BABE #253: NATALIA RAMIREZ - Vocal Engineer + General Manager, Miami Art House Society
Natalia is a six-time grammy-nominated vocal engineer and general manager at Art House Society — a Miami, FL-based record label and recording studio whose portfolio includes names like Jennifer Lopez, Natasha Bedingfield, Ricky Martin and Will Smith. Since beginning to study violin at the age of four, Natalia has been a lover of music from a young age, when she took on all the musical opportunities her then-Colombian community could provide. Today at just 29-years-old, her love, talent and ear for perfect pitch and vocal expression has taken her career to incredible heights, and we’re excited to see where they take her next.
Hometown: Medellin, Colombia
Current city: Miami, Florida
Alma mater: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana; University of Miami
Degree: B.F.A., Music and Audio Engineering; M.A., Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management
Very first job: Teaching Assistant
Hustle: Vocal Engineer + General Manager, Miami Art House Society
Babe you admire and why?
My mom and my grandma are my biggest role models. They have been through so much in their lives and yet manage to stay strong and positive while supporting the rest of the family in accomplishing their dreams. I do not know how they do it, but it seems to me that aging makes them love more and become even tougher. I really admire that.
How do you spend your free time?
Exercising or cooking something special for myself and for those whom I love.
Favorite fictional female character?
Officer Hopps from Zootopia; she reminds me a lot of myself.
Current power anthem?
“God Is a Woman” by Ariana Grande.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
The biggest bowl of linguine with tomato sauce.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
To make good sushi.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
My mom, always.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
That I also wanted to become a chef and that cooking school was my second career option.
Tell us about your hustle.
I am a vocal engineer, manager of the recording studio Art House and the label manager for Art House Records. My main focus as an engineer is to tune vocals; as a manager it is to help things run as smoothly and effective as possible in the studio, label and within my team.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every workday is different. Some days can go from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but others can start at 9:00 a.m. and finish at midnight or later. It all depends on whatever comes up throughout the day or whether I was part of a recording session with no set end time. This is the nature of the business, so I always try to be prepared for the unexpected. However, trying to have a routine among these unanticipated circumstances is very important to me. Usually before going to the studio I take a SoulCycle® class. Starting my mornings with the right dose of energy relief keeps me through the day and helps me clear my mind. A good cup of coffee is also a part of that routine, so my mornings are basically around the bike and coffee I take to the studio. The environment over there is incredible, because I feel I’m going to my second home. In fact, it technically doesn’t feel like a job! At the studio I wear my many hats: studio and label manager, vocal tuner, counselor, accountant, personal assistant, problem-solver, organizer, planner, sometimes even graphic designer and background vocalist. Having the ability to multitask is the most wonderful gift I could have ever received and I plan to use it forever.
Has music always been a part of your life?
Since I was a child I knew that I wanted to live and breathe music. Music has always been my happiness, passion and my professional dream. I was four years old when I began studying violin, and since then all I remember is a life surrounded by music, growing up a part of my school’s band and becoming a member of a very recognized orchestra in Colombia before I even began high school. I learned about audio engineering as a career through my older brother, who happens to be one of the most talented and versatile engineers I know (I also love him and look [up to] him so much!).
What prompted you to pursue your career in audio engineering rather than being behind the microphone?
When I was a teenager I started to discover that the arts were not just existing in what you saw as the end results, but rather that they had an entire network of creators working behind the scenes to push the art to realization. This motivated me to become more involved in the production side of that world. I wanted to support the musicians and the creative process so they could reveal the best form of their art by bringing the best quality of music to life.
What inspires your approach to audio engineering?
I would say it’s my love for perfect pitch and vocal expression. I’ve been a classical musician from a very young age, and I wanted to become an expert in treating vocals manually. Nowadays, everything is digital and there are so many different plug-in options for tuning and aligning vocals, but I’ve noticed most of the time they’re set to perform as an automatic response for certain key or rhythm. Most people don’t realize this damages the waveform badly, making the tuning sound very evident and bumpy, and changing the natural frequencies that were captured. It can be aesthetic sometimes, but that doesn’t work in every genre. I feel that getting hands on every single word and vocal track individually makes a big difference in the final result. When you hear an artist sing, you remember why they struck a chord with so many listeners. If you start mangling their voice carelessly and don’t take care of their identity, it undoes all the magic they worked so hard to manifest.
What types of projects do you take on?
Luckily, I don’t have a preferred genre. I like taking on everything that comes to my door. Everything is a challenge and that makes it exciting. As an audio engineer, I get to work with so many different artists and their voices very closely. I love their textures, colors, even their different waveforms (haha). I’m also in love with the environment at the studio. We’re like a family, and we all love making music that feeds our spirit. Another passion I have is managing events. I organize and coordinate a lot of sessions for the same artists I get to work on. I love organizing and multitasking. Some memorable projects to me are definitely Pablo Alborán’s album “Prometo,” and Marc Anthony’s upcoming album. Hopefully I’ll get to keep working with very different and talented artists.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Actually, all of them. Growing up as a classical performer, then becoming an audio engineer and finally going to management school gave me the artistry, hearing, determination and the discipline. Those combined represent the whole spectrum of the music industry (the performer, the technician, the business person). However, college is very different from reality, so the exposure to real work experiences has been essential to what I do today.
What’s something fellow babes should know before pursuing a career in the music industry?
In this career, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of pressure, unconventional working schedules, ego and sensitivity. In other words, you have to be ready for long shifts around the clock—and yet stay positive and control your temper with those around you.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Being only 29 years old and able to say I’ve accomplished all my personal and professional dreams so far.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
It has definitely affected my experience—but in a good way. As a woman, I try to keep in mind that I bring my uniqueness to the table. All women should work with whatever makes them unique; that will bring both spiritual and economic rewards.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
According to some studies, women working in professional audio make up a total of about 5 percent of all audio engineers. I definitely see this evolving since there are currently many communities supporting women in audio and music. SoundGirls, Women In Music and Women Audio Mission are some of the organizations I know about, and I’m pretty sure there are many others out there.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
People always think being an audio engineer means I am a DJ. I had a similar struggle when I said I was studying music. They would ask, “So do they teach you how to play all the instruments?”
What obstacles have you faced in your work?
This is an industry dominated by men, so being a young woman in the industry hasn’t been easy. I’ve faced many comments like, “They hired her because she’s pretty.” It’s been a huge undertaking for me to create a reputation for myself based on my work, while others claim it belongs to the fact that I wear a dress. I believe that it’s important to embrace the qualities that make us women, instead of watering it down to “blend in.” We are all creators and members of a community that celebrates individual identities and personalities—so why should I be shy to show mine?
Are you involved with any other careers, side projects or organizations?
I am currently a Florida Chapter board member of the Recording Academy (Grammys).
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Everyone deals with enough stress and frustration in their day, so be a person who makes their time easier and more enjoyable — you’d be surprised how many doors that’ll open. Being a woman in this field is a gift; treat it as such. You’ll never make a difference if you are afraid of trying. Let your work speak for itself; no one likes narcissism.
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