A Week In The Life Of An Audio Arts Grad Student

A Week In The Life Of An Audio Arts Grad Student

It’s Monday morning. My alarm goes off to the sounds of Ben Platt’s “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen, letting me know it’s 6:45 a.m. and time to get a head start on my day. I do the classic millennial thing and check my social media to sort of wake myself up. Immediately after, I check the weather app so that the ever-changing Syracuse climate doesn’t take me by surprise or catch me with a snow coat on a 65-degree spring day or, even worse, freezing in a tank top due to windchill in the negatives. I run my to do list in my head several times so I don’t forget anything I might need – I won’t be back home until night time. This is how it goes:

  • 9:30 a.m., Sound for Picture class (taking a quiz today, I was running sound on a film set for this class all weekend so this should be fun).
  • 12:30 p.m., meet up with the DP to grab the audio gear from our storage room to be returned to the university.
  • Go to Professor Jim Abbott’s office hours to check out my buddy Sam’s newest co-production with Nate Curie so he can get feedback on it (spoiler alert, it’s dope).
  • Recording session at the Belfer Audio Archive Studio from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Kaitlyn DelleDonne is lending me her incredible piano skills for a project of my own. Check out her film scoring and production work along with master flautist Amanda Zohar on facebook as DZ Audio Productions).

Shouldn’t be so bad. I get ready, leave the house, stop at one of our local coffee shops to grab that needed caffeine boost and tackle my day. Everything was pretty smooth, but by the end of the day I’m pretty much dead.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Fast forward to Tuesday. Wake up around the same time, get ready, get my coffee fix, head over to Newhouse for my Advance Audio Capstone class.

I’m looking forward to it since I get to discuss and plan out a microphone arrangement for a session I have tomorrow night at Belfer with OttoTunes, one of our university Acappella groups who agreed to lend their talent for my capstone project. I’ve been working on a Broadway-themed album for the last ten months and it has to be absolutely perfect by April. Mic planning was pretty awesome, but in case you aren’t considering audio arts, I won’t go much into technical details, just trust me when I say it’ll sound amazing! From there, I stopped next-door at the Audio office to pick up some recording gear for a film shoot the next morning, call time scheduled for 5:45 a.m. That should be fun, but I will not sit here and lie to you by pretending I love that call time. I drop off the gear in our super secure, passcode-required concert recording classroom and run off to have lunch. After lunch I head back to Crouse for class, Professor MacDougall is teaching about how to properly start up our recording console used strictly for recording and live streaming all of the Setnor Auditorium concerts in 4K. It’s a good refresher since I took another class with him last semester where he briefed us on how it works.

From there I go to Whitman for today’s Soyars Leadership Lecture Series session. These lectures I believe started out as part of the school of music as a general lecture, but were then passed along to SU’s Bandier Program and hosts some of the most important men and women in the music industry who agree to come chat with us about what they do, how they started and how they got to where they are. I’m talking major record label executives, people listed for years within the Billboard Power 100 list, people whose life work has revolutionized the way you hear and enjoy music as well as what music you listen to. This week: SVP of A&R at RCA Records Tunji Balogun, President of Primary Wave Publishing Justin Shukat, and Founder of S10 Entertainment & Media Brandon Silverstein.  If you ever get a chance, sign up for these – you won’t regret it! During Soyars I get a text letting me know that our film shoot was cancelled and I have a mixing session in our brand new mixing studio that’s mostly exclusive to Audio Arts in a few hours, but by then it’s almost 8:00 p.m. so I go home to shower and get ready for my all-nighter.

The next morning I’m in full on zombie mode. I return the gear and get just enough caffeine in my system to go home instead of work since my boss suggested I take the day off after my all-nighter. I get to my place and I nap exactly three hours before I start getting ready for a phone interview for a potential internship. Interviews ran smoothly and everything is good with the world so I have some lunch and prep for my next class and the recording session after.

