Monday, April 21, 2014

VPA Graduate Spotlight: Mitchell Schuh

Mitchell Schuh: VPA alumnus in Audio Production and Technology

1. Tell me about your work since graduating from Tech.

My career has taken me through multiple jobs (and many, many more opportunities) that have challenged me and been on the edge of our industries expectations for technology and integration. I’ve worked with Ken in the Middle East (with slightly different experiences and projects), have worked in Morocco, South Korea, Montreal, and all over the US (NYC, New Jersey, Baltimore, Boston, Orlando, Dallas, LA, Seattle, Detroit). My work centers around control systems for entertainment. This translates to me using my background in audio, theater, and engineering to design systems (what hardware, how to connect it) and program the brain that makes all of the subcomponents talk to each other. An example of this would be that when attending a museum, you go up to an exhibit and push a button. That button is connected to a system that controls what that exhibit will do and how it will react. This idea scales up to management of the equipment (starting up in the morning, shutting down at night, notifying of failures, etc) as well as very, very large scale systems. We ( are known for our large scale video wall playback systems so I’m specializing in that even more, although the techniques and ideas are mostly the same.

Some of the projects that I was lead control systems designer and programmer:
New York Stock Exchange VIP Entrance and Trading floor video system, Downtown Manhattan, NYC
Bain Capital lobby, Boston, MA
For McHenry National Museum, Baltimore, MD

2. Why did you choose to major in Audio Production Technology at Tech?

I have always been drawn to the intersection of the technical and creative aspects of sound and show systems. To be able to pursue a degree with the rigors of an engineering background yet still maintain the nuance that resides in any creative process was a perfect fit for my abilities and desires.

Also, the winter. :)

3. What is the most important thing you learned while at Tech?

I was involved with many, many different student organizations including directing the Pep Band, managing Sound and Lighting Services, on the Rozsa Tech Crew, and other smaller ensembles and groups. All of these, paired with the classroom and lab experiences of the program, taught me how to interact with various groups. It is critically important to be able to translate different people's intentions to other parties in almost all aspects of what I do on a daily basis.

4. What inspires you?

One of my projects, the Universal SuperStar Parade, includes many favorite children’s stories (Despicable Me, Sponge Bob, Hop, and Dora the Explorer). Almost every opportunity I get, I’ll watch the children’s reactions to seeing their favorite TV star riding past them. The excitement that they express from seeing something that I put so much effort into makes every minute of hard work worth it. In general, seeing people use and enjoy my work. It’s the same feeling that creative people get upon seeing people enjoy their music or their art.

6. What is the most amazing thing you have done since graduating?

By far, the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.
LAX - Case Study from Moment Factory on Vimeo.

It features some of the most integrated and largest video walls in the world with a deployment of tons of new technology for our field. The primary goal of the system is to have as low of downtime as possible due to it being very, very high priced advertising. Because of this, we can literally lose power to half of the system and everything will continue to operate normally. It’s also absolutely massive. Over 1.5 olympic sized swimming pools of video screen LEDs and a video playback system that is larger and more complex than most TV stations.

7. What would be your advice to students choosing to major in Sound Design or Audio Production Technology at Michigan Tech?

Don’t be afraid to shape your own future. Take the courses, choose the major that will help you get to your goal even if it’s not exactly what the ‘normal’ is.

Friday, April 4, 2014

VPA Graduate Spotlight: Ben Boeshans

Ben Boeshans graduated from Michigan Tech with a major in Audio Production & Technology.

1. Tell me about your work since graduating from Tech.

Since graduating from Tech, I’ve worked for Acoustic Dimensions in Dallas designing sound systems. The company designs audio, lighting, video, acoustics, rigging and several other aspects of any spaces where a performance is held. My role in designing systems has been to meet with clients to understand their wants needs and then transform them into a system that meets their needs.

