Monday, September 30, 2013

VPA Student Spotlight: Kevin Rocheleau

Kevin Rocheleau is a Junior majoring in Physics and Applied Mathematics.  Despite the fact that he hasn't declared a major or a minor (yet) within the Visual & Performing Arts Department, he has been heavily involved in the arts on campus during his college career.  He currently performs with the Chamber Choir, KSO, Pep Band, and Wind Symphony, and performed in Fiddler on the Roof last Spring.

1. How does your participation in the arts enhance your experience as a Physics Student?
Its what I do for fun. Its how I get away from classes. I've made a lot of friends through the arts here at Tech

2. What is the most important thing you have learned from your arts experiences at Tech?
If you love to do something, even if you aren't going to major in it, continue to do it. I know I don't want music as my career, but it's an integral part to my life.

3. What inspires you?
In terms of the arts, it was always my older siblings. They were also in band and choir all through elementary and high school. In particular, I always wanted to be like my older brother. That's how I got into the arts, and I've loved it ever since.

4. What advice would you give to other Tech students who want to participate in the arts?
Go ahead and do it. It is definitely worth the extra time and effort. You’ll get to meet a lot of great people, and they are all there because they want to be.

Monday, September 16, 2013

VPA Student Spotlight: Jonah Mueller

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

I love to compose music, and I'd say I got serious with it around 13.  Mostly it started with solo piano pieces, then branching out to guitar-orientated rock songs when I got my first electric guitar at 14. Naturally I wanted a method of preserving the sounds and songs I came up with, so I got an M-Audio FastTrack USB that came with Session, a multi-track digital audio program.  I was then able to get a full realization of what I was hearing in my head with many instruments.  I also soon realized that I loved the recording and mixing process as much as I love composing. So when the question "What do you want to do in college?" came up, I would say I want to be in the studio and become a skilled audio engineer. There aren't many schools with the degree in audio engineering, or the like, around where I live in Rochester, Minnesota, and I didn't want to go too far.  I found Michigan Tech by accident and noticed there was a Sound Design program. It seems a bit far away, but I saw and heard great things from Michigan Tech. So I applied, and, well, here I am!

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

I remember using one of the computers in the music lab and having an instant jolt of excitement from all of the software and plugins that were at my fingertips. A lot of the stuff is really expensive, so it was fantastic to be able to utilize them all for project for class as well as projects at my own. I felt as though my creativity increased immensely with all of the options.
Another thing would be that I got involved with live and theatre setup, something I wouldn't normally do. I like that the program pushes me in all directions so I can see all the aspects and applications of sound design.

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

In one class, I greatly improved my mixing and mastering abilities as it was basically a  "mixing bootcamp".  Every time we went over a new aspect of mixing, I went back to my previous personal projects and fixed them accordingly.  The improvement was amazing for all of my projects; they feel more legitimate, something I could actually use for a portfolio.  And from here on out, everything I do in Sound Design will have the foundation of everything I learned in this class.

4.  What inspires you?

The faculty.  Without them, I wouldn't be where I am right now, feeling confident in what I want to pursue.  Chris Plummer is a very knowledgeable teacher that I have learned a lot from in terms of sound design, not only from his lectures, but from his dedication to everything "sound".  Jared Anderson was my Music Theory I and II professor and my conductor for Concert Choir and currently my Chamber Choir conductor.  He is a brilliant man that I come to for any sort of composition troubles.  Libby Meyer, a composer herself, is someone I have also looked up to and hope to learn a lot from this year in Music Composition.  Really, everyone in the Visual Performing Arts Department, including the students, inspire me because of their honest enthusiasm of what they do.

5.  What are your goals after graduation?

At this point, I want to pursue a career in either film or video game scoring/composing/sound design. I am also interested in programming, so perhaps a career that is DSP, or digital signal processing, related.

