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OC REGISTER – Recording studio a dream come true at Santiago High

It’s been a dream of Santiago High School’s arts and media teacher, Tina Ellingwood, to turn a storage closet in the back of her digital media lab into something more useful. With the start of the new school year, that dream became a reality after a state-of-the-art recording studio was installed and deemed ready to use.


“When I got here 15 years ago, this was just an old industrial design room,” said Ellingwood. “Now it’s a place where (students) can express themselves and grow towards a career or higher education.”

In addition to teaching classes in media arts, Ellingwood is the advisor for the school’s Young Film Makers Society, which will primarily use and manage the new studio.

The group’s students plan to create their own sound effects, record their own music and even book recording sessions with other students at the school.

“Music and sound is such a big part of movies,” said senior Guillermo Montoya. “You might not realize it until you try to make videos without it.”

Said junior Anthony Altamirano: “I think this will make our projects more professional. Also, it’s going to be cool for other kids because there’s a lot of people who like music but can’t really do anything with it.”

Thanks, in part, to the Santiago High School alumni association and donations from the Growlers, a local rock band, the studio is equipped with professional-grade equipment that mirrors what one would find in the entertainment industry. To get the project started, the alumni association’s treasurer, Adrian Montoya, reached out to his son, Scott Montoya of the Growlers, for assistance.

“This will give the students a working knowledge of music recording,” said Adrian Montoya, who graduated from Santiago in 1973. “If that lights a fire for them to get more involved, that’d be really exciting.”

Scott Montoya, drummer and engineer for the Growlers, volunteered to teach the students how to operate the sound board and properly record. He also helped secure sponsors such as Hurley, C&C Drums, Istanbul Cymbals and Micworks.

“It’s great to give back and inspire people, especially kids,” he said “Every industry involves art of some sort, and if people weren’t pushed to be creative, the world wouldn’t be what it is.”

Students say having access to the studio will give them the ability to control every aspect of the projects they create, making their work stand out.

“We’re going to be able to evolve and improve on our content and quality,” said Young Film Makers Society President Miguel Lopez. “Hopefully more people will be interested (in the film club) and we can help others who want to pursue this career.”

The film club meets every Friday after school for three hours. Ellingwood says she doesn’t have to prompt anyone to devote that extra time.

“These students clearly want to hang out and learn,” she said. “They’ll now know what it’s like to run a recording studio, and more than that, they’ll have a feeling of ownership and pride.”

The Growlers will perform Saturday and Sunday at the Beach Goth festival at the Observatory this weekend in Santa Ana and will be accepting donations for the school’s program at their merchandise booth. Others interested in donating to the cause can email

Contact the writer: 714-796-6026 or
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