Music Production and Engineering Student Federico Masetti Pushes toward Dreams

Federico Masetti, president of the Berklee chapter of the Audio Engineering Society, founds the nonprofit MusicXChange Ghana.

December 1, 2015

Federico Masetti started recording at age 4 at his family’s house in Rome, Italy, with a Fisher Price tape recorder equipped with a detachable microphone and a “record” button. By age 13, he had picked up a bass guitar, and he recalls gathering with his family over Christmas to record a version of U2’s “With or Without You” at his cousin’s home studio in Bologna—his first experience with studio recording.

From these formative moments, Masetti—now a young man who has furthered his interest in recording by attending Berklee as a music production and engineering major—has grown into a burgeoning professional who has already won awards, founded a nonprofit organization, and set the stage for success.

Where Motivation Meets Preparation

Masetti—known to friends as “Fede”—came to Berklee after playing bass with Italian reggae band Inna Cantina Sound, with which he continues to tour every summer. He has received a Berklee Achievement Scholarship and a Berklee Achievement Grant, and it's plain to see that he has earned them. Most recently, he won a Student Recording Competition award from the Audio Engineering Society (AES), the primary professional association for audio industry professionals, in the Traditional Studio Recording category for his work on Beneil Miller’s “Push,” which Masetti recorded over the course of four hours in The Bridge recording studio at Berklee’s 160 Massachusetts Avenue recording complex.

Watch Miller and band perform "Push," recorded by Masetti:

Beyond winning awards from AES in both of the past two years, Masetti is also the president of the Berklee chapter of AES, which now rosters 200 members. The student club represents Berklee at the annual AES Convention in New York City and organizes events at Berklee such as visiting artist sessions with recording industry legends like George Massenburg and Kyle Lehning, professional mix evaluation panels, and field trips to destinations such as the Telefunken microphone factory.

Meanwhile, Masetti has already recorded several artists at his home studio, FM Sound Studio, including Miller and Deborah Pierre ‘13, and he has worked with Berklee record label Jazz Revelation Records (JRR), including bringing JRR artist and vibraphonist Vid Jamnik to do a clinic for students studying in the Berklee at Umbria clinics during the 2015 Umbria Jazz Festival, and assisting producer and assistant professor Ted Paduck.

“It was amazing for me to be there at the sessions and see Ted at work,” Masetti says. “I learned a lot from him.”

Since then, Masetti has taken on a more hands-on role at Jazz Revelation Records, working as a recording engineer with responsibilities including scheduling and recording bands, editing, and providing tracks for mixing to label mixing engineer Randy Roos, an associate professor at Berklee.

Masetti says he learned a lot of his music engineering chops while working as a work-study studio operations assistant at Berklee’s Boston campus and, before that, as an intern while studying abroad at the recording complex at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. 

“I’ve gained a lot of knowledge of the recording environment and studio procedures and etiquette,” Masetti says. “You just need to walk around here to see some of the legends of the music industry. Our faculty have made some great records. This is the thing about coming to Berklee: I could have learned about audio engineering somewhere else, but the facilities and the faculty—as well as the contacts and friends that I’ve established relationships with—will stay with me moving on and push me to improve.”

Recording for a Reason

Masetti may be pushed hard at Berklee, but he pushes himself even harder, as evidenced by his latest project: founding the nonprofit organization MusicXChange. The nonprofit has begun operations in Ghana, where Masetti recorded traditional Ghanaian music that will be released as an album in 2016. Masetti and associate professor Joe Galeota produced the album, and proceeds will benefit the HopeXChange Medical Center and teaching hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, where Masetti’s father, Dr. Ricardo Masetti, works as senior medical director and chair of the center's medical advisory council.

"It's a joy for me to do this together with my son," the elder Masetti noted at the Berklee launch event.

"Fede is like a locomotive," Galeota says. "He has the desire to make a real difference in the world."

The album and Indiegogo crowdfunding project kicked off with a launch event at Berklee on December 1, 2015, with another to follow on January 22, 2016, at Berklee’s David Friend Recital Hall.

Support MusicXChange Ghana

Watch Berklee students perform in support of Masetti's MusicXChange Ghana:

In addition to bringing traditional Ghanaian music to a more widespread audience, the aim of the project is to fund clinical music therapy activities at the hospital starting in 2016, and Masetti envisions the project serving as a model that can be replicated in other countries and regions.

“It would be great to see if we can put together a second edition, perhaps in a different country with a different set of traditions and cultures and a different humanitarian project to support,” Masetti says. “I’m really excited. I’ve been putting all of myself into this, both as a learning experience for myself but also as something that can really benefit other people and to call attention to how music has a social function and is not just entertainment, which seems to be promoted as the message of most commercial music today.”

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

As to how he balances his course work at Berklee with the challenges of starting up a new international nonprofit organization and building a solid foundation for a career in music production and engineering, Masetti laughs and says, “I don’t sleep that much.”

After graduating from Berklee, he plans to apply for an optional practical training visa to help build his resume as a recording and mixing engineer in Los Angeles while continuing to develop MusicXChange. He is clearly excited for the chapters ahead, but already somewhat nostalgic about his time at Berklee, even though it is not yet over.

“The class material is important. I wouldn’t know what I know if it wasn’t for my classes,” Masetti says, but he adds that his biggest takeaways won’t be lessons in music, but lessons in life: “Be humble. Be true to yourself. Work on finding who you are. These are some of the things we experience on a daily basis here where we’re fully immersed in such a diverse environment.”

“I came here to Berklee because this was my dream,” Masetti says. “Now I’m here chasing it, and it’s great.”