Don Ringhofer: Tuned In to Jacksonville Musicians

by Mike Bernos
Three years ago Don Ringhofer was bored. As an engineer for large computer company, he could do his job sleepwalking, and the travel had him on a first name basis with Delta flight attendants. So he decided to pursue his passion– music. Realizing that he was one of many talented drummers scattered throughout the Jacksonville music scene, he knew that his best chance to turn his passion into profit was to create a first class rehearsal studio for Jacksonville musicians.
In 2010, Stay Tuned Studios, located off Phillips on Florida Mining Boulevard, is now recognized locally and nationally. Featuring five smartly designed, fully equipped, sound-proof rehearsal studios ranging from 14’ by 14’ to 30’ by 17’, the facility has become home to a number of Jacksonville musicians seeking the convenience and refuge of a plug-and-play arrangement.
“Each studio has top of the line bass and guitar amps, sound system and drum sets,” says Ringhofer, who, along with his operations manager, Tanya Kroeber, makes sure all the studio equipment is fully functional and customers have what they need.
During the last three years, Ringhofer has seen over 500 bands come through Stay Tuned Studios, confirming the original hunch that gave birth to his business plan.
“The Jacksonville music scene is phenomenal filled with a lot of talented musicians and diverse music,” says Ringhofer, who also plays drums for bluesman Kevin Marcus Dillon. “There are musicians of all genres who practice at the studio. We have alternative, funk, jazz, hard rock, metal, R&B, hip hop, gospel, and singer songwriters, as well as churches and school choirs.”
He says that Jacksonville offers many great bands and much original music and wishes there were more venues for certain genres.
“The original music I hear is very good and the cover bands are critical enough to make sure what they play is right,” he says. “But there are a limited amount of places to play for such genres such as Blues and Jazz. That seems ironic considering we have a great music school at UNF.”
According to Ringhofer, several high-profile stars have come through the studio’s doors, such as Shinedown, Fantasia and Black Kids.
“Last year I got a call from VH-1 saying they wanted to shoot one of Fantasia’s rehearsals for her new CD, Back To Me. Sure enough in one of the first episodes of her reality show, Fantasia was shown rehearsing in Studio E.” Ringhofer says her sessions have been so productive that she has recommended other bands to rehearse at the studio.
Ringhofer says Stay Tuned Studios has become a sanctuary for musicians seeking creative inspiration as well as for guys looking for place to jam on the weekends.
“We provide both,” he explains, “Nearly all the bands that come here are serious about their music and to them their studio is their cocoon. But there are also those guys to whom getting together to play music among just themselves is like bowling night or card night.”
Stay Tuned Studios also provides recording and sound for its customers as well.
“We have a unique niche in the recording side of the business,” Ringhofer says. “We provide high-quality, multi-track live demo recordings, which is necessity for bands to be hired. With CD duplication we can provide them a complete package.”
He also says he is hired by many bands to run live sound, as well as providing it for charities such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Boobapolooza, an annual event to benefit breast cancer research.
This year he signed up Stay Tune Studios to be the sponsor for the first annual Jacksonville Video Music Revival, which brought many submissions and a large audience to the 5 Points Theater.
Ringhofer has gotten a reputation for being a trusted advisor providing sound feedback to bands. “He’s a straight shooter and he is not going to make any promises that he can’t come through on,” says Tom Wilson, whose band, Bad Oyster, has been rehearsing at Stay tuned Studios since it opened.
Asked if he would have done it any differently during the past three years, Ringhofer says, “Other than getting more sleep the answer is no. I believe what we’ve done here is needed in Jacksonville. I think we’ve done it right –we kept it very affordable, clean, and top-of-the-line new equipment and I think that formula keeps musicians coming back.”