La Verne Magazine
Spring 1998

"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"

Making Music Heard 'Round the World

by Rob Strauss


While the printing presses of Z Graphics pump away, a different kind of beat is heard next door -- musical beat.

A to Z Studios was built in 1989 because of owner Dick Zahniser's passion for music. Ann Thomas, manager of A to Z Studios, and Zahniser had previously sung together at church. They met and talked with each other about the idea, and Thomas decided she wanted to get into the business.

"I was kind of interested in a career change at the time, and I said I'd be very interested in learning, which was a big job because I knew nothing about what was going on," says Thomas.

The original plan was to build a very small studio, but the noise from the nearby train tracks and the printing presses next door made them realize they would need a better facility.

"At that point, we had to start looking for an architect who could build the kind of studio with these parameters," says Thomas. "It became a very large project instead of a small little garage studio."

As a result of the potential disruptions, the studio includes a "free floating floor." This protects the floor from the rumbling when a train goes by.

"When we've had earthquakes here, people in the studio don't feel them," says Thomas.

Thomas also says the studio is 95 percent soundproof. The architect who built the studio, Carl Yancher, is currently building a facility at Citrus College.

It is a professional studio which means that clients generally tend to use the studios for projects such as "film underscoring or professional albums as opposed to demo projects," says Thomas.

Most of the bands that use A To Z Studios play Christian music. This is because the engineer who started out with A To Z Studios brought his own clientele who were geared in that musical direction. It has stayed that way through what Thomas considers the best form of advertising: "word of mouth." "Advertising is OK but generally the people who call in here don't have any idea what they're asking for."

There have been a few memorable projects that have been recorded at the studio. A German composer named Klaus Heizmann used A to Z to record a song which he wrote to commemorate the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Bryan Duncan, a Christian artist who has received four Dove Award nominations, has also recorded at A To Z. The Dove Awards are Christian music's version of the Grammy Awards.

"Bryan Duncan loves it here because it's just very low stress; he can come out and talk, you know, take time," says Thomas.

A to Z Studios is open seven days a week "if need be," says Thomas, who is the only paid employee for the studio. Along with Thomas, there are two engineers under contract who put a great deal of time into their work. They are Tim Jacquette, chief engineer, and Scott Lovelis.

The life of an engineer is definitely not easy, says Lovelis, who works an average 60 to 80 hours a week. He says the job is "not for everybody."

"Most of it is just the hours because of the business we're in," says Lovelis. "There are no holidays; there are not set hours. Like last week, I was here basically from Sunday morning until Monday night."

Thomas adds that any band "that is willing to pay the money" can use the studio.

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