2. Why did you choose to major in Audio Production and Technology at Tech?

I chose the program because it has a unique application of Electrical Engineering Technology and live sound. When I was looking for a program (and likely still now) most programs available either concentrated on studio sound or EET and not a combination of both.

3. What is the most important thing you learned while at Tech?

It’s certainly hard to pinpoint a single thing that I learned. I think it was the value of learning from and working with as many people as possible. Classes are of course important, but learning from the different groups that toured through - talking to their crews and seeing how they did things has been invaluable. Learning to absorb and process information from several viewpoints has been a great asset.

4. What inspires you?

I’m inspired to solve problems. How can I make speech work in a reverberant space? How can I enhance fan experience at a hockey game? I appreciate when a project comes together and a client is able to utilize their space unlike they have before because of a solution that we were able to put forth.

5. How have your experiences at Tech influenced your current work?

Tech provided a foundation of information I could use as a springboard. Software changes, products change but the process of learning both doesn’t. Speaker technologies and products change, but the physics of sound doesn’t.

6. What is the most amazing thing you have done since graduating?

The amazing things I’ve done all center around the experiences I’ve helped to create. From Formula 1 to college hockey to churches all of the projects have created amazing experiences for those who enter the space.

7. What would be your advice to students choosing to major in Sound Design or Audio Production and Technology at Michigan Tech?

Get involved in anything sound you can - don’t let an opportunity pass you by.

Friday, March 21, 2014

VPA Student Spotlight: Daniel Grayvold

Daniel Grayvold, a Sound Design major, recently received a Regional Sound Design Award for his non-realized design of  the play "Royal Hunt of the Sun."

1. Why did you choose to major in Sound Design at Tech?

Sound and the technology behind it has always been a passion of mine. Michigan Tech naturally has a focus on this, and I found what they teach to be congruent with what I wanted to learn. I also like the style of education that the Visual and Performing Arts department employs; the faculty does a lot of hands-on teaching and allows for creative freedom with the work we do. All of this made coming to Tech a no-brainer.

2. What has been your favorite part of working in Sound Design?

The ability to work with other students and see how they tackle problems has been fantastic. I’ve learned so much just by observing what others do and thinking about how I could apply that to my own projects. There is never a dull moment in the VPA department, and that above everything else keeps me enthusiastic.

3. What is the most important thing you have learned in your major?

Experimentation is the key. There is always a new sound just to be found, and by trying new things and coming at a problem from different angles you can often find a solution that is both unique and wonderful. Some of my best ideas have come from this, just trying out something that seemed silly at the time.

4. What inspires you?

Other people never cease to amaze me with what they can come up with. But it’s not just that—I find inspiration in nearly everything. Even something that originally appears mundane can cause a spark and give me an idea for my next project. I remember a sound workshop that I went to in high school. A friend of mine and I created a song in our free time just because we were inspired by the sound of a coin dropping onto a table. Any time I hear a new perspective in sound or music, I am reminded of why I chose to do what I do.

5. What are your goals after graduation?

My ultimate goal is to become a movie composer, but I’d like to work as a filmmaker, too. Movies have always captured my imagination and I want to someday take part in creating that same wonder for others.

6. What advice would you give others hoping to major in Sound Design?

Never be afraid to try something new and unexpected. Be yourself, no one can do that better. Speak up when you think that you have a good idea, and give people a good reason to remember you. You never know when that random person you meet will be impressed with your work and offer you a job.

Monday, February 10, 2014

VPA Student Spotlight: Kate Van Susante

Kate Van Susante has a dual major in Theatre & Electronic Media Performance, and in Scientific & Technical Communications, Digital Media Emphasis. She comes to Tech already holding Bachelors and Masters degrees in Vocal Performance. Last semester, she was seen playing the role of Kate in Brighton Beach Memoirs, and this semester she will be seen in our upcoming production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.

