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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Rochester church finds new life as a music studio

Rochester church finds new life as a music studio

For the past couple years, Zach Zurn has been working with local musicians to produce some of the sweetest sounds coming out of Rochester. His business, Carpet Booth Studios, has become a go-to spot for artists of all stripes, from budding songwriters to punk rockers. Now, Zach and his wife, Julia, have their sights set on expanding their studio business. They have bought a church in southeast Rochester with the intentions of reinventing the space as a chapel of well-crafted tunes and artistic exploration.

We recently caught up with Zach, who is fresh off a fundraising campaign that attracted support from nearly a hundred individuals. He told us he hopes the space will change the perception of what can be created here.

give us a little background on Carpet Booth Studios.

Carpet Booth Studios is a music and audio production and recording studio in Rochester. We started in early 2017 initially as a temporary studio, but soon after we opened, we found we were fulfilling a need here in Rochester and have grown since then. My wife and I own the studio and we have a small team of interns.

You recently purchased a church to house your studio? Tell us what went into that decision.

We quickly saw after opening that we would need a larger and more dedicated space to keep up with the amount and type of work that was coming in. We toured dozens of spaces around Rochester and even put a bid in on a space that didn’t work out. One of the spaces we looked at was the Marion Church of Christ building. This congregation is currently building a new church space and were looking for the right party to use the space after them. It soon became a reality after seeing the potential it had for our studio.

What are your plans for the space?

We plan to have a Studio A, which will be targeted towards professional musicians, large bands, and ensembles. Our Studio B will be a smaller and simpler setup targeted towards beginner to intermediate musicians, local players, overdubs, and vocalists. We plan to incorporate a dedicated podcast studio, small event space/venue, and workshop, as well.

And if I understand correctly, you are crowd-sourcing a loan to pay for the rehab?

 Zach Zurn of Carpet Booth Studios

Zach Zurn of Carpet Booth Studios

We were lucky enough to qualify for crowdfunding a loan through a platform called Kiva. Kiva, a nonprofit company, connects entrepreneurs and businesses in need with generous friends, family, and professional networks. The givers of money receive their loan back over a chosen payback period, and the business receives cash on the front end. We are excited to say that we just reached our $10,000 all-or-nothing goal this last weekend.

You have been recording with local musicians for the past few years. What are your thoughts on the state of music in Rochester?

There’s something special happening with the music, and greater arts, scene in Rochester right now. A strong grassroots and community-led movement is seeing more shows/concerts happening, festivals are popping up, and more music-related businesses like our studio are becoming staples in this area. There are too many individuals and organizations to name and thank, but I’m inspired by those around us who are changing the future of music in Rochester by offering their time, talent, and resources. It’s an easy cop out answer to complain and say that Rochester’s music scene is subpar and doesn’t compare to somewhere like Minneapolis/St. Paul, but why should we expect it to be? This is a ripe time in which those that are leading the way for the growth and development of this scene can dictate its personality. We are honored to be a part of that.

Do you think having the studio will change the perception of what kind of music can be made here?

That’s the goal. Many people have thanked us for providing a high quality professional studio in Rochester. No longer do people have to travel to Minneapolis or farther to find a space to write and record. Every thriving arts community has staples: established venues, modern lesson studios, connected promoters, and quality recording studios. Rochester is starting to check all of the boxes in becoming a thriving arts community. We hope with the development of the DMC project that the arts are remembered, respected, and given a high priority.

Other than music, how will you use the space?

Outside of music, Carpet Booth Studios also works with corporate and commercial clients. We tackle projects like audiobook recording, podcasting, voiceover work, etc. These kinds of projects will continue to be a part of our new space.

We hope to fill the walls with art from local artists — and hope to connect art lovers with pieces to purchase so that local artists can be supported.

Given the aesthetics of our new space, we are also excited to partner with local video companies to provide live session videos, with high quality audio, to musicians. In this day and age, video is king, and for an artist to be successful, you need diversified content. In our new space, not only can an artist get a great sounding record, but they can produce further content as a promotional tool using the video from their sessions.

You're a musician in your own right. As you grow your business, are you continuing to write music?

Unfortunately, my solo work has been on hold. The studio has been very busy and demanding my attention in that right. But, as we continue to add to our team, and I’m able to step away here and there, I hope to record and release some of my own songs in 2019. I also play in a Minneapolis-based indie rock band called Author, and we are currently working on our fourth record that we hope to release in 2019, as well.

Cover photo courtesy Carpet Booth Studios

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