Everything Golden Preciado’s set her mind to, personally and professionally, she has pursued relentlessly, drawing on a deep well of faith and building an extensive set of skills as both a musician and an audio professional along the way. But the most important tool she brings to bear on her work, whatever it happens to be, and wherever and for whomever she happens to be doing it, is her passion as an educator.
“My dad taught me audio,” the Newport Beach, CA-based Preciado explains. “He’s a great teacher and has been my model as far as teaching goes, he always said to me, ‘If you learn something, pass it on to someone else and give them the knowledge and the confidence to be able to do it.’”
In speaking to Preciado, it’s clear that education, inspiration, and service are the driving forces for her as a live audio engineer, record producer, studio engineer, and multi-instrumentalist who’s had extensive experience (on and off stage) performing with her husband and four children and mixing at churches all across the U.S. Her diverse skill set has served her well over time both in her hometown of Newport Beach and during stints as a missionary in Central America and Russia, and they’ve continued to during the pandemic.
Although she, like so many others, found work drying up over what has been an extremely challenging year for everyone in the audio industry, during 2020 and into 2021, she’s been somewhat of a rarity – someone who’s managed to continue to work consistently. “I’m blessed to have been working throughout (the pandemic) considering that most people in this industry haven’t been working at all,” she says. “Right now, I’m on staff at Grace Fellowship, my home church in Costa Mesa. I’m there every Sunday I can be, and I’m the one that’s directing and training volunteers.”
Focused & Organized
Preciado also has a regular mixing gig at Campus Jax, a local Newport Beach venue. Although it was closed on and off during the past year, she notes that management was able to mount shows more regularly than many venues: “Since we were the only thing open for live music with our Covid-style outdoor shows we got a lot of artists in there because they didn’t have anywhere else to play, so I’m running sound about five nights a week for bands of all different genres, including jazz, R&B, Americana grassroots, Top 40, and tribute bands.”
The job at Grace Fellowship came around more recently. “When the second shutdown happened, I wasn’t working at all and became a little nervous,” she notes. “Grace was struggling with their audio needs and the worship leaders called me and asked if I might want to help them out. I took that as a sign from the Lord that He’s providing for me regardless of what’s going on in the world. So, I’ve been working there since the beginning of January 2021. When I started they were meeting outside and they still are, but at the beginning of June they’ll be moving back inside.”
As blessed as she feels, that still sounds like a lot – for anyone – and particularly for a mother of four. “But when you have kids, you have to remain organized,” she adds. “When they were young and I was home-schooling them I had to say no to things. But three of them moved out this summer, so I became even more involved in what I was doing with audio and live sound.” That includes her role as a house of worship specialist for QSC (headquartered in nearby Costa Mesa) and her current focus on online teaching for the company and on her Facebook group page, Church Sound Training, for both sacred and secular applications (facebook.com/groups/churchsoundtraining).
Granted, throughout Preciado’s life she’s always had a lot going on as a freelance front of house/broadcast/recording engineer with her own company, Golden Audio Mix, work as a mix engineer and AV campus coordinator for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in recent years, and, since early on, as a songwriter and performer with her husband, Michael. As for how she juggles it all, she says, “One moment at a time. If I look at my calendar as a whole I become pretty stressed, but if I take each moment at a time, look at the day, and ration it out, it’s much more manageable.”
That’s reflected in her approach to mixing: “When I mix, I have a protocol – a systematic approach I go through. At Campus Jax, I’m not only running FOH, I’m also running a dedicated broadcast stream, so I’m keeping FOH sounding happy, keeping the musicians happy on monitors, and sending that stream to another console used in live video production – there’s a lot going on, but I do take things one step at a time.”
Although Preciado grew up assisting her father in his work in audio, early on she hoped to make a mark as an Olympic gymnast: “My goal was to be in the ’92 Olympics and I trained four to six hours a day. It was my life.” At age 14, however, she sustained injuries that forced her to give up that dream. “But while I was healing up I discovered my love and propensity for music, pursued that, and my life just took a turn in that direction. And here’s the cool part,” she continues. “After my senior year in high school I traveled with The Continental Singers and one of the places that we performed was the 1992 games. So, I made it to the Olympics. I just wasn’t doing gymnastics.” It was also during that time she decided to use her musical gifts, she adds, “Wherever God put me for His purposes.”
Preciado continued her musical education at Golden West College (where her father taught recording engineering and live sound), in a program that blended jazz improvisation, classical theory, and the study of emerging computer music platforms and MIDI. Although she focused on voice, her natural affinity for music enabled her to pick up a variety of instruments as well, including keyboards, harmonica, guitar, and bass.
