By Matt Bauer
Like many of his generation , the spark for George Rondina ’ s gateway into the music / audio / recording world was The Beatles ’ legendary 1964 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show .
“ I think I was around nine or 10 , just as a little kid and that changed my life ,” explains the Managing Director of Toronto ’ s esteemed Number 9 Audio Group , which was severely damaged by a fire December 17 of last year .“ I just [ knew ] that ’ s what I wanted to do . Then and there , I wanted to be in music in some way , shape or form .”
Rondina was born at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to a family of Italian descent and grew up in North York , ON . A battered piano at a friend ’ s house afforded Rondina the opportunity to learn his scales before his parents bought him a keyboard and he was under the tutelage of Ray Calder , a musical leader from the big band era , before veering into rock and roll in junior high .
“ We played a couple of gigs at the junior high school , and we had a horn section and the whole thing , and it was great ,” he explains . “ The response from the other kids was like , ‘ wow , that ’ s amazing .’ And all of a sudden , you ’ re a hero .”
More bands followed throughout high school , as well as a tour of northern Ontario and Christmas gigs on Toronto ’ s Yonge Street before Rondina realized that the touring life wasn ’ t for him .
“ I wanted to stay in the music business , but I didn ’ t want to be playing in crappy hotels for the rest of my life ,” he explains . “ I had met my wife-to-be and we had dated for a couple of years and one New Year ’ s Eve , I was with the drummer that had played with me . I was trying to figure out what I want to do . I wanted to start a recording studio [ to keep me ] in the music business since I have interests in technical stuff .”
With money gifted by his grandparents to buy him and his new bride a new dining set , Rondina took half and invested in a four track tape recorder and Number 9 was born in 1981 in the back of a record store .
Evolving through different locations in boroughs Richmond Hill and Thornhill , then Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto , Number 9 landed at its current location at 222 Gerrard St . in Toronto ’ s East End in 2004 . Counting the Barenaked Ladies , Natalie MacMaster , Sean Paul , Amanda Marshall and others among its clientele while also being a crucial source of rental gear to producers and other studios for decades while also supplying equipment to the Rolling Stones , Pink Floyd , Art Garfunkel and Van Morrison , Number 9 has been a major contributor to Canadian artists and the Canadian Music Industry as a whole .
Reflecting on his career highlights in the recording studio , Rondina says mixing The Waltons ’ 1992 gold-selling album Lik My Trakter was a high point . “[ Producer John Switzer ] was off at the hospital with his wife having a baby . I ended up sort of being in charge of mixing and that was a great experience .”
While Rondina unsurprisingly remains shocked by the fire — which destroyed the console and much of the studio ’ s high-end vintage equipment — he ’ s staying busy . “ I ’ ve got a new business model actually , where we ’ re picking up and delivering for video transfers and film transfers and audio , mostly
tape stuff , but video stuff as well ,” he shares .
He ’ s also setting up a home studio while the location at Gerrard Street is being renovated — a process Rondina estimates to take six-eight months . He is extremely grateful for all of those who have contributed to the GoFundMe account that was established after the fire in December . “ Things seem a little brighter now . It ’ s still kind of a drag . I mean , I had many people reach out to me , which was really nice . People in the recording industry , other studios and all the rest of it but we ’ ve been recovering equipment and restoring equipment , buying new equipment , setting things up .
While the recent fire hasn ’ t left him with too much free time , aside from walking his dog , Rondina admits he loves cars ( a used 2012 Audi TTS is a prized possession ), recording his own music , and restoring vintage equipment . He lives with his wife of 42 years , Catherine , their daughter Nella and youngest son Jude , while his eldest son Matthew lives with his wife and son .
To make a contribution to the GoFundMe campaign for Number 9 Audio please visit gofundme . com / f / help-number-9-audio .
20 PROFESSIONAL SOUND