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‘I want to work in this industry all my life’: Catching up with the next generation of pro audio

It is PSNLive’s custom to turn our attention to those behind the scenes, making their first steps on the pro audio industry ladder. In continuation from last week’s release of interviews, here are the rest of the talented bunch…

What we can see from this year’s diverse bunch of audio professionals is that the number of women in audio is growing, which is a positive sign for the industry. In the 2018 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, only two and three per cent of producers and engineers/mixers respectively in popular music were female-identifying. However, we’re hoping that the next report will have different, more balanced results as more and more women are pursuing audio as a career.

If you’re looking for audio engineers for work this summer, or in the future, organisations such as SoundGirls with its newly curated EQL directory and Women In Live Music are great resources where you can find an abundance of female audio professionals, varying in experience and abilities. The Association of Sound Designers is also another platform that showcases sound designers of all levels.

Also apparent is the speed at which audio technology, and it’s potential in live performance, is increasing, with the endless capabilities of immersive sound and experimental, innovative techniques of live audio professionals to produce dynamic effects never ceasing to impress. Here, we’re highlighting the efforts of seven industry pros that are building the next generation and have shared a fresh perspective with us, including their insight and experiences of the industry and hopes for the future.

BETH DUKE – SOUND DESIGNER

Age: 21

Job Title: Sound designer/ composer

Based: London

Employer: Freelance

Current Projects: Assistant sound design, War of the Worlds at The Old Metal Exchange, Associate sound design, Superstar at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Associate sound design, Goodbear at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sound/tech management, Sancho: An Act of Remembrance at Orange Tree Theatre, Sound design, 511 and Queen Margaret at Mountview, Sound design, Dust at New York Theatre Workshop, Casual at the National Theatre.

How did you get into this industry?

I studied Theatre Sound at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and began meeting and talking to lecturers and contacting sound designers whose sound design I liked when I went to see shows. My first job was for a small fringe new musical sound designing The State of Things for the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, a pub theatre in South London.

From then on, I got work from word and mouth, being recommended to people and ‘knowing people’. That’s largely how this industry works! That is why it is always important to make a lasting impression, or at least a good one… I got my first job at the National Theatre via a post in the Association for Sound Designers page and now I work there all the time!

Can you name some of your influences within the industry?

Females such as Helen Skiera and Melanie Wilson are some of my favourites, not just because they are women, but their well thought out, delicate sound designs are so inspiring and mood-felt. Women are so rare in this industry, and so it’s important to support them and go see their work as the future is happening and we’re finally being recognised as much as men are. Further, I love the work of the Ringham brothers and Ian Dickinson – they’re all such lovely people. Then again, I love most people’s sound designs – Gareth Fry, Pete Malin, Max Pappenheim, Peter Rice, Tom Gibbons…I could list them all.

What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?

“Take all of the work you get offered.” If you do that, you end up not giving everything your 101 per cent, it makes you stressed and tired. You are more important than everything. Take a lot of work you get offered…if it works with your schedule and with you.

And the best tips you’ve been given?

Give yourself breaks if you need it. Family and your health are more important than everything else. People are understanding as long as you don’t let them down.

What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in?

I love meeting and working with a wide variety of people: the rich and famous, creatives, people from different social backgrounds, people from different ethnic backgrounds, etc, etc. This community is so collaborative and vast, and I am so happy to work in an environment that can show off the talents of everyone regardless of who they are. The sound design industry is such a supportive community, everyone is there to help you out and teach you what you want and need to know. There is nobody that I know of that doesn’t like giving knowledge if you need anything. I know a variety of high-end sound designers that I could call with a question and they’d help me then and there.

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

Time management. I like pleasing everyone and hate saying no to jobs. Sometimes I end up working Monday to Sunday with no break, do that for a few weeks, and then begin to burn out. One day I’ll learn a balance…I hope.

What interests do you have outside of audio?

I play musical instruments such as the piano, and they keep me sane at most times. I love creating music and turning my brain off to the world. I also enjoy running and exercising, but this can be difficult to do when it gets into tech weeks. Looking after yourself, in general, is hard to do with those 13 hour days.

What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick?

Listen to everything and go to shows. Always ask questions – nothing is ever stupid – and keep learning.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

I hope to be sound designing bigger shows in London… we’ll see how that pans out. I’d like to be a known face and name and hopefully teaching people in the future, helping just as much as others have helped me.

MAGGY SANTIAGO – TOUR MANAGER

Age: 29

Job Title: Sound engineer, manager, and event producer

Employer: Killsound ProductionsCurrent Projects: Nexus (European tour 2019) Killsound metal fest 2019, Poland.