From there she attended Calvary Chapel Bible College, where she met her husband. Following their marriage in 1994, the pair took to the road – traveling around the U.S., leading worship at various churches, first with Campus Crusade for Christ’s Keynote Productions for four years and later on their own, from 1999 onward after forming the aptly named, ‘Together Ministries.’ “And then,” she says, “came baby number one…”
For some couples, that would put the brakes on touring immediately, but for the Preciado family, not so much. “We kept on traveling after baby number one. And then baby number two and three, our twins, came all at once, but we kept traveling for another couple years.”
Even after that, they didn’t exactly settle down permanently, instead deciding to undertake a year’s missionary stint teaching in Honduras, where Michael taught music and the Bible and Golden focused on second grade and English. Again, her audio skills were useful: “I brought some equipment for the little church that we were part of and set it up with a little board and a system that, to this day, they’re still using.”
Upon returning to Newport Beach in 2009, Preciado began working at the church she’d grown up attending, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, where she ran FOH and their broadcast mix for the next seven years. “Then, our primary boards were the DiGiCo SD8 and SD9,” she notes. “Not only was that great training in the digital world, but it also gave me insight into working within the dynamics of the church because we’d always been an organization that worked alongside the church. Now I was working inside the church.” While there she also deepened her skills as a producer, broadcast engineer, and on-air host for the church’s KWVE radio station.
In 2018, she gained a different kind of experience while doing audio for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. “That was a wonderful experience, too. I’d always been in a non-denominational church and St. Andrews was my first exposure to working inside a denominational church. I loved it.”
Having settled in Santa Ana, CA, she continued to look for work that would allow her to use her gifts as an educator and ultimately left St. Andrews to begin contract work with QSC – a job she laid the groundwork for at the 2017 NAMM Show in Anaheim. “At NAMM, QSC was teaching a class on how to use their TouchMix console, and I had a TouchMix-16 and a TM-30 Pro and was using them regularly. So, I went to the classes, walked up to one of the QSC instructors there and asked, ‘What does it take for one to work here?’”
As it turned out, her deep experience in performing and mixing was a lock for QSC’s expanding focus on the house of worship market. “I started explaining my story and my use of QSC equipment. When the TouchMix 16 came out I looked at the reviews and the cost and I was like, ‘I have to have this.’ And it was wonderful for my husband and me when we performed; to have a small digital console, quality preamps, and the flexibility to sub-mix from the stage when I needed to.”
It’s products like that, she explains, that cater very well to the vast majority of churches in the U.S. – specifically those with a capacity of 200 people or less. “And since my husband and I had traveled all over the United States, mostly playing in smaller churches, we were well aware of that. Those are the churches that can benefit most from some of the product lines that QSC has been so successful at.”
In this, her latest role in the audio industry, Preciado can focus on the needs of volunteer tech staff members at churches such as these: “The reason I have such a passion for volunteer workers is that, oftentimes, they don’t know what they’re getting into. They just want to help out; they don’t necessarily aspire to become audio engineers. I want to give them the skills they need to operate, but I also want to help AV directors understand who they’re working with, too, so they can provide guidelines and technical protocols, and promote unity between all workers. When that’s established it makes it a lot easier on volunteers.”
Again, it’s about passing on knowledge: “And as far as working in churches, if we’re able to pass on what we learn to others and they pass it on, it takes the pressure off the directors and also gives a volunteer worker a place of service, fellowship, and camaraderie with other volunteers.” And it’s not just about passing on audio skills – it’s about passing on the desire and inspiration to serve.
It’s an effort her experiences make her an ideal fit for. “I run sound on so many different consoles and different systems, so I’ve had to learn to make it sound great on whatever console (and system) I’m on,” she notes. “I have my favorites, but the idea is to teach people that every console, analog and digital, and that every system does certain, basic things. So, I try to make sure people understand the concepts, what the technology is capable of, how to shape a band’s sound with the tools they have, and where to find (the resources to learn how to use) those tools.”
Making It Work
In other words, it comes down to skills and the overall functionality of whatever you have to work with, which, in short, is exactly how Preciado learned the craft herself. “I’m thrown in front of so many different boards I just have to make it work everywhere.”
For now, however, “everywhere” is confined to a smaller geographical area than it once was. “My dream gig would be to mix in a large venue. I know I have the skills to do it. I just need the opportunity, but meanwhile, I’m super happy with what God has given me, and I’m getting more opportunities to mix higher profile artists so, as time goes on, perhaps I’ll have that opportunity in the future.”
That said, she concludes, “I don’t have the desire to go on tour. My priority now is my family.” Specifically helping expand the reach of a successful Youtube business called Zanimation Productions that her children started – an effort in which they not only utilize the musical and creative skills their parents taught them but in which they’re continuing the family’s tradition of working together. “That’s why I love teaching people how to make their churches sound good and how to train their volunteers; it’s something I can do locally and still be with my family.”