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.