BERWYN – When a young Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studios in Memphis he followed a list of others who had dreams of stardom fulfilled. Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett sealed their stellar fate recording at Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama.
On the northeast corner of 26th Street and Scoville Avenue in Berwyn, Horse-Drawn Productions Inc., also is in the business of making dreams come true and more. Inside the expansive brick two-story building is a veritable ark for musical and sound production.
Located inside are several recording studios for the production and creation of music for both music and film. There are rehearsal studios available, and instructors to give lessons on guitar, bass, drums and percussion, piano and keyboards, strings, woodwinds and voice.
They also teach DJ and turntable skills, computer use and networking, Logic Pro, programming and track creation, video production, engineering and mixing and Ableton Live software for OS X and Windows.
“We do commercial stuff, television commercials, corporate film,” Horse-Drawn Productions President Eric Yoder said. “We, of course, teach lessons, and we can fix anything, iPad, phones, laptops, desktops, musical instruments. We actually build recording studios, from small recording rooms to full facilities, like for [recording artist] R. Kelly.”
Horse-Drawn Production staff developed an impressive client list that has included the likes of Michael Jackson, Etta James, Liz Phair, Taj Mahal, Smashing Pumpkins, Stevie Wonder, Koko Taylor, Celine Dion, Sugar Blue, Chuck Soumar of the Ides of March and many more.
The client list is as diverse as it is studded with stars, from local and regional amateurs to seasoned veterans. Whether they are pros, hungry, young bands and soloists, or companies, Yoder said they treat everyone fairly.
“Not everyone has an R. Kelly budget,” Yoder said. “We try to work with them. There’s a huge diversity in music nowadays. There’s a different breakdown of groups, bands, subjects. There is no special genre we stick to. We have rock bands, country stuff, dance bands, hip hop. We can generally make it happen in any style.”
Yoder’s own journey to the high-tech studio from a low-tech Amish society in Ohio is a story in itself. In fact, the company logo for Horse Drawn Productions is a common site in Amish country, where motorists are warned to be cautious and share the road with horse and buggy.
Yoder’s dad was raised Amish, then as a teenager, took part in Rumspringa to sample life “among the English,” as outsiders are called, before they choose to be baptized or be “English.” Yoder said his dad really wanted a 1969 Mustang convertible. The Mustang won.
“He left the Amish faith a long time ago, but still has a good relationship with that side of the family,” Yoder said.
As for himself, Yoder moved to Chicago to pursue a career in music after earning a bachelor’s in music industry from Capital University in Ohio. He took an internship with a jingle house and landed a full time position three months later.
He started “moonlighting” at night, then started Horse-Drawn Productions in Chicago where it remained for 15 years. In 2009, he came to Berwyn and opened the 7,000 square foot facility where he and his wife, Darlene, and two children live.
“I really love Berwyn a lot,” Yoder said. “It was a big step to leave the city, but I needed a bigger space. It ended up the best thing we could have done.”
Berwyn seemed to be as centrally located as possible, Yoder said. He still wanted to be as close to Chicago as he could for business purposes.
“On a side note, I have kids and the schools in Berwyn are a lot better than in the city,” he said. “We had been looking for a place to move for more than two and a half years. Finding what we needed was difficult. When we came across it, it was a perfect match.”