AES 2015 The X Factor in Audio.

It was my privilege to be asked to speak on this panel with so many other incredibly talented women.

Darcy Proper– Mastering Engineer at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands was the panel chair and big kudos to her for all of the hard work she put in and the wonderful job she did making this happen.

Panelists were:

Cynthia Daniels – Recording Engineer/Producer and Owner of Monk Studios

Leslie Ann Jones – Recording Engineer/Producer and Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound

Piper Payne – Mastering Engineer at Coast Mastering and current VP of the SF chapter of the Recording Academy

Ulrike Schwarz – Tonmeister/MBA Anderson Audio

Leanne Ungar – Professor of Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music

And Myself

Rather than me taking up a lot of space listing their impressive credits, I encourage you to take a look at the AES page and follow their individual links.

The panel began with each of us explaining what it was that sparked our interest in audio and why we chose our respective careers.

The main topic of the panel, ‘The X Factor, what does it take for an engineer to rise to the top of his/her field?  How do you know when you’ve reached the top?  What were the turning points in our careers and the most important job leading us to where we are today? Did our career follow the course we expected or did we end up somewhere quite unexpected?  What is it that makes a session really something special and conversely when a session starts to go up in flames or a live show encounters problems, what can we do as engineers to prevent or help the situation?

Some questions from the audience included- How to market yourself as a freelance engineer, how to make contacts and find jobs? What sacrifices have we made in terms of families, relationships, having children?  How do you balance work and personal life?  How to encourage more women to go into the field of audio engineering?

Finally ending with what advice would we give to someone, particularly a woman starting out in this field also what if anything could we tell our ‘past self’ that would have made our journey a bit smoother?

We had a very nice turnout with a good mix of students and professionals, men and women.  I was very happy to meet a group of young women from Webster University as well as some SoundGirls.Org members.

Some of the take aways from the panel:

For all of us, the desire to chose this as a career came from somewhere deep inside.

Working as an audio engineer- whether in mastering, recording, or live is not something you go into half-heartedly. The job and lifestyle require an incredible amount of dedication and sometimes sacrifice.  So the bottom line is, if you’re not sure it’s for you- it probably isn’t.  All of the women on the panel would agree that it is incredibly rewarding and worth the sacrifices we have made.

If you feel that you are at the top of your field you are probably no longer there.  The best engineers are always striving to be better and improve.

When problems arise in a session or a live show- remain calm and carry on. Know your craft. Having a deep understanding of the job will help you to remain calm when things start to unravel.  Your interaction with the artist is as much about the job as your technical knowledge.  Being able to instill confidence in the artist is a big part of the job.

It was a pleasure getting to know these amazing women as well as meeting some of the audience members after the panel.

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