I make it back to campus around 5:00 p.m., just in time for my Digital Audio Workstation Production class. Grad students just submitted our first assignment and are getting the files for the next, undergrads are working on editing and mixing Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m a little jealous of them if I’m being honest. We’re getting orchestral pieces and they’re getting one of my favorite songs of all time to work on. After class is over, I have around one hour before my recording session, so I make the executive decision to get some coffee and a pair of insomnia sugar cookies to go with it. Best. Decision. Ever. When it’s closer to 9:00 p.m., I go back to Belfer and shortly after, the OttoTunes guys start to show up. We have our session setup by 9:30 p.m. and we manage to finish recording our song right before midnight! Make sure to check them out when you get a chance.

I take a moment to catch my breath before heading back home, thinking about what a crazy week this has been and how maybe I’ll get a chance to relax during the weekend, but I suddenly realize – the weekend will be just as crazy, if not more! While Thursday isn’t officially the weekend yet, I have my usual classes once more, Capstone and Live Sound. I’m pretty pumped about having capstone once more because I get to present and talk about the OttoTunes session less than ten hours after recording, something that doesn’t really happen too often (so I’m glad it’s happening now). I get a surprise email to pick up my cap, gown and hood (I ordered them early thinking it’d take months… surprise! You get them by midterms for being so quick) so I grab those at the bookstore but it turns out the hood isn’t here yet and they’ll call me once they get it (no biggie, commencement weekend is still two and a half months away still).  I also have to run the booth during a couple of podcast recording sessions down at WAER for a theater-centric show called Stage Right Radio on Thursday as well as Sunday. Both run pretty smoothly so post-production won’t be too crazy.

My Friday, however, almost sent me to the hospital on account of a massive headache. I got up early to help a friend with our upcoming Sound for Picture assignment after going to bed late post-helping another friend with his video interview submission for his dream internship. Shortly after, we went to pick up recording gear once more since we had an action-packed weekend of filming ahead of us. From grabbing the gear we went to a quick production meeting followed by a few hours of  filming pickups with A LOT of screaming amplified by my monitoring headphones, followed by a voiceover recording session that also included a fair share of screaming. And if my head wasn’t pounding already, I was closing the night at Setnor’s combined choir concert as part of the tech crew and that one ran until around 11:00 p.m.

Needless to say, I was pretty dead by then. However, no amount of rest would’ve prepared me for the Saturday up ahead, 11 hours of filming at a chilly campsite about an hour away from campus. It was fun, but the exhaustion from the week was getting the best of me. To say that I was ecstatic when we wrapped would be an understatement. Top that with blogging and homework due the next day and you have one grumpy, sleep-deprived sound gal.

But even so, I wouldn’t really trade it for the world. This master’s degree has been a test of my endurance, my willpower and my capacity for adaptation and growth. Both Newhouse and VPA have contributed immensely to my growth as a professional, and while this stage in my professional career is almost over and I can’t wait to see what comes next, I’m also taking everything I’ve lived here and cherishing it forever.  If you don’t mind having a crazy, hectic schedule and have a sweet spot for high quality sound production, perhaps Audio Arts is the program for you. Stop by! Reach out! We’re all pretty friendly and willing to help out and answer all your questions about the program.

Happy midterms!

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Monica Gonzalez
Mónica González is a Master's student from the Audio Arts program at Syracuse University. Born and raised in sunny Puerto Rico, she relocated to snowy Syracuse New York to make her professional dreams a reality. Her background in Journalism and Television production are what drive her to pursue the truth, and her knack for storytelling is what motivated her to bring compelling stories to the Newhouse Insider. In the past, she's been published by companies within the literary industry in Puerto Rico, and her content has been sponsored by Major publishers such as Harper Collins International. In the future, she dreams of combining her love for books and Broadway by producing literary adaptations for musical theater. Remember her name, and don't be shocked when a Playbill page mentions her.

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