“The audio industry is an interesting domain; the new technology makes it very exciting, and I want to contribute to building a solid working basis for everybody involved. Passing on my knowledge is a passion.” That’s how Gert Vreys, director and coordinator of Audioschool in Sint-Niklaas, summarises his mission.
Vreys (pictured), who studied sound, image and editing at RITS School of Arts, specialised as an audio engineer while working as system tech with rental company ALC. “I grew a passion for both audio and teaching, passing on my knowledge,” explains Vreys. “There weren’t too many specialised classes or training sessions.”
Last December, Vreys – after six years of teaching at the Light and Audio Academy (Licht en Geluid Opleidingen, LGO), a private initiative offering specific training for live staffers – launched Audioschool as education and training centre. “LGO remains a main partner in the project, but I wanted to broaden my horizon,” says Vreys, adding that, in comparison with the three-year academic courses at local high school PXL Limburg, Audioschool wants to offer an alternative by focussing on specific aspects of live and studio audio. “Classes on monitor mixing or Ableton Live are quite specialised – and, although some PXL teachers are trained sound engineers who also teach at Audioschool, we eye a different target group,” he adds. “We’re an alternative and complement rather than competition to PXL.”
Audioschool’s courses include a wide range of workshops – for “absolute beginners” to professional system engineers – on topics such as wireless audio, studio engineering, electronics and maintenance and a crash course on the the aforementioned Ableton Live. Each course, with objectives, a detailed description and the required skills, is promoted via the school’s regular e-newsletter and on social media.
Audioschool students are offered a comprehensive syllabus and the opportunity to train on hardware in practical classes. Through its partnership with LGO, and collaboration with audio distributors, Audioschool enjoys logistical backup in terms of equipment. “In addition, we work together with Syntra, a government-funded education network with 24 campuses in Flanders,” continues Vreys. “They provide the classrooms in their Sint -Niklaas campus for both theory and practical courses.”
For specific training, like the recent five-day course on PA System optimisation, Vreys found a valuable partner in audio company Face: their demo room was the perfect environment for the masterclass, with speakers, line arrays and consoles. “But as Audioschool, we want to remain as independent as possible,” underlines Vreys. “Many brands also offer dedicated training for their products, [but] we focus on the practical use of the equipment.”
Keeping the classes affordable was one of the challenges for Audioschool – working without subsidies or ‘employment cheques’ urges Vreys to carefully calculate the courses. A transparent system, with the bulk of the expenses split by the number of participants, keeps the project financially viable.
At press time, Audioschool was offering the course ‘Monitors with Beo’ at Syntra’s Sint-Niklaas campus. Audio engineer Beo is a professional monitor mixer with over 20 years’ experience, and currently on tour with artists like Arno, Arsenal and The Scabs. Together with the wireless audio course, Monitors with Beo – for which Beo devised the syllabus – is among the most popular classes. “This monitor course really starts from scratch,” says Beo. “We have experienced engineers sitting next to the city’s environmental maintenance worker, [who was] recently promoted to sound engineer in a cultural centre…They both benefit from the course in their own way. We keep close pace with the latest technology, and each handout includes an extra USB stick with additional information, white papers and audio fragments for training.”
Today, Audioschool employs seven instructors, including Vreys, specialising in audio, software and studio classes. Courses are in Dutch, but French classes can be provided on demand. Vreys concludes: “Plans are to substantially expand the course package, but finding the best teachers is the challenge: they must combine the ability and motivation to bring their craftsmanship to the class with thorough knowledge of the equipment.