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.