6.  What advice would you give others hoping to major in Sound Design?
You can't go very far in this major if you don't love music or don't have intuition for creating.  And for those beginning to compose and create and for music in general: create to contribute, not to compete. It's all about the music.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

VPA Graduate Spotlight: David Nichols

David Nichols is a Tech Graduate in Sound Design and makes his living dreaming up car sounds for video games.
He will be visiting campus in October to speak with current sound students.
1.  Tell me about your work since graduating from Tech.
I graduated in December of 2010, but couldn't find meaningful work. So I started my website,, where I could write about car sounds, and interview with people who work with car sounds, both because it was an outlet for my passion and also because I hoped it would find me a job. Luckily, in early August of 2012, it worked! Nicholas Wiswell, audio director at Turn 10 studios (the video game studio that makes the Forza Motorsport franchise) contacted me and asked if I wanted to help with their next project. I excitedly said yes and moved out to Seattle. My job consists of studying and recording car sounds and then reproducing them within the confines of the game, which sounds a lot easier than it is! But the hard work is very fun and seeing a product I've worked so hard on make it to the public has been the most rewarding part.
2.  Why did you choose to major in Sound Design at Tech?
I knew from a very early onset that I wanted to do something related to audio, because I was fascinated with sound and with recording. I played a number of instruments but never had the "knack" for composition or performance, but I really enjoyed playing drums because of all the fun and weird sounds I could make. I initially looked at Tech for the Audio Engineering degree, but after researching what sound design was (I had never heard of it at the time) I felt it was more in-line with what I enjoy. I'm very glad I did, too -- sound design is the perfect blend (for me) of technical know-how with artistic freedom that works well with my personality.

3.  What is the most important thing you learned while at Tech?
There are a great many important things I learned at Tech, and my apologies to the faculty but very few of them came directly from the classroom. I learned the importance of self-sufficienty and working interdependently; I learned that networking is the key to success (particularly in this industry), and I learned that following the things you are truly passionate about, while quite difficult and frustrating at times, is ultimately more satisfying. I've also learned that living minimally and being flexible is of great benefit in the long term, and to treat each day as a small adventure because you never know what you're going to learn by the end of it.

4.  What inspires you?
The beauty of inspiration is that you can't ever know in advance what will be inspiring as long as you're willing to allow things to be. That said, for me there's nothing quite as invigorating as the sound of an engine at full throttle - there are so many intricate details to the sound of a vehicle and all of them are unique, much like human voices. I also draw a lot of strength from my wife and my son who are always supportive of me.

5.  How have your experiences at Tech influenced your current work?
One of the things I've appreciated most about Mr. Plummer's philosophy is that he embraces not being a technical school in that he does not just teach techniques; he encourages creative thinking and problem solving and self-discovery as opposed to just showing how to do things in given software. That ability to approach sound as wanting a certain change and using creative thinking with the tools in front of me has proved infinitely valuable, and for that I am very grateful.
6.  What is the most amazing thing you have done since graduating?
I think the most amazing thing related to my major is a recording project I started that was funded via Kickstarter. I wanted to learn how to record a car in the way that video games often do so that I was prepared for work in that industry, but I knew I didn't have the money for equipment or for shop time to accomplish it. So, with some motivation from some of the wonderful people on the Twitter #gameaudio tag, I came up with the idea of a Kickstarter campaign. Once I had committed to the idea, I started talking to everyone I knew about it. After just a month I had raised all the money I needed, and enough extra to hire a film crew to document the process! The recording session came out pretty well and I learned infinitely more than I expected to from the process. 

(See David's Kickstarter campaign by clicking here.)
7. What would be your advice to students choosing to major in Sound Design at Michigan Tech?

Make sure you're coming into sound design because you live and breathe sound. The job market is, let's be honest, tough to get into because there's more people coming in than there are positions. That might mean you're going to have to make your own position, or be very patient, and either of those options will be rough if you're not doing this because you love it. Also, do your homework but don't forget to explore the many sights and sounds of the Keweenaw and the surrounding area. You can learn quite a bit bringing a handheld recorder with some friends on a road trip to Copper Harbor and back. Also remember that inspiration is everywhere, but you have to allow it to be.