How did you get into this industry?

Since I was a little kid, I always had a special love for music and I like all the elements of show business. My first approach to the industry was helping some friends as they had a small concert company. I started there and discovered that my passion was backstage.

Can you name some of your influences within the industry?

Some of my influences are Max Martin, Sylvia Massy, Gordon Raphael, Roger Waters, Andrea Bocelli and many more.

What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?

“You can’t do it because you are a woman.” This is the worst advice I have ever heard, but it also made me stronger and able to fight the obstacles of this industry, and in my life.

And the best tips you’ve been given?

“Try to have order in everything you do.” This advice was given to me by a sound engineer because when I was studying audio and working at the same time, I made a big mess on stage with the mic lines. He told me that big tip and ordered me to fix the mess. It’s a funny story…

What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in?

Everything: logistics, production, sound. Learning every day, and working with a variety of people, especially when they are your favourite artists, is absolutely amazing.

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

The biggest challenge I’ve had is finding opportunities in this industry, as sometimes it is very exclusive and closed off to the outside. Even now, with the progress I’ve experienced, discrimination against women still exists and for that reason, it’s more difficult for me. The important thing is to stay on the road and not give up.

What other interests do you have outside of the world of audio?

Other interests I have are event production, concerts, management and booking, cinematography, photography and design. I love the arts in general.

What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick?

“Always be humble, even if you are famous.” This advice will help you not just in the industry, but in your life and future more than anything. You should never lose the floor beneath you.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

Working with my favourite artists or bands on tour in Europe or the UK. I think this part of the world has the best sound and production. I want to work in this industry all of my life.

 

DAVE NOTT – TECHNICAL MANAGER

Age: 34

Based: Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Job Title: Technical manager and head of sound

Employer: Gordon Craig Theatre

Current projects: Planning, speccing, and studying the feasibility of creating a new 1,100 seat venue space. Production managing, associate sound designing and production engineering various pantomimes. Production engineer for a performing arts school at the O2 Indigo.

Notable achievements: Building a venue from scratch in a disused factory.Awards/nominations: Our team was nominated for Best Receiving House Crew in the Technical Theatre Awards, and won Best Pantomime under 750 Seats at Great British Pantomime Awards.

How did you get into this industry?

I was 14 when I joined a local amateur group and had a big interest in stage crew and lighting. I soon started lighting designing and operating their shows. After a few years, I was offered a freelance job in outdoor events, installing temporary telephones, LED Screens, generators, fire extinguishers, two-way radios, and 100v line PAs on various showgrounds and events around the UK: Southampton Boat Show, Windsor Horse Show, and The Game Fair to name a few. I then asked the tech manager of the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, at the time, Nigel Howlett, for a casual job on its pantomime. And that’s where my professional career in theatre started, being told I was follow-spotting a 10-week panto was a bit daunting for my first role (one of the longest-running pantos in the UK) but I was called back a few days later and offered a stage crew role, which I was far more comfortable with.

Within two years, I had been promoted to deputy chief technician and head of sound, operating all of the in-house musicals and the panto.

Despite still being at the same venue 17 years later and progressing through to tech manager, I have kept my toes in the water by still mixing the in-house summer musical, and kept up with the rest of the industry through events and freelance work. I’ve been associate sound designing and production engineering for a few performing arts schools, including building a new venue from scratch inside a disused factory and operating many pantomimes across South England. I’ve also recently started working as a freelance health and safety trainer and consultant in the theatre industry.

Can you name some of your influences within the industry?

My main influences are the people who have given me the opportunity to grow in the industry, putting trust in me from day one. Bob Bustance, Nigel Howlett, Luke Hyde and Ron Keech. Without them, I either wouldn’t be where I am today and met the contacts I now have in the pro audio and theatre world or wouldn’t have started in the industry at all.

And the best tips you’ve been given?

To ignore the missed line or mistake and focus on the show. Don’t let that one clipped line affect the rest of the scene, then apologise afterwards.

What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in?

The people. This industry thrives on the personalities and characters, good and bad. Without the passion that everyone gives, this industry wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is right now.

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

One of the biggest challenges I face is people management, and keeping everyone motivated and working at the top of their game. Everyone works, learns and performs in unique ways, and it’s a hard task keeping everyone happy and motivated when there is such a diverse team. It’s a skill to manage everyone in their own unique way and recognising how to get the best from people as individuals.

Another one is keeping the audience happy. What sounds great to one person may sound awful to
another. It’s sometimes hard to find a balance where the complaints don’t get you down, and you can still focus on the show in hand and give the people that appreciate it the best show night after night.

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