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Meet Nick Tantillo of Tantillo Productions in Downtown PHX

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nick Tantillo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story began before I even knew it, as many of us can relate to. Music was always in me, whether it was tapping on the table at dinner, playing trumpet in the elementary school band or picking up my first Guitar Hero game – it was always there. I began to become intrigued with instruments, how they worked and the sounds that they were able to produce. I hadn’t realized what all of that intrigue was at the start, but it later become clear that the common denominator in all of them was the SOUND that they created.

Audio engineering is an interesting concept. When you think about it, our ears take in thousands of sounds everyday, all day. What we don’t think about is how we are hearing those sounds. Whether it be a baseball player sliding into second base on TV, the next hot pop song blasting across your car stereo, or even the voice of your favorite character from the show you watch every Wednesday night at eight PM… someone, somewhere is facilitating that recording and transmission – and it has always blown my mind.

Throughout high school, I played guitar and sang in a local Arizona band. We played a few shows around town each month at little venues in Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix. The process of setting up shows, making connections, facilitating the distribution of merchandise and traveling all helped me understand how to run an operation or “business”, at least to a small degree. In addition to getting the feel of how to carry out these life tasks, I also began to purchase little pieces of recording equipment to toy around with. I had no idea what I was doing.

I spent my junior and senior years of high school fiddling with the new mixer and audio interface I had acquired and started to record little demos for bands just for the fun of it. I’d setup microphones in front of my friends and “let em’ rip”, as they say. I screwed a lot of things up, one session at a time; and every session I learned a new lesson. After enough times of botching things and learning, I began to implement all of the lessons at once; that’s when it really started to come together. However, at this time, I had no idea about the technicalities or details surrounding audio but what I WAS learning how to do was work with people. It wasn’t until later that I realized, that single skill has been the most important factor in everything I do today.

In September of 2013, I was on my way to work at the local Jimmy Johns when I got a phone call from the brother of an acquaintance at my school. I hadn’t known this acquaintance very well, but they had heard through the grape vine that I dabbled in audio and video – so they referred me and I got the call. It was the first time I had an opportunity come from a completely random source and little did I know, that would become a theme moving forward.

The call entailed assisting an online medical study company called Picmonic with some video work- something that I only pursued as a hobby. Audio was my real strong suit and interest, but I figured it would be silly to pass up the opportunity to do anything media related. So, the request ended up getting cancelled and they no longer needed the video work. However, they called a week later and proposed joining the team to assist with some audio voice over work… I was surprised, ecstatic, nervous and unsure of what was to come; but from there it started to snowball. Goodbye Jimmy Johns.

Picmonic was my first foray into the world of working in a professional environment, experiencing the office life, attending company meetings, collaborating on projects, and setting objectives. Rather than just fiddling around with gear in my closet and recording my friends’ bands; my actions impacted the wellbeing of the tasks at hand and ultimately the whole company. When you are one cog in the overall machine, it’s important to make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. Picmonic taught me that.

The beautiful thing about working at Picmonic was that they gave me the flexibility to attend college whilst keeping my position. Naturally, I made the decision to pursue an Audio Production Technologies degree (AAS) at Scottsdale Community College. It was a choice that brought such immense experience and technical know how; I couldn’t have been more pleased with the choice to advance my audio knowledge. By already having a basic understanding of how to setup microphones and get a recording underway from my high school and Picmonic days, I was able to really focus in on the technicalities of recording; the physics of sound. It was at this time that I learned how to be a professional in the audio industry and really got a hold on what it took to achieve a “professional” sound. In the three years I spent acquiring my degree, I gained an unimaginable amount of “intangibles” from the professors and tools I had available. School was truly advantageous experience.

For about a year, while I was in school and working at Picmonic, I also began to pursue some work in the live sound field. This was possible as a few people I knew from my days of playing music were involved with a theatre company in Gilbert, AZ that puts on plays such as Mary Poppins and the Christmas Carol. This was again – a whole new experience for me. Every night, I was in charge of running twenty plus wireless microphones and making sure the dialogue, music and show progressed smoothly in front of a live crowd. This required carrying out all kinds of new tasks in a new environment I wasn’t used to – which I am grateful for looking back on now. After some time, I eventually decided that this venture was not for me; an important decision to make sometimes. Although my stay in live sound was short lived, I learned a great deal about working effectively in stressful situations, improvising, and catering to other people’s needs. To me, it was proof that even these short-lived stops along the way can teach you life long lessons…

All the while, in the past four and a half years at Picmonic, I’ve recorded hundreds of voice overs, ads, music spots and testimonials. Every step of the way, every single day; I’ve learned something. Every day, I’d implement a new technique, coaching point, process or piece of equipment into my workflow and it helped me be ever evolving. It was truly a blessing to have the opportunity to work on my craft every single day. Throughout those years, I was able to master the art of recording voice over media and that ability alone, granted me the opportunity to branch out. It’s amazing how every step of the journey is so important to the development of our story and abilities! It’s important to appreciate it all.

Just last year, Picmonic moved its offices to downtown Phoenix. A move I could have never expected to bring so many relationships and opportunities for everyone involved. We made the move to local up and coming tech hot spot- Galvanize. Galvanize is a tech co working space that provides not only a place for established companies to work from, but also a comprehensive tech coding school for students of all ages. One of the many unique things about Galvanize is that it gives everyone the opportunity to be speaking with an inspiring and driven student one minute, and a CEO from a local company the next. Through Galvanize, I’ve been able to randomly come across all kinds of people and organizations that have a need for help within audio – something I never expected with this move. Again, a random blessing in disguise.

