by Anna Michel (Theatre, ’14)
I was incredibly surprised by the wonderful experience I had in Fort Worth, Texas and the 2014 USITT National Conference. While I will attempt to write a brief abstract of my experience, I would be more than happy to talk about it! I would like to extend my thanks to the Gustavus Theatre and Dance department for supporting my trip to Texas.
Though there were many appealing sessions listed, I spent most of my time in the sound lab. This was the second semi-annual sound lab, so it was really fun to be a part of that learning process. In fact, I have been asked to review my experience as a student with the three mentors from the week and to help plan the next sound lab! I look forward to future collaboration with the sound commission and hopefully I will be able to continue attending the conference after graduation (yikes!).
The first session I attended was “Launching a Career in Entertainment.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wanted to go just to see what professionals in the entertainment industry are looking for. I found that taking Documentation at Gustavus has put me ahead of the curve in that regard, especially when it comes to cover letters and resumes. One key piece of information the presenters kept repeating was to talk to other people in the company and see how they feel about their specific job at that company, for example the box office employees or ushers. This will give you a better idea of whom the company is hiring and how they treat their employees.
I also went to two sessions on managing your peers and technical people. Once again, I felt like much of these two lectures was repetition from my previous leadership training, but it was helpful to hear it as reinforcement and encouragement. Some of the things I was reminded of include the fact that efficiency is subjective, safety is not. I am known in the scene shop for reminding people to wear safety gear when operating power tools, and I know some people get annoyed by that, but I have experienced too many accidents and near-accidents to care about being someone’s friend before making sure they are safe in the shop. A phrase from the session about managing technical people that has stuck with me is, “I’m new at this, but this is my job, so help me and teach me.” I like this because it’s humbling, but commands respect for yourself and the people with whom you are working. There is always going to be someone who knows more than you, but there is also something I can bring to the table, so it’s important to work together to create the most successful outcome possible. From the session entitled “Managing Your Peers,” I was reminded of feeling empowered to handle any situation. You can’t control the circumstances, but you do have control over yourself and the way you interact in those situations. Whether that’s a light board crashing in the middle of a show or someone mixing the wrong paints in the shop, there’s always a good way to react to the problem, and it takes practice to control your reaction.
I was going to say that the highlight of my trip was meeting Buford Jones, mixer for Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Prince, David Bowie, James Taylor and Faith Hill, just to name a few, and mixing a large band while he shared his expertise. But then I realized that the highlight of my trip was actually getting to watch the brand new Meyer Lyon PA system be rigged and tuned at one in the morning by Distinguished Achiever in Sound Design award winner, Bob McCarthy. He is also a significant figure in the sound production industry, so it was awesome to watch him work. Then I remembered that the highlight of my trip was meeting so many sound people who were willing to help me find a job this summer, and beyond! I am now in the process of figuring out what I want to do and where I want go. But maybe the most important part of my trip was being glittered in the Expo. This was not just a small bit of glitter on my face; it was a full-blown glitter attack. I am still finding remnants of glitter on my clothes and in my closet, and I love it! Needless to say, USITT 2014 was a success. I’m feeling inspired and motivated to (dare I say it?!) graduate and start my life after Gustavus.
I haven’t decided if it’s a good or bad thing yet, and maybe it’s something in between, but I am noticing more acutely the mix of every piece of music, effect, TV show, movie, etc. and the choices behind it. And more importantly, I’m figuring out if I like the way it sounds or if I would mix it differently. I can say confidently that I enjoy mixing and working on my craft as a sound designer.