Born and raised in Collingwood, living part of his 18 years in the house in which his mother was born and raised, Dean Dormiedy has taken himself off to London to pursue his dream in music.
Now, that’s setting the scene a bit rich: Dean is not a budding rock star and he’s not in England rubbing shoulders with Chris Martin. But what this young man is pursuing is even bigger than anything he could have imagined during his four years at Oxford Regional Education Centre.
“I’m at the Ontario Institute for Audio Recording Technology,” Dean explains while home on spring break two weeks ago. “I’m a hometown kind of person but it was the best school I could find for the kind of thing I want to get into so I had to sacrifice staying home for the better education.”
He compares London, Ontario, to Halifax and Truro but is surprised by how nice people in his new city of 350,000 turned out to be.
“That wasn’t something I was expecting,” he admits. “How friendly everyone is. I thought they’d be angry, you know, in the city.”
Making the transition from rural Nova Scotia had its challenges.
“There was a lot of adapting I had to do to get used to living in a place like that. Like having a sidewalk right out front and looking out the window with hardly a foot between houses,” Dean says. “It’s really fast-paced in the city so it’s nice to be back here. Especially driving around here where it’s not as pressured. I have my car up there but I bought a bike because it’s just as fast for me to bike anywhere as it is to drive.”
The sacrifices are worth it. Only 64 students are accepted at OIART a year, resulting in two small classes of 32. Not only that, it’s an intensive 11-month program that runs six days a week. Dean often works in the music lab until midnight.
“They do a three-year plan in 11 months,” Dean explains. “It’s pretty intense. It’s sort of an audio immersion program. You really have to be sold to it. They give you 11 courses right off the bat and that was a big wake-up, going from high school with four courses but it’s all related and interconnected. What we learn in the morning, we use later in the day. For example, we’d learn about an effect that can be used for recording a band then another teacher would put that into pictures and how you would involve that effect in a movie, like for sound design in animation. There’s a lot of things to pay attention to.”
Dean is a self-taught musician, playing mostly guitar and a bit of keyboard and drums.
“My first musical experience was with Matthew Cotton. He lived across the road, and I used to go across and listen to him play the guitar for hours.”
He was seven years old then so early on, some part of him recognized this calling (he doesn’t come from a particularly musical family) because Dean set about learning the skills that his formal education could not provide.
“I took guitar lessons for years and that helps out with the musical aspect of [the program], to know music itself because you need to be able to talk to musicians in the language they speak. The [Grade 10 music] course I took was helpful, too. But what started this whole thing for me was participating in the Tantramar Youth Music Program. We ended up going to a studio in Halifax and recording an album there. That was huge, a really awesome experience. That’s what really sold me to go do it.”
So much so, he only applied to three schools that offered the kind of program he wanted (his back-up plan is to become a mechanic, like his father, since he likes working with his hands).
“I went up there with the mindset I was going to record bands and work in a recording studio but after we did our first production project, where we had to get a guy in and record his song, I realized how intense it is to work in a studio and talking to people who are living that life, it’s not something I want to do.”
“I’m kind of being sold on the acoustic aspect of it,” Dean admits. “We have a course about the propagation of sound in a room and how to predict it. It’s about building diffusers to try and control problem frequencies in a room as well as how to test rooms to see if there are any problems in it. It involves math and calculations which is something I’ve always been big on, and building and working with things hands on which is also something I like to do. It seems to be the thing I’m falling for the most right now.”
Speaking of which, part of the sacrifice for this new passion meant enduring a breakup with a longtime girlfriend as their lives and plans diverged. There’s no time for a social life in London, either. Dean is completely immersed in the world of audio but at the moment, he’s not concerned about his heart.
“I’m more cautious about my hearing now.”
At the halfway point of the course, Dean isn’t sure where he’s going to be this time next year but with a 95 per cent employment rate for OIRAT graduates, one thing is sure: He won’t be coming home to Collingwood.
“With this course alone, I could go into an acoustics firm but if I really wanted to get serious about it, I’ll have to take an acoustics architectural design course.”
The opportunities opening up to Dean are more exciting than he ever imagined as a seven-year-old discovering a love for music. All because he was brave enough to follow his heart to the distant sounds of the big city.
Photo: Dean in the basement of his parents' house in Collingwood with his first sound board.