Thursday, January 31, 2013

State of the Industry: The Case of the MisEducation of a Sound Engineer

 I found this essay in my writing file so I thought I would post it. Information Interviews are extremely helpful when considering career changes.

The State of the Industry Address

Prepared by Yvonne Battle-Felton

March 14, 2005

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                      3

                        The Case: The Miseducation of the Audio Engineer                                                                         


                        When I was in high school, I wanted to be a psychologist.  Some of my classmates wanted to be lawyers, singers and dancers.  None of us said, “I want to be a receptionist”; “I want to be a housewife” or “I want to be an exotic dancer”.  Yet almost twenty years later, most of us have regular jobs, not careers; and we know the difference.  A job is something you do whether you like it or not.  Some jobs require you to have specific knowledge, skills and abilities and some don’t. You can perform your job well, but anyone with the same training can perform it just as well; you are replaceable. A career is something you do because you love it.  It may require you have specific knowledge, skills and abilities but you are known by the way you do what you do: your reputation.  Your personality and experience can make you irreplaceable on a project.  In a career, it’s not only what you know, but how you are known. Schools teach knowledge, skills and abilities: a reputation is earned.



The Case: The Miseducation of the Audio Engineer

On paper, anyone can become an audio engineer.  In the two dimensional world of career guides, with the right blend of knowledge, skills and abilities, you too can edit for sound.  Unfortunately, many career guides are not considering an individual’s reputation as a part of knowledge, skill or ability; therefore they are guiding people into audio engineer jobs, not careers.
            America’s Career Info Net, ACI, is a website which offers occupational profiles of various jobs and careers.  These profiles outline the education and training recommended for the position’s specific knowledge, skills and abilities.  They detail some tasks; give salary information and show the percentage of people in that field and their level of education. According to its occupational profile, audio engineers must:  (1) have knowledge in communications media, telecommunications, administration and management; (2) have the active listening skills and skills to operate, maintain and select the correct equipment; and (3) have the ability to focus, listen and be able to create desired sounds.  The knowledge, skills and abilities mainly apply to information that can be taught, yet according to ACI over 42 percent of audio engineers age 25-44 have a high school degree or less. 


The Evidence: Exhibits A-C

There are many broadcasting schools and communication programs to teach the long list of recommended knowledge, skills and abilities of the audio engineer. 

(1)                          The Career Connections “on the job training program” claims to team students with an “industry professional to train them in all areas of the recording industry”(Connections).
(2)                          Maryland’s Peabody Institute and John’s Hopkins University have partnered to provide students with the opportunity to obtain degrees in the music industry (Peabody). 
(3)                          For around $18,000 the Audio Recording Technology Institute provides students with the tools they need to gain “entry-level employment in the industry”(Audio).

These programs may help people get in to the music business but the person’s reputation is what moves him or her from an entry-level job into a career. Reputations take time to build.

The Crime Scene

While much of the audio engineer’s job is technical, the career is very people oriented. The engineer must use resources to recreate the vision of the producer. A client may go to an agency to advertise a new product.  With concept in mind, the agency will go to a studio that will select the producer.  The producer will employ the production company to create the commercial.  The production company’s audio engineer works with writers, musicians and voice talent to make a product that reaches the target audience of the producer’s vision.  There are many people involved in this creative process, which means many personalities and ideas.  The skills necessary to successfully deal with writers, talent and producers are cannot be taught in a textbook. 

The Accomplice  Profile

There are people who always seem to be in control of a situation. These are the people we trust in a crisis and turn to for advice.  They are the quiet heroes, the ones that save a project, smooth over an irritated client or negotiate with an irrational vendor.  They seldom ask for praise or acknowledgement but are quick to offer kind, constructive words to another. They are the people behind the scenes, the backbone to any organization and creative project.  In the production studio, they are the audio engineers.  The good ones get awards, the great ones don’t need them.

