Danielle Lewis – Be a Sponge

Danielle M. Lewis is a FOH and Monitor Engineer and also takes on the role of production manager. She works for AEG at The Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA. Danielle has over 18 years of experience working in live events. She attended Drexel University and graduated with a BS in Communications and Applied Technology and an MS in Arts Administration.

Early Life

When did you discover audio as a career path? 

I discovered audio as a career path in the very late 90’s/early 2000s. I was unaware of it as a kid, young person, or young adult.

How did you get interested in audio? 

I became interested in audio because I sang on a recorded gospel choir, the director of the choir decided to return to school full-time so he disbanded the choir. I loved to sing and absolutely love music but “coincidentally” I developed allergies and asthma, so I asked myself “How can I stay connected to music?” I had a science and math background and always enjoyed physics. My thought was, “Hmmm, sound is a part of music, let me research and investigate the audio aspect of music!”

Did music and audio interest you while you were growing up?

Music DEFINITELY did. I have always been drawn to music ever since I could remember. Fond memories as a child of visiting my relatives in Washington DC, one of my Aunts had an extensive record collection. She bought me my first vinyl, The Jackson 5’s first album ABC!

Career Start

How did you get your start?

I started by volunteering with a small sound company in Delaware while working full-time at Verizon. I also joined the Multimedia Ministry at my church that happened to be a 3000-seat facility.

How did your early internships or jobs help build a foundation for where you are now?

My 12-year career at Verizon helped lay my foundation in customer service and leadership. My tenure at the church, where I “cut my teeth” helped prepare me for doing audio professionally. Oftentimes things were done off the cuff and unstructured at church so when I began taking gigs outside of the church and learned there was a plan, I was more at ease because I knew what to expect.

What did you learn interning or on your early gigs?

Be early, be a sponge and ask questions. Learn the craft!

Did you have a mentor or someone that really helped you?

I did not have an official mentor, but various individuals helped me by exposing me to different gigs and trusting me with challenging gigs necessary for growth.

Career Now

Production Manager at Keswick Theatre, Freelance PM/Audio engineer

What is a typical day like?

My “typical” day varies because it depends on if it is a show day (the type of show) or a non-show day. Non-show days are less hectic for obvious reasons. Those days are spent talking to tours, reserving equipment, scheduling labor…all things involving advancing a show.

On show days, I try to arrive 60 mins ahead of the tech’s/crew call time. This enables me to print day sheets, input lists, and stage plots for the show.

Once the crew arrives and the tour is onsite, the first thing I do is COVID-19 check everyone in. This involves verifying the vaccination card of the tour. We then proceed to load-in and set up the show. I sometimes participate but am often called away to handle other things or continue advancing future shows, approving invoices, etc.

Soundcheck happens after we are all set, then there is usually dinner, the doors of the theatre open an hour before showtime. Then during the show, I am either in my office advancing other shows or some other type of paperwork or I stay stage left in case there is a problem on stage.

Then the strike happens and then load-out. This is an abbreviated run down as you are constantly answering questions, putting out fires, and doing admin stuff as the day is going. Sound easier than it is

How do you stay organized and focused?

I try to stick to methods and procedures, when and where possible. It is challenging and often you can feel all over the place but it is organized chaos often, LOL.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

The music, getting to meet and experience different people, and the satisfaction that I am a part of bringing the arts to people’s lives.

What do you like least?

The hours, it takes a toll on your personal life. You have to miss many important days and times in your loved ones’ lives etc.

If you tour what do you like best?

When I did tour I enjoyed seeing different places, but also having to do a show in different locations and settings, helps to keep you sharp. You are placed in different scenarios thus experiencing new and different problems to solve.

What do you like least?

The hours and potential lack of showers LOL

What is your favorite day off activity?

Sleep, spending time with family & friends,

What are your long-term goals?

Long term I would love to reach more women to expose them to our industry. Also, live sound to be recognized as a respected sector of the industry by NARAS.

What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced?

I have definitely faced obstacles due to gender biases, as well as race.

How have you dealt with them?

Strive to be the best I can be in multiple areas of production. Learn various aspects of the business so that you can wear many hats. When music gigs are scarce, I have been fortunate to work on corporate gigs. Not always as exciting but it was steady work with excellent compensation!

Advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field?

If this is what you love to do, then show up believing you belong in the room! Make it a point to add value and try to leave the place better for you having been there.

Must have skills?

Effective communication and interpersonal skills

Favorite gear? 

My favorite piece of gear is the Midas Heritage 3000 console, yes, I am dating myself but it is a sweet smooth sounding board.

 

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