1. Why did you choose to major in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance at Tech?

I always wanted to major in theatre. I initially got degrees in music performance because I was offered scholarship money, but my first love was acting on the stage. When my husband got a job here at Tech, I jumped at the chance to go back to school in theatre. I was particularly drawn by the unique use of technology offered by the department. I've seen schools that offer degrees in acting for screen and voice over work, and I've seen schools offer acting for stage, but this was the first time I'd seen the combination. Having a solid base in diverse styles of acting is really important if you want to maximize your opportunities for work.

2. What has been your favorite part of working in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance?

I have to pick just one? People and learning. Being on stage with a variety of students and community members, learning from everyone. I don't think there is a single person from whom I haven't learned something. It's exhilarating when I think of it.

3. What is the most important thing you have learned in your major?

I have learned to be more comfortable with myself. I've been a very self-conscious person my whole life, and hated listening to myself sing, seeing videos of myself doing anything. I had to learn the hard way (and it was really tough), and it's still a work in progress, but I am now able to listen and watch without focusing on ME...instead focusing on fixing or tweaking my PERFORMANCE which is the point of the whole thing. As Popeye said, "I yam what I yam."

4. What inspires you?

Sometimes it seems like everything! I'm inspired by great performances, whether on stage, screen or even athletics. I'm inspired by every day things - the ability to create a beautiful garden or craft or cook. Sometimes it's just watching people interact with each other. My fellow VPA students often inspire me, and astonish me by how positive and hard working they are. They do some really amazing things, whether they're big or little, and I can see the difference it makes to a performance or a project. I guess a simple, one word answer would be creation. Creation inspires me.

5. What are your goals after graduation?

Ooh, the tough question. I have so many goals! I want to stay working on stage, but I'd also like to delve further into voice over work. I've discovered I really enjoy that. I participated in filming the local indie film "Mutt," and I'd like to do more movie work. Mostly my major goal is to act, no matter what the medium.

6. What advice would you give others hoping to major in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance?

Come prepared to work hard, but don't be surprised that it doesn't always seem like hard work! Be fearless, ask questions, ask for and give support, have fun.

Monday, January 20, 2014

VPA Student Spotlight: Eponine Zenker

Eponine Zenker is a Chemistry major at Michigan Tech, with a minor in music. She is heavily involved in Tech performance groups, having participated in Pep Band, Wind Sympony, Concert Choir, conScience, and in several of our musical theatre productions.

1. Why did you choose to minor in Music at Tech?

I chose to minor in Music at Tech because I have been doing music my whole life and absolutely love it but I know the job possibilities are very slim when you make music your entire career path. By minoring in music I can still explore the field and grow in my music knowledge without having to limiting myself to only music. Plus it keeps me sane while majoring in Chemistry!

2. How does a minor in the arts enhance your experience as a Tech Chemistry student?

A minor in the arts enhances my experience as a Tech Chemistry student because it gives me an outlet to relax and de-stress while still learning and growing. There are also applications between the two subjects which I especially noticed while taking Music Theory. Both subjects are sciences and arts, so I really benefit a lot from taking courses in both topics.

3. What is the most important thing you have learned from your art experiences at Tech?

The most important thing I have learned from my art experiences at Tech is that no matter what major you are, where you are from in the world, what kind of family background you came from, how old you are, or how popular you may or may not be you are so important! Everybody matters in art – every one voice, one instrument, one actor, one techie is so crucial to making the big picture whatever it may be.

4. What inspires you?

I am inspired by other musicians and the music they create! I never walk away from a concert without thinking about how I need to practice or what kind of music I could write based off the feelings I experienced during the performance. My peers inspire me as well as professionals – you don’t have to be famous to make amazing art.

5. What are your goals for after graduation? How will your arts minor help you achieve those goals?

After graduation I would like to go into forensic analysis but I would also like to teach music on the side. My arts minor will help me achieve these goals because I will have my music activities to demonstrate that I am well-rounded which employers love to see and I will have credentials to help me get students in order to teach private lessons.

