This profile is part of a series celebrating Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month at St. Petersburg College. Be sure to check out the full story to read more about the experiences of SPC students. To explore all of our degrees and credentials, visit spcollege.edu/degrees.
While in high school, Reily Cruz, 29, made plans to study for a career in aeronautical engineering. But after graduating and beginning studies towards that degree, he realized after only two semesters that it wasn’t his destiny. He was looking for his passion, and instead of finding it in science, he decided it lay in a different sort of engineering: music. In the fall of 2014, he heard about SPC’s Music Industry and Recording Arts (MIRA) program and attended an open house event.
“The college offered a degree in audio engineering, which lined up with what I decided to pursue in life: music production,” Cruz said. “Although aeronautical engineering offered financial security and other benefits, I couldn’t see myself being content with that career path years down the road. I believe that enrolling in the MIRA program over at SPC has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
The open house event left a good impression, and Cruz enrolled for classes in SPC’s MIRA program in the fall of 2015. Armed with only basic music knowledge, he started learning more about music production on a Digital Audio Workstation, and he began taking piano lessons to learn more about music theory.
“Other students had been playing music since grade school,” Cruz said. “I felt like I had to play catch-up. It was like learning a new language. Prior to the MIRA program, I would have to attempt to describe what I was hearing creatively in my head without having the proper level of musical jargon to explain ideas.”
Cruz said he was offered a wide variety of experiences throughout the program, many hands-on, which he says was integral to his learning.
“Providing students with a real-life experience in the field grants us a view into the world we’ll be soon head into,” he said. “I interned at the Palladium for a semester and got experience in a live setting. I was able to get studio experience at Creative World Recording, which is run by George Harris. I had a lot of fun and learned so much from him.”
Cruz graduated with an Associate in Science degree from the MIRA program with focus on production in 2019. Along the way, he earned the Audio Technology Certificate with a Production subplan. He recently produced his first record under the name Reily Ilo. He hopes to start his own record label. He said the credentials he earned at SPC have given him the knowledge and ability to start his career, along with the confidence to pursue his dreams.
“A lot of 17- and 18-year-olds get dropped the heavy question: ‘What do you want to do in life?’” he said. “A lot of us are overwhelmed by it because we are still experiencing the self-discovery process. MIRA provided me the confidence to venture off into the world and start my career.”