklee has created the Al Schmitt Engineering Scholarship to honor the legacy of multiple Grammy Award–winning recording engineer and producer Al Schmitt.

The scholarship was established by the Music Production and Engineering Department (MP&E) with a $50,000 donation from the endowment fund of Wayne Wadhams, a former Berklee faculty member who was instrumental in founding the department in 1983. The fund will support students majoring in MP&E who are financially and academically deserving and have the potential to make a significant contribution to society through the art and craft of audio engineering and record production. The tuition-based scholarship will be awarded to one student per year, with the inaugural recipient set to be announced in fall 2022.

“Al Schmitt would be so honored and pleased, as is his family, at making the scholarship available,” said his wife, Lisa Schmitt. “We can think of no greater way to celebrate Al than to financially assist those attending Berklee who want to follow in his footsteps.”

Schmitt, one of the most decorated and longest-active recording engineers in the music industry, passed away on April 26, 2021. In a career spanning more than 60 years, he won 20 Grammy Awards, two Latin Grammys, and a Trustees Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. He won his first Grammy in 1962 for engineering Henry Mancini’s Hatari! film score. 

Schmitt recorded more than 150 gold and platinum albums, including George Benson’s Breezin’, Steely Dan’s Aja, Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable… with Love, and Berklee alumna Diana Krall’s When I Look in Your Eyes. He collaborated with some of the most iconic musicians and artists of the past 60 years, from Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Ike and Tina Turner, and Celine Dion, among many others.

“I can’t think of a more meaningful way for us to honor a man that defined every benchmark of the craft of music production and audio engineering. Al’s work embodied limitless musicality, stunning technical ability, and most importantly a sense of warmth, compassion, and humanity,” said Rob Jaczko, chair of Music Production and Engineering. “The MP&E Department at Berklee is proud to award the Al Schmitt Engineering Scholarship to recognize and inspire the next generations of audio professionals.”

A native New Yorker, Schmitt later moved to Los Angeles and became the first engineer hired when RCA Records opened its studio in Hollywood in the 1960s. Known as “the engineer’s engineer,” Schmitt cofounded the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing(Opens in a new window) and served on the academy’s National Board of Trustees. In 2014, he received an Emmy nomination for his work on CBS’s The Beatles: The Night That Changed America. That same year, Berklee presented Schmitt with an honorary doctorate, and in 2015, he was the first engineer/mixer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“There are no two words on the planet more synonymous with excellence in recording than Al Schmitt,” said Daniel M. Thompson, assistant chair of Music Production and Engineering. “Over decades, Al has come to define the art of the craft, and at the same time I can think of few engineers or producers who have been as universally beloved as Al, for his wit, his wisdom, and his warmth as a person. We are thrilled to be able to help preserve Al’s legacy while lifting up the next generation through the Al Schmitt Engineering Scholarship at Berklee.”

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