By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Driving past the former Kubina-Yuhasz funeral home on South Avenue, one would never guess what is now inside it.
The spacious structure in a faded inner-city neighborhood has found new life as a school for music recording.
It’s the dream of a lifetime for owner William Ferraro, who spent five years remodeling the interior before opening it a few months ago.
And what is inside borders on amazing.
Doing most of the work himself, Ferraro has created another world — one where students can work on state-of-the-art recording equipment to learn to be an audio engineer.
The building is well-made, but the interior now possesses a level of comfort and technology that it never had before.
Hallways lined with recording booths surround the lower-level recording control room, which has stone walls, electric sconce lights and LED light strips along the floor.
The resulting effect is that one has entered a room in a medieval castle that has been retrofitted with high-tech electronics. Or better yet, a man-cave recording studio in the home of a wealthy rock star.
“My students say it looks like a rich man’s house on [television show] ‘Cribs,’” said Ferraro.
While it looks like no expense was spared in the renovation, Ferraro — who is adept at construction — did most of the work himself to save money.
Medusa Recording Institute, as it’s called, features the best recording equipment. The school exclusively uses Pro Tools, which is the industry standard, and teaches digital and analog recording.
On the main floor, there is a classroom area with computer stations for 12 students, which is the maximum for each class.
The six-week course goes six days a week, for at least six hours a day. “It’s accelerated and intense,” said Ferraro.
The small class sizes ensure that students get hands-on training with a faculty of music industry insiders. The cost of the course is $3,500, and the school is accredited by the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools.
The focus of the curriculum is solely on recording music.
“We teach everything that a two-year school teaches but without the fluff,” said Ferraro. “We provide knowledge, and it’s hands-on. My motto is affordable, quick and comfortable. Everybody is digging the concept.”
The school accepted its first students in January. So far, most of his students hail from outside the Mahoning Valley, as do most of his instructors. There is apartment-style student housing on the second floor of the building, and plans call for adding more.
One local student who just finished the program at Medusa is 17-year-old Russell Kaye of Austintown.
Although he still hasn’t graduated from high school — Kaye is home-schooled and a junior — he is already working toward a career in the music business.
Kaye said he enjoyed his experience at Medusa and learned a lot.
“I thought it was awesome, and very hands-on,” he said. “It taught me a lot and I have a bigger picture now as to what I’m trying to do.”
Kaye is a solo musician, and will next perform June 28 at Wedgewood Ramps skate park in Austintown. He also has a small recording studio in his home.
“I’d like to have my own [professional] studio one day and charge people for mixing and doing shows — anything music-related,” he said.
Medusa Recording Institute represented a longtime goal for Ferraro.
The Oswego, N.Y., native has been a musician his whole life and has played in many rock bands.
Ferraro moved to Tempe, Ariz., where he opened and ran a successful recording studio for a decade.
But when escalating rent and a need for more space forced him to close, Ferraro figured it was time to do what he always wanted to do.
He began to look for a place where he could make his dream come true. He was introduced to Youngstown by his former spouse and found just what he was looking for here.
The 16,000-square-foot former funeral home at 2403 South Ave. may seem to be an unlikely location for a school, but its size and layout was perfect.
Ferraro purchased the structure and transformed it into a school, adding an apartment on the second floor, where he lives.
It was important to him that the school be laid-back and welcoming so that students are in a comfortable learning environment. Ferraro definitely succeeded.
The building houses four control rooms that were designed to produce world-class recordings.
The Jam Room is a bare- bones studio space to teach the basics of signal flow and mixing technique.
Studio Down (in the lower level) is meant for tracking, editing and mixing down.
The Mastering Room is a digital room with a capacity for tracking, editing, mixing and mastering.
Studio Proper is a large tracking room that has easy access from the outside for bands to load and unload equipment.
For now, Medusa is just a school, but Ferraro plans to branch out into commercial recording services.
He also plans to construct a stage in his spacious parking lot and use it for outdoor concerts.
Although few know of its existence, those who see Medusa for the first time are usually blown away.
“Visitors come inside and say, ‘No way!’ They can’t believe this is here,” said Ferraro.
Although the neighborhood has long been in decline, Ferraro pointed out that the building is safe.
“It’s very secure and there are cameras everywhere,” he said.
“But the neighborhood has embraced me. They respect what I am doing here.”
A graduate of the Conservatory for Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Ferraro recorded more than 600 bands at his studio in Arizona.
He knows the music business inside and out — and so do his six instructors, each of whom is a graduate of a recording institute with real-world experience as musicians.
“I have a great team here,” he said. “The staff is so solid.”
Medusa has already caught the eye of the recording industry media. Several feature articles about the school have already been published in trade magazines.