Thank you to Pacifica Tribune‘s Peter Tokofsky for this kind feature:
“When the Recording Academy released nominations for the 2024 GRAMMY® Awards last week, only dedicated music lovers who read all the way down the list would have found an album that is the pride of Pacifica-based Reference Recordings.… you will eventually reach the 80th category on the Academy’s list: “Best Engineered Album, Classical.” One of five nominees in this category is Mark Donahue who recorded, engineered and mastered a performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2022. Reference Recordings released the finished product last summer.
The recording of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Erwin Schulhoff’s haunting “Five Pieces for String Quartet” marks the latest release in a long collaboration between the Pittsburgh orchestra and the Pacifica label. The partnership grew out of the personal and professional relationship and respect between nominee Donahue and Keith O. Johnson, co-founder of Reference Recordings.
Between them, the two celebrated engineers have garnered 35 nominations and multiple Grammy wins. Their recognition in the field has added to the reputation of Reference Recordings, along with Boston-based Soundmirror where Donahue plies his craft, for creating listening experiences that offer “the best seat in the house.”…
Founder John Tamblyn Henderson Jr. moved the company here when it outgrew its original location in his San Francisco home. Though Henderson continues to enjoy the cool coastal weather, he stepped down as president of the company more than a decade ago and now serves as an adviser.
Over the decades, technical director Johnson has recorded and mastered more than 140 albums for Reference Recordings using innovative sound technology that often relies on his own inventions or his extensive modifications to existing equipment.…
“I look at our production team as artists just as much as the performers themselves,” said Janice Mancuso, sales and marketing director for Reference Recordings, as she explained the precise process that might last years from the time of the recording until delivery to consumers.
Despite the company’s growth over the decades into a standard-bearer for musical recordings, the Reference Recordings team remains relatively small and very much within the family. Executive Director Marcia Martin and engineer Johnson now enjoy the support of their son Marcus Johnson in the business office, while Martin’s son Sean Martin, himself a four-time Grammy nominee, represents a second generation of technical excellence.…”