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Musician First Class Ian Dobie Rocks!

Chief Musician Leah Abbott • America's MusiciansJuly 2022 • July 8, 2022

Musician First Class Ian Dobie

How does an avid outdoorsman and violinist from land-locked Boise, Idaho, become interested in joining America’s oldest seagoing service as a recording engineer? 

You could say that Musician First Class Ian Dobie has a competitive streak. After all, at the age of four, he envied his older sister’s ability to play the violin so much that he asked his parents to take lessons, too. He thought he could play at least as well as she did. 

Turns out, he was right.

Introduction

Dobie’s’s love of violin grew throughout his youth, as did a passion for outdoor sports like biking, hiking, and swimming. His interest in skiing began as soon as he could walk and continued to develop as well. His sense of competition and sportsmanship extended to rock climbing, which he pursued competitively during his teen years. 

He continued to take the violin seriously and while in high school dreamt of a life in music. However, Dobie knew that a serious injury—a statistical possibility given his active pursuits—would impede his promising musical career. So, he decided to press pause on the climbing while he pursued a degree in music with a focus in audio engineering at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM).

Exposition

While at CIM, Dobie realized the reality of a life performing music meant spending long hours in a practice room each day and that vision was not compatible with a highly active lifestyle. And rock climbing was again calling his name. Dobie readjusted his vision and focused on audio engineering instead of violin performance.

The curriculum at CIM was serious for performers and audio engineers alike. Dobie took the same core curriculum courses as music majors, and his classes emphasized engineering from the perspective of a musician, as opposed to the physicist point of view prevalent in some other programs. He credits his education at CIM for giving him a strong foundation in the art—as well as the science—of audio engineering.

Upon graduating from CIM with a bachelor of music degree, Dobie was a fellowship recipient at the Banff Center’s Audio Recording Engineer Practicum. The outdoor scene in Banff was just as inspiring as the Center’s curriculum and Dobie made up for lost time climbing on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

After the engineering practicum, he returned to Cleveland to begin freelance work, which he enjoyed for the competitive hustle and the artistry involved in collaborating with world-class musicians. Two important people helped to shape his professional life and beyond during this time.

Development

Thomas Knab hired Dobie as an assistant, but Knab quickly became more like a teacher, guiding Dobie in the intricacies of the recording industry. Through Knab, Dobie made connections with Apollo’s Fire, the critically-acclaimed period-instrument ensemble specializing in early music, and Erica Brenner, their director of media production. Brenner recommended Dobie to the world-renown tenor Karim Sulayman, who was interested in recording a debut solo album with Apollo’s Fire. The resulting collaboration, Songs of Orpheus, would win Sulayman, Dobie and Apollo’s Fire a Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album in 2019.

The other influential figure in Dobie’s life during this time was the ten-time Grammy Award-winning recording engineer and producer Michael Bishop. Dobie is competitive and talented, but he is also humble and credits his success in life to Bishop’s mentorship. “Michael taught me everything I know: music, life, how to be a good person.” 

Their relationship began in 2009, when Dobie began working as an independent contractor for 5/4 Productions, co-founded by Bishop and partners Thomas Moore and Robert Friedrich. For the next decade, Bishop would help shape Dobie’s character and professional craftsmanship. Together they traveled all over the country recording many award-winning albums featuring the Atlanta Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, and the Dallas Symphony, among others. 

After a decade of freelancing, a friend of Dobie’s showed him an advertisement in the International Musician: the U.S. Coast Guard Band, based at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, was hiring an audio engineer. Members of his father’s side of the family had Army, Navy, and Air Force affiliations, but Dobie never saw himself as a member of the armed forces. Nevertheless, he was ready to cultivate professional and personal stability after ten years of freelancing. Dobie’s competitive side once again resurfaced, as did his practical nature, and he decided to audition for the Coast Guard Band.

Coda

Dobie won the audio engineer audition and enlisted as a first-class musician in the U.S. Coast Guard in July 2017. Managing audio production for the band includes recording concerts, recitals, and audio releases, as well as serving as a technical engineer for the Coast Guard Academy’s in-house audio and video systems. Additionally, he designed the new video streaming system which uses multiple cameras to broadcast to a variety of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. 

As he jokes with his friend and colleague Senior Chief Musician Mark McCormick, the co-workers are one of the best parts of being a member of the Coast Guard Band—that, and ample opportunity to travel to nearby peaks to climb.

www.uscg.mil/community/band/

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