6. What advice would you give to other Tech students who want to participate in the arts?

Do it! It is more time and hard work but it is so very worth it. Whatever aspect of the arts you want to participate in will benefit you in the long run. There are so many parallels between my studies in the arts and my life outside of my minor that I never anticipated. It’s a commitment but you will make great connections and you will explore and enhance your creativity! Don’t be afraid that you’re not good enough either – you will have a whole new arts family to support you and help you to achieve your very best.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

VPA Student Spotlight: Christopher Trevino

Christopher Trevino is a Sound Design major at Tech and is currently studying abroad in Japan.

1. Why did you choose to major in Sound Design?

Admittedly, I initially stumbled into sound design by deciding to take VPA elective classes during the summer to help me cope with my first year at Tech. I never knew the major even existed prior to taking Chris Plummer’s sound design class that summer. Music, though, especially for video games, is something that I had been passionate about since I was a kid but I never had the conviction in my own skill to pursue it as a major. My experience in Chris’s class was so positive that I immediately decided to change my major to sound design.

Michigan Tech’s sound design program teaches you so much more than just being a sound designer. I feel like I’m truly gained a holistic education—in the rare sense of the word. Chris gets to know every student and works with them to build their individual strengths and weaknesses. He emphasizes teaching each of us how we learn so that we may become more mature and independent people while simultaneously learning how to work with others. Because of this and so much more, Chris has become one of the most influential teachers in my life.

2. What has been your favorite part of working in Sound Design?

My favorite part of this program is its social environment. The VPA department as a whole has honed a culture that fosters mutual respect between students and faculty while embracing playfulness and a solid work ethic. There’s an objective in one of my class’s syllabi that really sums it up well, “to have fun—that sort of fun that is a wicked amount of work.”

I feel that the faculty, especially, are very enthusiastic about the work they do and are constantly striving to work together to achieve personal goals. As a result of this, many unique opportunities arise in this program that are beneficial to students. Some of the more recent things include: special lectures by soundscape ecologist Dr. Bernie Krause, developing a performer-flying curriculum and creating our own experimental flying/dance theater shows, hosting a concert and master workshop with Eric Whitacre—a famous contemporary composer, and bringing in Meyer Sound to do professional workshops.

3. What is the most important thing you have learned in your major?

This program has taught me how to think more critically and intelligently about creativity and problem solving. There are constantly changes happening in the industry that make certain skills obsolete, be it through new equipment, changing standards or updated software. Honing a mentality, the ways and intent to which you approach a problem, is something that is far more valuable in that it informs every aspect of your life—professional or not. This sound design program has made me more than just a sound designer; it has helped me become a more engaged person.

4. What inspires you?

Passionate people inspire me the most. Beautiful art, new places, a great story and many other things also inspire me, but being in the presence of people who, themselves, are inspired and passionate for something in life is different. It’s so potent. Passion is an infectious energy that can lead to monumental changes. Throughout my time in the VPA, I have been blessed by having many passionate teachers and peers who have inspired me to strive for and achieve things that I never imagined possible.

5. Can you take a moment to talk about what you’re up to right now?

Currently, I am studying Japanese abroad in Japan through the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. When I was a kid, I bonded with my siblings over many Japanese video games—which sparked a long-time interest in both Japanese culture and sound for video games. While I am in the country, I am also recording a collection of sounds that are unique to Japan as a part of the Gilman scholarship offered by the U.S. Department of State that I received to study abroad.

Field recording has become a specialty of mine while at Michigan Tech. I’ve gained a lot of experience in field recording through my classes and the two summer internships I’ve had at The Detroit Chop Shop, where I worked on 5 different professional sound effects libraries. I try to integrate my own recordings into the sound design work I do at Michigan Tech as much as possible.

I plan to professionally record and produce this Japan library and then release it into the creative commons upon my return to America. It is my hope that this will become a valuable resource to other sound designers and act as a point of discussion for me to meet other professionals.