All of these past experiences, lessons and networking contributed to where I’m at now – in the first year of carrying out my freelance audio engineering business! In the past year, I’ve been able to parlay all of these lessons and connections into recording and mixing two full length albums, delivering multiple audio books, producing a handful of weekly podcasts and voiceover ads/commercials for local AZ companies. In addition, just this past month, a partner and I made the move to open up a recording studio based out of Mesa, AZ. All of this still hasn’t sunk in yet – what’s important is continuing to stay busy and always improve.

It’s not MY story, my studio, or my skills that are important here but rather the idea of you making YOUR own story. Too many times in life, I hear people say they “can’t” do something, or ask “how” they can do it. I think a lot of people would be surprised with themselves if they went out and tried to accomplish those “out of reach” tasks. If you don’t believe that you can do something, you won’t; but if you tell yourself you can, you will. It’s for this reason that I believe so deeply in dedication, passion and hard work. Staying on the horse can be hard sometimes but all worth it in the end, more often than not. I’d rather wake up every day and look forward to going to work to do something that I truly love, than wake up and carry out tasks I have no desire to do. We spend most of our lives working, so why not make your work your passion? I believe in us. I can’t wait to see where we all go.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No road worth taking is perfectly smooth – there will always be challenges along the way. It’s how you choose to handle those challenges that may or may not separate you from the rest. I think that adversity is important in shaping us as humans; in shaping our morals.

In the audio world, it can be a nerve wracking experience to take on recording someone’s project. Whether it be music, a book or a commercial – people cherish their art. To be tasked with parlaying someone’s idea into an accurate depiction that they also appreciate can be an enormous task. However, I think this applies to any job in any area of life.

A lot of times, you may not satisfy a client the first time around. In audio, it may be that the vocals aren’t loud enough, the guitar doesn’t line up right or the whole song just feels off. These are not uncommon occurrences to have happen to an engineer, but it’s how you choose to handle fixing these issues that’s important. I’ve found that it’s the people who take the time to listen to the suggestions, implement them in any possible and work to fix issues- that end up receiving more projects.

Always take care to tend to people’s wants and needs and often you will find that it gets reciprocated! a.k.a. The golden rule!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am a full time audio engineer for nursing/medical study company Picmonic, in addition to a free lance recording/mixing engineer for my own venture: Tantillo Productions.

As an audio engineer, I carry out and oversee all tasks of recording and mixing whatever it is that we are working on. This includes but is not limited to setting up microphones, dialing in outboard (processing) equipment, coaching (producing) the talent, editing, mixing and mastering all of the audio. There’s a wide variety of tasks that branch out from each of these pillars, however these are the core of what I do!

Picmonic is an online interactive medical and nursing study tool for college students attempting to pass their major exams. We provide an immersive online learning experience that utilizes interactive characters on a screen paired with picture mnemonics to help students remember everything, forever. Specifically, I record the voices for these characters! I am fortunate enough to have an amazing team of creative, fun-loving voice actors to collaborate with. Together, we create all of the stories, voices, and dialogue associated with each teaching point! We pride ourselves on providing a creative, unique and memorable way for students to get through school.

Thus, working in audio for Picmonic couldn’t possibly be any more rewarding. Every day we are fortunate enough to receive emails and letters from students letting us know how we’ve helped them through their most trying of times in school and accomplish what they set out to do: graduate. To know that every voice I record and every story we write has a direct impact on someone’s life makes everything I do more than worth it. Not only do we help the life of one student but inherently, help the lives of many others once that student inevitably goes on to become a medical professional. This aspect of what Picmonic brings to the table, more than JUST audio or creation, makes every day worth waking up for.

Within the realm of my freelance work, I highly value giving every individual a unique experience. I believe every project, person, and task requires a different approach. When you stray away from using cookie cutter methods, responses and processes I feel as if each task becomes much more personal. This is something that I have always taken pride in throughout my audio career. When you treat every set of circumstances differently, you learn to adapt and grow. It’s these values that I continue to implement in every situation that I believe makes each venture worth it.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was always running around outside somewhere, with someone, doing something. When I wasn’t playing baseball in the local little league, you could be sure to find me either riding my bike down at the park with all my buddies, or playing with Star Wars action figures in the back yard. Boy, did we dig up some elaborate tunnel systems!

Both of my parents were teachers, so from an early age, I naturally learned a lot about respect and commitment. School was always important and following through on commitments was right there behind it. If you said you were going to do your homework, sign up for the baseball team or take care of a hamster – you best follow up and do it. This still holds true to this day. And let’s just say the hamster didn’t work out so well… (Mom ended up taking care of it!)

I will never forget those little aspects of growing up. Just like I mentioned earlier in my story of coming into audio – I was learning things, I had no idea I’d later use in life. I think it was important for me to have had a shot at most hobbies, sports or clubs in school. Exploring a diverse set of activities enabled me to think for myself and distinguish what I did and did not like about each activity. I still use these skills today when experiencing new things and taking on new professional ventures.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the childhood I was able to experience while growing up.

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1 Comment

  1. . Greg Mika

    March 9, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Hey Knick: This is something. Best to you. Uncle Greg & Aunt Barb

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