Take a moment to think about your favorite teacher. Maybe they held you to high standards when you needed it most. Maybe they managed to bend the light just enough that something previously out of your grasp was suddenly illuminated in clarity. Or maybe they simply recognized something amazing in you before you recognized it in yourself. Whatever your story, one thing is certain. Truly great teachers stick with us through successes and failures, and provide support as we change and grow.
Ashish Manchanda’s life has been marked by a steady stream of teachers and mentors. More than anything, these relationships have shaped a man who would grow to wear many hats—among them producer, mix engineer, business owner, and eventually, that of a mentor himself. He’s worked with James Taylor, Garth Brooks, produced music for MTV India and some of Bollywood’s biggest films, and was included in the 7th annual class of inductees into Full Sail’s Hall of Fame. But before all that, he was just a kid with a passing interest in music growing up in Mumbai, India.
“I have very clear memories of the music my parents played in the house when I was growing up,” says Ashish. “It was mostly pop. Tina Charles, ABBA, things like that. Then, in the seventh or eighth grade, I started getting exposed to sounds through microphones and sound systems. There was a priest at my school who ran an electronics lab, and I was fascinated by all the cables and wires.”
From that point on, Ashish tried to learn everything he could about music and recording. He joined the A/V club. He took up the drums. He devoured countless back issues of Mix Magazine, which he purchased from a small secondhand store. His passion for audio carried him through middle and high school, to the point that applying to specialty programs after graduation felt like the next logical step.
There was just one problem: at that time, recording schools in India were few and far between. Seeking a compromise, Ashish enrolled in an electrical engineering program at a local college and spent all of his free time playing in bands. During that time, he also worked with producer and jazz drummer Ranjit Barot, who remains a friend and collaborator to this day. It wasn’t quite the life of an audio engineer, but it allowed him to indulge his love of gear and music. Burning the candle at both ends took its toll, though, and no matter how many speakers he took apart or gigs he played, he still wanted more.
Ashish was reading an issue of Mix Magazine when he came across an ad for Full Sail. “It said something to the effect of, ‘We’ll take your dream seriously.’ I’d never heard that before. I thought, how interesting.”
So interesting, in fact, that he decided to move halfway around the world to see what it was all about.
“Coming to Full Sail was very liberating,” he remembers. “It was the first time I’d ever really left India. There was something special about being in a place where everyone had come to do the same thing.”
Ever the voracious student, Ashish didn’t hold anything back.
“I had so many questions, and my teachers interacted with me beyond the regular scope of interaction. I especially hit it off with Dana Roun who was my instructor, and Kirk Squires who was my admissions representative. They’re both still at Full Sail and I meet up with them every time I come back to campus.”
As a kid, Ashish would spend hours taking apart his toys to see how they worked. It’s the same with music, he says. All of the choices that go in to making a great pop song—there are real people behind those decisions. In Ashish’s sixth month of study, Full Sail hosted a success seminar with legendary producer Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington). Ashish saw the event as an opportunity to ask Bruce about his choices as a producer.
The two hit it off and kept in contact throughout Ashish’s time in the Recording Arts program. After graduation, at Bruce’s suggestion, Ashish moved to New York City. The move led to a successful stint working at Effanel Music, where Ashish continued to hone his skills. Meanwhile, Bruce remained a close friend and mentor, eventually passing on a key piece of advice that would become one of Ashish’s own guiding principles.
“I’ll always remember Bruce telling me, ‘You know what, Ashish? There are no secrets.’ I was struck by how open Bruce and others were in sharing their experiences, in discussing techniques, concepts, and strategies for projects they were actively working on.”
Ashish’s journey eventually took him back to Mumbai, where—in addition to working on over 100 film soundtracks and engineering countless live shows— he founded Flying Carpet Productions, a production house specializing in composition, recording, mixing & mastering, and sound design. Early on, he’d offer weekend workshops—essentially crash courses in audio production. The workshops proved to be so popular that Ashish and his team could barely keep up with the demand.
In 2012, he and his wife established The Media Tribe, a sound engineering and music production collective that offers full-time and part-time programs in Cinema Sound, Live Sound, Music Production, and Engineering. Of his work as a mentor to aspiring engineers, he says, “This is my way of engaging the next group of people who are hungry for this information. There are no secrets. When you share what you know with others, it sets a lot of things in motion for the entire community.”
“Everyone needs a mentor at some point in their life,” he adds. “I was fortunate enough to have several mentors come in to my life and fulfill different aspects of the learning process, but all of them believed in me and my abilities. In some ways, I see myself doing that for the people around me now.”