Decades worth of fond memories come rushing back when brothers Ryan and Rick Comte step inside the music studio their father built. But with his 2017 passing, the future of the business remains up in the air.
The Renee Sound Studio in David City was founded by Bud Comte. The local music legend also started the Bud Comte Orchestra, which actively performed for more than 31 years. The trumpet player has been inducted into the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, Wyoming Country Music Hall of Fame, Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The studio itself officially opened in the summer of 1989 in what was originally a blacksmith shop run by sculptor Floyd Nichols, the posthumously famous WWI knife maker. More than 360 records, 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs have been produced out of the studio.
But Ryan Comte said even before their father's passing at age 86, the studio's use had been greatly diminished due to modern technology.
“It’s not really so much a the passing of the torch that had anything to do with the demise of it. Really the torch has been passed 15 years before dad passed,” Ryan Comte said. “I wouldn't say this is dead, but it’s on life support, I guess. For the past 15 years, anybody who owns a computer has a recording studio.”
Currently, the studio is mainly used as a rehearsal space for various Comte family members and their bands. The last time the studio was contracted to record an artist was about a year ago by the Mark Vyhlidal Orchestra out of Fremont for its album, "The Early Years." For the last five years, the studio has been able to break even by doing CD duplication work.
Rick Comte said he'd like to see the studio get more use by becoming a practice space for local student music groups. As for paying customers, he said the studio has never advertised in newspapers, online on through social media platforms like Facebook. Most prior customers came from word of mouth or from Bud’s music connections. It's a possibility, he said, that they're looking into.
Regardless, he said he wants to keep the studio alive and in the family. It's possible the brothers could pass down the studio to one of their kids, nieces, nephews or future grandkids, but at the moment nothing is set in stone.
“It’s always been part of our family, whether it was us or dad or our kids. This holds a lot of sentimental reasons,” Rick Comte said. “The technical aspect and the sentimental aspect, we would both love to see it have more use and continue. We just don’t quite know how to go about it right now."
The studio will continue to be in operation, but Ryan and Rick said the family will need to have more conversations about what direction to take the business moving forward.
“It would be my wish that as long as I’m healthy, I can afford to keep running it. And if one of the boys or somebody I (know) that wanted to take it over, I’d be all for it. Because it’s a big part of our family,” Ryan Comte said. “If they’re interested enough to do it and interested enough to want to come record in it, I’m here.”
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at email@example.com.