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People on campus: digital dynamo Craig Abaya

December 20, 2004

Photo of Craig Abaya"My wife calls me 'the man with five careers,'" says Craig Abaya, director of Digital Media and Entertainment Programs at the College of Extended Learning. As an award-winning songwriter, singer, musician, producer, filmmaker, Web designer and performing arts photographer, his work spans the worlds that make San Francisco one of the liveliest cities on the planet.

All of Abaya's talents come into play at his SFSU gig in which he creates and develops the digital recording, video and Web design courses offered at CEL. He makes it a personal goal to provide cutting-edge classes that give students hands-on experience. Not long ago, Abaya and students in the Digital Video Intensive program enjoyed the rare opportunity to shoot, edit and deliver an 80-minute concert video of rocker Bruce Hornsby that is now shown on DIRECTV and is part of Jet Blue airlines' in-flight entertainment.

"Anyone can take our classes," Abaya stresses. Many of his students are professionals in other fields who wish to make digital recordings or film. Others are industry professionals updating their recording skills. Recently Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Booker T. Jones (Booker T and the MG's), turned to the SFSU CEL music recording classes when he decided to cross the digital divide and ditch his analog system of sound mixing.

Technology in the digital field is constantly changing, fortunately, Abaya is good at spotting trends and addressing them with classes. "We're teaching a Digital DJ course," he says. "Believe it or not, 'turntablism' is now actually a word."

"Craig has helped our college think about the future of media in a way that matters to our students, faculty and industry partners," says Joaquin Alvarado, CEL's director of academic programs. "He brings a unique blend of real-world acumen and educational vision to his work."

Abaya also has a talent for forging partnerships with artists and corporations in the community who can provide the expertise and technology required to keep up with a changing technology. He recently secured help and/or equipment from companies like IBM, Cannon and Apple. Two recording classes were conducted by Grammy Award-winning producer Michael Rosen at Fantasy Studios.

"Our programs also give back to the community," says Abaya. Students in his Digital Video and Web Design Intensives have created promotional films and Web sites at no cost for Bay Area nonprofits including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, African Cultural Center, Jewish Vocational Services and Support for Families of Children with Disabilities. Someday Abaya hopes to arrange a master class in hip-hop DJ techniques for urban children. He has no doubt that soon technology will allow housebound students to participate in SFSU digital media classes online.

Abaya, who holds a special degree in multimedia from SFSU, maintains strong ties with the Cinema and Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) departments as well as the College of Business. Classes from the CEL Music Recording Industry and Digital Media Production programs can be taken by BECA and Cinema students. Abaya is currently talking with Business school faculty to integrate business students in the creation of a new record label produced by the music recording students.

Abaya is recording a CD of his own songs on his own label. Titled "The Fine Art of Politics," it will be released in 2005. He's reluctant to describe his music in any way that would pigeonhole it. When pressed he'll settle for "alternative rock." On his personal Web site, Abaya describes his musical influences as "eclectic" and describes himself as "vehemently non-partisan, devoutly Christian with a heavy dose of Taoism and the Chaos Theory."

Abaya, who grew up in San Francisco's Bernal Heights and Mission District,
has no plans to leave the Bay Area. He resides in South San Francisco with his wife, Danelle, their 6-year-old son, Declan and weeks-old daughter Marissa Anne. When asked what he hopes for his children, the "man with five careers" says he'll act as his parents did toward him. "As long as my children have a passion to do something, I'll support whatever it is."

-- Denize Springer

Note: This story also appears in the Dec. 20 edition of CampusMemo.


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