6. What are your goals after graduation?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a guy with many crazy plans. My first major goal after graduation is to become a sound designer and voice actor in video games. I enjoy the creative potential and technical challenges presented by interactive and generative audio. I also hope to integrate my Japanese language skills into my work as well. With that said, I love exploring and could easily see myself traveling the world for soundscape research and field recording if the opportunity presents itself. There are too many things I want to do in my life and that is a problem that I will happily live with.

7. What advice would you give others hoping to major in Sound Design?

You need to truly devote yourself to your education and open your mind to the new worlds being presented to you. With that said, though, education is not about the grades. It’s about being passionate and allowing yourself to grow as a person. My advice to anyone going into sound design—really just college in general—is this: don’t obsess on your grades; obsess on the concepts and ideas. By all means, you should pass your classes but always be cognizant that the real life lessons aren’t always in the grading rubric. Have fun, make friends and goof off. While you’re doing that, don't forget to challenge yourself to always push beyond your comfort zone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

VPA Student Spotlight: Dollcie Webb

Dollcie Webb is a Sophomore at Michigan Tech majoring in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance
1. Why did you choose to major Theatre and Electronic Media Performance?

 I chose to become an actress because I couldn’t see myself doing something else and still being happy with that path. It was a last minute, rash decision that I credit Roger Held, Patricia Helsel, Jared Anderson, and Chris Plummer for. The summer before my senior year of high school, I had applied to NMU, Carthage, and a local community college for business management with a minor in music. Then I applied to Michigan Tech to appease my family. It was the absolute last place on earth I wanted to go, being a 35 minute drive from home. They figured since I did well in math and excelled in science throughout high school, I would be doing myself a favor if I chose a path that bordered along engineering. When high school started up again I began receiving acceptance letters. This left me even more confused than I had been when applying to college. Next I had to choose one and go! But how was I supposed to do that? Which one would be the best for me? Which school would take me in the direction I wanted to go? What was the direction I wanted to go in? I was lost and so I sat and waited. I refused to make a decision until either a) the last minute or b) something profound happened to help me with my decision. Thankfully the latter happened long before the former. I ended up changing my major before I walked onto campus freshman year.

2.  What has been your favorite part of working in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance?
Getting to fly and creating my own commercials, acting in radio dramas and recording audio books. If I had to choose, those would be the things I pick. I love learning new skills and getting to utilize them in significant ways.

3.  What is the most important thing you have learned in your major?

It’s difficult to say. I've learned so much since I first started and every day I’m here I learn something new. When I started, I had no idea what I was in for. I never thought that I would ever get to fly. Last year I got to fly. This coming semester I’m going to learn silks. So I mean, it’s hard to narrow it down on what the most “important” thing is.

4.  What inspires you?

Many of my peers inspire me. Watching them grow, face obstacles and overcome them encourages me. The metamorphosis that we undergo through the course of our college careers is reminiscent of the rehearsal process of putting a show together. We fine tune our skills and find new ones we didn't know we had possessed. Watching the people around me transform motivates me to evaluate myself to see how I've changed this last year and a half. It also makes me look forward to the coming years and what changes they will bring.

5.  What are your goals after graduation?

Oh goodness. My goal is to get into voiceover work for animated films. 
I've loved them since childhood and it would be something I would receive a lot of joy out of. I can’t think of anything more fun! I’ll probably move to a larger city to pursue stage acting but I’m going to stick close to voiceover work. I’m less concerned with the destination than I am of the journey itself. If I have my way it’ll be filled with all of the things I love.

6.  What advice would you give others hoping to major in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance?

Don’t hold back. If you’re convinced this is for you, then go for it! Give it your all so at the end of the day, as you lie in bed pondering all the things you've done, you know you've given it your best shot. I think that could be the worst thing: trying to fall asleep with “what if I’d done it this way?” or “I should've tried harder” running through your head. Your success is directly affected by your work effort. Your self-worth is directly affected by your actions or lack thereof. Two distinct, important concepts that you have control over.