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Many Paths Taken: Learning The Ways And Lessons Of Pro Audio

You don't always know where your career will take you at each turn.

Being on the team that makes a professional audio system work optimally in a public venue is a rich and rewarding experience – especially so if you enjoy working with the artist, as well as the music that the artist creates.

In fact, many audio professionals enter the craft because they’re attuned to music; I know that I did.

While we can’t help but prefer one stylistic genre over another, as professionals, we must nonetheless always do our best.

We’re not all lucky enough to tour with our favorite band, but there’s ample opportunity to take pride in producing the best possible results for lecturers, political speakers, religious leaders, orators, and musical performers of all sorts.

When we’re at the top of our game, we behave just as the Secret Service does: serve, protect, and help each client to achieve whatever they want to achieve. This is how we should “cut our teeth” when we first get into the business, and how we should remain throughout our career.

Easy to say…harder to do.

We’re only human, after all, so of course we have preferences as to what we’d like to be doing on any given gig day. So we learn the way the world of pro audio works, be it clubs, theatre, sports, corporate, houses of worship, and so on, then we next figure out how to dovetail our personal interests and aspirations into the work we perform.

That said, there is an enormous benefit in learning alternate aspects of audio work that we might never have dreamed we’d be involved with. This happened to me. I wanted to work exclusively with the type of rock music I prefer, but instead found myself installing temporary and permanent sound systems in stadiums, arenas, houses of worship, political conventions, theatrical presentations and television award shows.

Then I toured with jazz and funk artists that I would never listen to away from work, and spent time with rock bands that left me cold. It flat-out was not what I thought I had signed up for.

But when I now look back on the considerable body of knowledge gained by doing all of that work, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

The fundamental building blocks that make up my knowledge base would not be there if I’d toured only with a given style of band.

What was frustrating at first eventually became a source of pride and accomplishment. I didn’t always agree with the corporate messages, and I certainly didn’t like sports.

Conversely, I deeply enjoyed the intense pressure of live TV, became a quick fan of musical theatre, and grew to like opera (which I never thought I’d do).

But mostly, I learned to separate my beliefs from the various doctrines that I spent hundreds of hours amplifying and listening to.

Precisely because I wasn’t personally invested in the program content, I formulated a mindset of making the event or installation the best it could be.

For example, after working my first Super Bowl, I was having a late night dinner with my audio crew in a Hollywood restaurant. I honestly couldn’t say at that moment who the football teams were that took the field (I’d have to look it up).

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But throughout the two-week installation and rehearsal, I knew where every patch-point was, every piece of backup gear, every quick changeover switch that we installed to insure the system would never go off the air, and so forth. And the skills I learned from that experience made it far easier for me to be prepared for the live TV gigs that came after, including the Grammys, Academy Awards and many others.

The point of all this is to keep an open mind, and even more so, an open heart.

You may not know where your career will take you at each turn, but if you always give each event, each client, each new situation your full attention and respect – you’ll shine as a star performer, and our industry by reflection of your skills, will shine too.

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