© 2019 Billboard. All Rights Reserved.
Billboard is a subsidiary of Valence Media, LLC.
At this time in 2013, Theresa Scotto had recently broken into her 50s and was beginning her third decade of selling insurance. But just months later, her 14-year-old daughter Gabriella threw her life for a little bit of a loop -- by telling her mom she wanted to become a singer.
"We had never heard the child sing at all," Scotto tells Billboard. After taking Gabriella to a studio in midtown Manhattan so the owner could evaluate her never-been-heard voice ("she wouldn't sing in front of me," Scotto says), Scotto began taking her daughter to voice lessons, and suddenly an idea sparked in her head: To help kids like Gabriella follow their singing passion by hosting kids' parties in the studio her daughter was attending.
The idea quickly took off, and next thing Scotto knew, Republic Records President Charlie Walk was taking part in the kids' party craze. "He says, 'Great job with this, you should get your own studio,'" Scotto says. "And I was like 'Oh my god, that’s never going to happen.'"
Fast forward to two and a half years later, and the now-53-year-old Scotto is running the Chord Club, a full-service recording studio in the Upper East Side of NYC, with business partner Ian Behar. Offering vocal, guitar, keyboard, bass, drum and DJ lessons, as well as music production classes, Scotto's Chord Club has made dreams come true, while also providing a quality studio space for the likes of Wyclef Jean, Vic Mensa, American Authors and more to record.
With 18 coaches and experts on the staff, Scotto takes pride in the fact that the facility -- which is powered by Billboard and has now been open for 10 months -- can operate on a 24/7 basis and offer such a wide span of services.
“It’s just a happy place. There’s all good things that come from this place. Just creativity from morning, noon to night,” she says of the 5,700 sq. ft. space. “It comes from the love for what we have in there and what we do.”
Although she admits that getting big-name artists and record label representatives to come check out the studio has been an "uphill battle" ("It’s been a lot of begging"), Scotto says there hasn't been one person who has left the place unimpressed. This is especially true for Wyclef Jean, who has used the studio more times than Scotto can remember.
"They don't make live rooms like that anymore. Once you walk in you feel inspiration," the rapper said in a statement. "Theresa Scotto and her team have created a new standard of excellence in this industry."
Along with Jean -- who has had several late-night recording sessions with Mensa in the studio -- and American Authors, the Chord Club has already played host to a special meet-and-greet with Hailee Steinfeld, along with a release party for Jean and studio time for Brandy, St. Lucia, Broods, Maggie Rose and The Voice's Alisan Porter, among others.
This is the kind of involvement Scotto aims to have with artists as the Chord Club grows. While she's thrilled to provide novices with a launching pad for their musical futures, Scotto wants to make it known that she's striving to build a space for up-and-comers and fully established artists alike. "This place is a safe environment, it’s a happy environment, we welcome everyone in the door," she says. "We’re not here to judge, we’re here to help you grow and to make music. We hope that this is where good things start and great things end."
As Scotto looks ahead to the new year and what she hopes is in store for her facility, she also can't help reflecting on what she has gotten out of it herself. Scotto clearly provided Gabriella with exactly what she needed to pursue a career in music, as the high school senior was just accepted into the songwriting program at Nashville's Belmont University. But Scotto is most thankful that her daughter voiced her desire to become a singer in the first place.
"I opened up a studio only because of watching a love and a passion from her. It’s [Gabriella] who's given me a whole new path at 53-years-old," she says. "This has been an eye-opening experience for me as a person who has not been in the business. To see what happens in a recording studio and to see the magic people make has been really cool. And I hope more people come in and understand that we built this because we wanted magic to happen -- and it’s happening."
The Chord Club is located at 207 East 94th Street in Manhattan, on the fifth floor. All photos courtesy of Chord Club Recording Studio.
The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.
To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.