The Sandblast Story


Sandblast Productions started with Ralph Kelsey, Loren Toolajian, and Michael Ungar, but the Sandblast story began long before, when Mike’s dad Harry wrote songs for his wife Manya to sing, songs that would come to be part of the Great American Songbook.  

Ralph’s parents bought him a small drum set when he was four years old, which led to lessons at ten, and a fire for playing percussion that never diminished.

For Loren, the first concert music he ever heard was Bach’s B Minor Mass.  The Kyrie changed him forever. His father, a concert singer, later introduced him, at age ten, to Igor Stravinsky.  His world turned upside down, and he’s been alive with and in music ever since.

In the mid-80s, Mike and Ralph found themselves together at Howard Schwartz Recording in NYC, audio posting, recording, sound-designing, and mixing.  Loren found himself as the program director at WQXR radio, also in the city, where he worked with Mike’s girlfriend. Mike came by the studio one day to visit, and soon Loren and Mike were playing the two grand pianos on the QXR stage. They’ve been making music ever since.

As Mike and Ralph started to meet more and more clients at HSR, the need for a creative services entity became ever clear, so Hum This Music was born:  an original music and services production company that added value to their existing clientele. While Mike and Ralph mixed and composed, LT composed, produced, and music-directed.

Soon after, the call came from Broadway Video to establish an audio post-production facility, and Mike & Ralph answered. Broadway Sound came to life with as they ran the company for seventeen years, while the re-named Sandblast Productions provided audio and music creative services.  It was a match made in heaven…..until it wasn’t.

So Loren, Mike and Ralph decided to build their own facility at 1650 Broadway.

That’s the simple story.  The bigger story is that these three musicians have found a way to  create a creative audio post-production environment where creative people can create. That was always the dream: build a place where people can collaborate, make stuff, explore, have fun, play.

Ralph plays percussion, sure, but also the guitar, the piano, and banjo.  Mike is an ethnomusicologist, a trumpet player, and multi-instrumentalist, which includes planetary gongs! Loren is primarily a pianist, but plays guitar and bass, too. Music has always been at the forefront of their creative process.  Why? Because everything starts with sound. Because we’re made of sound—we vibrate. And when those vibrations align, magic happens.  That’s what we’ve been curious about, and exploring, all these years. How to listen, and how to make music and sound, magical.

It’s why—besides mixing and sound-designing commercials, promos, films, and more—we wrote music for the greatest playwrights of the 20th century at Signature Theatre Company:  Romulus Linney, Lee Blessing, Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, Adrienne Kennedy, Maria Irene Fornes, Lanford Wilson, Regina Taylor, & Bill Irwin, to name a few.

It’s why we’ve produced concerts for the Count Basie Big Band, Branford Marsalis, & Take Six and interviewed artists like Keith Jarrett, Frank Zappa, Tony Bennett, and Betty Carter, among others.

It’s why we’ve recently interviewed and mixed shows for Dua Lipa, Rob Thomas, Jennifer Nettles, Sheryl Crow, Steve Vai, Cheap Trick, Joe Jackson, Southside Johnny, Muna, Dawes, and more.

And why we’re creating an original drama audio podcast series, producing songs for up & coming singer/songwriters, and conducting radio interviews at the Metropolitan Opera, the greatest opera house on the planet.  

Because in everything we do—audio post, sound design, music, radio & podcast production—there’s so much to explore, so much to hear, so much about which to be curious.

Come.  Play. Listen with us.  Let’s make magic together.