Just a couple of weeks ago, I flew down south to Florida for the amazing Miami Music Week, and it was during those days that I had the opportunity to talk with Audio Engineer for GRAMMY and Latin Grammy-nominated albums, Maria Elisa Ayerbe. Not every day you get to sit down and speak with one of the most hard-working professionals in the music industry, so I tried to cover as much as I could.
While we talked, I could not help but remember a phrase from one of my university professors: “you have to work until you become irreplaceable for the job, indispensable.” With this in mind, I decided to learn about her story, dig into her passion for work to try and understand how one can become an “indispensable” professional.
Maria Elisa was born in Colombia, where she spent most of her childhood until she moved out to Bolivia by the end of her teenage years. It was there where she decided to study audio engineering after High School, a decision that later took her to move to Chile. Coincidentally for her, during those years when she arrived in Chile, an exodus of music bands was happening, and they were all heading out of the country. In her own words, “there was no one there to work with…” So after two years in the country, she packed her bags and decided to fly back to Colombia to land in the city of Bogotá.
Even though Maria Elisa was already ahead in her engineering studies, she had to restart her Bachelor in Music with Audio Engineering Major at the Pontifical Xaverian University. Despite this, she decided to make the best out of it, and it was because of her hustle in Bogotá that new opportunities started to arise for her. Taking advantage of her knowledge, and her massive drive (and by massive we mean, colossal), she decided to push her chances and find ways to expand her educational and professional opportunities, to the point that she even started tutoring and teaching various university classes while studying.
Ayerbe was part of the first group of students who pushed her University to get better experiential learning opportunities for audio engineering students. In 2009 and 2010 she secured internships as the Sound Editor and Audio-Post Production Supervisor for top-rating TV shows in Colombia like: “El Regreso A La Guaca,” and “Protagonistas de Nuestra Tele,” by RCN Television. All the sounds from every episode were being inspected by her before being aired – quite the job knowing that more than 10 million people tuned in the shows during those years!
During those same years, Maria Elisa worked for the Peruvian Official Selection film for the Oscar’s Foreign Film Category: “Undertow (Contracorriente).” The movie did not win an Oscar but did earn the World Cinema Audience Award in the Dramatic Category the year after. Also, she was contacted by the Bogotá Philarmonic Orchestra to be the Assistant recording engineer for the Orchestra’s “Mestizajes” album.
As she kept working and studying, Ayerbe was knocking and opening more important doors from the whole music spectrum in Colombia. In the early 2010s, the Reggaeton scene had already taken all over radio stations, waiting to become the mainstream sound in Latin America. And it was around that time when Maria Elisa worked her first urban/mainstream gigs with the label El Ritmo Records from Pereira, Colombia. Andrés Franco, a Record Producer, was looking for a mixing engineer to work in Farina‘s album, and when he found Maria Elisa he brought her in; also, it did not take long for El Ritmo to call her back to work for most of their signed artists (which she still does).
Even with a full agenda worth of jobs in Colombia, Maria Elisa knew that it was time to expand her career. So she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she completed a Masters in Fine Arts, Recording Arts and Technologies at Middle Tennessee State University. Just like her time in Colombia, Maria Elisa was studying, teaching university-level classes, and working as the Studio Chief Engineer for Creative Caffeine Studio. She was so active and persistent with her work during her time in Nashville, that when the time came to present her Graduate Final Project, she got sponsorships from Rode Microphones and Blue Cat Audio.
We have to highlight how during all those years of studies, Ayerbe kept a busy agenda as an independent audio engineer. The list of projects, artist, producers, and engineers she worked with is long and rich in clients both from Latin America and the United States.
In 2015, after she finished her MFA in Nashville, life took Maria Elisa to the city of Miami, Florida. There, she landed a job with Julio Reyes Copello – multi-awarded GRAMMY and Latin Grammy producer -, at his “Art House Studios.” Beginning her work with studio maintenance and various duties, she then got more significant responsibilities and transitioned to recording and mixing for Copello’s clients like Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, among many others. Also, as of right now, she holds three combined nominations for GRAMMY and Latin Grammy awards:
–LAURA PAUSINI – Simili/Similares – LP Album – Recording engineer: 2015 *Nominated for Best Latin Pop Album, GRAMMY Awards 2017
–MAU Y RICKY MONTANER – Arte – EP Album – Recording and mixing engineer: 2017 *Nominated for Best New Artist, GRAMMY Awards 2017
–PAULA ARENAS – Matices – EP Album – Recording engineer: 2017 *Nominated for Best New Artist, GRAMMY Awards 2017
From Miami To The Future
Maria Elisa still lives in Miami, and it seems that her hunger for music grows as time goes by. She still works with Reyes Copello, but for years Maria Elisa has been able to work independently and gets hired by many of the clients she has met before in other jobs. She moves a lot around Miami, where she enjoys working at the client’s recording studios, doing all kinds of music, with different people like Mary J Blige, Juanes, Kronos Quartet, R.Lum.R, and many others.
In addition to all the work she does in the recording studio, she also co-founded a record label with her husband: South Mountain Music, an independent rock music label. Maria Elisa is the CEO of the Label, and she manages everything from finances to A&R, all the way to contracts, marketing, etc. And if you think that she does not have any more time left, she is also an active member of the Recording Academy ® serving as co-chair of the Producer & Engineers Wing, Florida Chapter, for the 2018-2019 period. (She is also regularly being invited to music panels and still teaches university-level classes.)
Maria Elisa Ayerbe will not stop any time soon. It is through the relentless and fearless work that she does every day, that she can knock and open the doors of opportunity laying in front of her. From Television to Orchestras, underground to mainstream music, she can do it all, and she is never afraid to take up the challenge and leave a mark. She is the perfect example of how to make a name for yourself in this industry, become the best in what you do, and become “indispensable.”
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