Andrea Arenas is a Live and Studio Engineer working in the industry for over 17 years. Andrea is currently working as a sound technician for La Perle by Dragone in Dubai. Andrea discovered audio when she was in her teens and overheard some of her friends from orchestra discussing audio engineering. Andrea wanted to pursue music as she had been learning percussion since she was ten years old. She was deterred by her family who said that music was not an option, so audio engineering opened another career path for her. At the time in Venezuela, there were no official institutions offering audio as a career path, so Andrea enrolled in electronic engineering at Simon Bolivar University in Venezuela, with the understanding that it was somehow related to audio and music. Andrea is currently enrolled at Iberoamerican University, Puebla working on a Master’s Degree in Cultural Management.
How did you get your start?
I approached a recording studio in my university, part of the communications department, open-minded and willing to find a person who could take me in to teach me all about it. The person in charge of it, fortunately, took me in and taught me most of the things I know about sound today.
How did your early internships or jobs help build a foundation for where you are now?
That first job in the university studio was the door to starting my career in audio, it let me understand what the field was about and if it was something I would enjoy. So it was one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my audio career
What did you learn interning or on your early gigs?
I learned about types of gear, signal flow, working processes, and critical listening. I learned about which parts of the sound career I liked and whatnot.
Did you have a mentor or someone that really helped you?
Yes, Francisco ‘Coco’ Diaz was the person who took me in at the university studio and mentored me for almost 3 years. Even after all these years, I still go to him when I need some perspective or advice. You can follow his Instagram account in Spanish for musical production tips @serproductordemusica.
What is a typical day like?
I wake up around 8 to 9 am and take care of any home and personal activities like cleaning, cooking, yoga, etc. Then I check emails and work on any out-of-work projects like my personal music, podcasts, mixing, university classes, volunteering work, etc. Then, my work hours for the show usually start after 2 pm. When I arrive at the theater, I check the schedule for the day. We usually have some training, rehearsals or validations with artists. Soundcheck happens every day a couple of hours before the show starts, depending on my track for the day (because I rotate 4 tracks, foh, monitors, RF, and musical director) I’ll do presets for microphones, consoles, computers, etc. Then I run two shows and go home at midnight.
How do you stay organized and focused?
Discipline is part of the daily routine in every aspect of my life, I think mainly because of my musical training, I try to plan short-term goals and keep track of schedules I plan in my mind. I say “in my mind” because following a routine is not my way of doing it. Depending on the day’s mood I organize my activities trying to follow those short-term goals, let’s say I try to keep a weekly schedule rather than a daily tight schedule.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Feeling that I’m part of a show that, for at least two hours, takes people’s imagination to new places, to enjoy and be happy for a moment. It makes me feel rewarded.
What do you like least?
Having shows on days you want to see your favorite artist show.
If you tour, what do you like best?
Before the pandemic, I was touring with Cirque and my favorite part was always during the first soundcheck at every new city. I usually felt very tired at that moment because of the transfer work, but as soon as the first notes sounded, I could remember why I was doing it, kept going, and enjoyed the moment.
What do you like least?
Working many days in a row, one time I worked 22 days in a row, live sound can be physically very demanding sometimes
What is your favorite day off activity?
I still work on my personal projects during the days I don’t have shows. I consider everyday activities as a choice and I disagree with thinking that on days off I’m “free”. Of course, I also enjoy doing nature or art activities, but I consider them as part of my schedule to achieve the mental state I need to be efficient, enjoy my creative process and enjoy life.
What are your long-term goals?
Keep learning and be open to new opportunities. The pandemic changed my perspective about two things: making plans and depending on a single paycheck. So I’m willing to expand my horizons as much as possible, always open to new experiences related to sound, music, art, culture, and a sense of community.
What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced?
It has probably been to leave my country and be able to be recognized as a professional again despite having to practically start from scratch. It’s common to find people don’t trust your skills and even doubt your CV when you are from a different latitude and speak different languages. Fortunately, not everyone thinks the same way, and some others gave me the opportunity to prove myself and let my work speak for myself
How have you dealt with them?
I always try to mention that despite anything that I’ve dealt with (consciously or not) I’m true to myself, and my ideas and keep working as hard and passionately as possible.
Advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field?
Follow your instincts, speak up, despite feeling intimidated by others, and don’t let these feelings rule the way you behave or think. There will always be people more experienced and less experienced than you anywhere, just be aware that your opinion is also important and can be considered as others.
Must have skills?
Problem-solving, active listening, and patience
I always say that because I haven’t tried them all, I can’t choose a favorite. I think the idea is to feel comfortable with the gear you use, and learning the most about it and practicing will be the only way to get there. So I usually try to feel comfy with the gear I use, sometimes I wish I could have the trendy ones or the ones that a super famous artist or studio owns, but sometimes it is not possible. So I embrace reality and get the best out of the gear I have in front.