The Witness: Under Oath

The first thing you notice about Davis Grei of Greibo K Media is his charm.  It is reflected in his conversation, his mannerisms and his tone.  And it’s no accident.  His charm is not something he turns on and off; at this point in his life it is genuine. He cares about people and wants to inspire them to do their best. Grei has spent years learning about people and what makes them productive. According to Grei, people do their best when they feel free to be creative. The knowledge, skills, and abilities Davis Grei brings to the music industry were not taught to him in a textbook or in the classroom, he learned to inspire people through his personal experiences.  And he is appreciated for it.   
As Creative Director and managing partner of Greibo K Media, Davis Grei serves as the staff audio engineer, producer, writer and editor. Greibo K Media is a production company in Baltimore, Maryland; they produced The Ultimate Business Makeover, with the University of Maryland, University College.  According to his bio, Grei has worked with companies such as Columbia Pictures, Warner Chappel Music, Lorel/PR & Partners and Bel Sante International.   He takes pride in his accomplishments, not in the names he has worked with, but in the way he has inspired people to be creative.
I interviewed Grei in his studio, although I could still vividly remember the last time I was there. That day, I was doing voice-overs for the Ultimate Business Makeover and I am embarrassed to say we had passed my patience level.  With barely hidden frustration I delivered line after line of what sounded like the same thing to me, only to hear him say, “that was great Sweetie, now this time try stressing the “the.”  I have very little patience as it is, but I eventually, with coaxing, was able to deliver the line the way he wanted.  Without his verbal encouragement and smiles, I would have been able to walk away from the $75.00 an hour Greibo pays me. Instead, I felt myself wanting to please him.
The studio was silent for the interview. I had his complete attention and as he anticipated, I liked it. Grei has no formal music training.  He credits his successful career to the way he treats people and his work ethic.  He has a willingness to learn and to share his knowledge with others.  According to Grei, many of the instructors who teach audio editing, have never worked in a studio. They teach students the textbook approach to the equipment and to people, but leave out the most important aspect: the people.
A producer chooses Grei because of Grei’s reputation.  Grei is known for the quality of his pieces and the way he inspires creativity in others.  According to Grei, it is much easier to work with someone who respects your work.  They hand him the project, tell them their target audience and let him create.  It actually is not that simple, depending on the time frame, Davis says he works with the producer to figure out who the producer’s vision and to find out the target audience. His job is to make the producer’s vision work, no matter what.  He creates alternatives but if the producer is set on a particular vision, Grei must create it. Often, Grei said, the producer will see that their vision is not working, but it’s not Grei’s job to point it out to him, he lets him see why it does not work. Grei gets satisfaction out of creating a work that fits, not out of proving himself to be right. 
Grei takes editing very seriously.  At his production company he must edit scripts, music, sounds and voice performances for clarity, consistency and time. When working with writers he likes to take the time to help them develop a piece so it is suitable for production. He finds constructive criticism and positive reinforcement work best for people to feel creative. If he is unable to use a writer’s contribution, he still tries to make them feel valued by explaining why it did not work.  According to Grei, every one is an equal and deserves respect for their contribution. 
With experience, Grei has learned some key points about editing that he stresses to his students at George Washington University:
(1)                          Continuity is one of the most important parts of any type of editing: the best editing is invisible.
(2)                          Never forget the target audience; once you lose sight of them, the project is lost.
(3)                          Treat everyone with respect and acknowledge everyone’s contributions: never talk down to anyone.
(4)                          Your job is to make the director’s vision work, no matter what.
(5)                          Only offer constructive criticism, never make personal attacks.
(6)                          Editing is complete when the piece reaches the target audience: not before.

The textbooks don’t always stress these points, but Grei says he owes his career to them. At the end of the interview my last impression is still how very charming he truly is.


            In order to make my career as an editor a reality I must pursue some educational and personal goals: 
(1)        I must continue my formal education not only to learn the technical aspects but to network.
            (2)        I must be open to constructive criticism.
            (3)        I must explore unconventional areas to gain editorial experience.
            (4)        I must learn to edit in the writer’s voice.

Closing Arguments
I look forward to a career in freelance editing.  I learned a lot of information from my interview with a sound engineer.  I thanked him for sharing the valuable lessons that could have taken me years to figure out: people appreciate the way you treat them.  It seems like a small note, easily taken fore granted.   But as an editor, I will do my best to earn a reputation for being not only thorough but professional.  While I pursue publishing of my own work, editing will not be a job for me, it will be my career.

Verdict: Guilty
            Industries need to share the simple secret of turning jobs into careers: you are known by your deeds, as well as your words.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Company She Keeps Part II (From the Writing Attic)

Part II
Almost two weeks have passed, and today is the first day my daughter’s best friend is back to our house since the makeup incident; neither of us brings it up.  Teenagers are an elusive, transient, giggly breed.  She is the same girl she has always been; only I know her better now.  I have invited her over for a teen talk, an interview with her and my daughter on their new teen status, to talk about their expectations.  Her friend seems overly polite, syrupy even, as she teeters on the edge of the couch.  She is suddenly awkward, eyes flittering from my daughter to me, her fingers nimbly stroking the keys of her cell phone as she talks.  Parents, friends, schools, like chameleons teens seem genetically predisposed to adapt to their surroundings.  Who is she?  And even worse, who lounges comfortably beside her?
Twirling her fingers through her freshly curled hair, my daughter’s friend now looks innocent, almost.  Though I try, it is hard to reconcile the jean-clad, tee-shirt wearing girl pressing into the couch, with the pubescent princess from a few days before.  Wielding a Bic, I am a reporter, trained to dissect the image she struggles to present, the good girl she claims “takes grades more seriously” than she did so long ago, you know, when she was twelve.  Rolling her eyes, my daughter giggles.  “She’s much more mellow than me,” she explains.  My daughter doesn’t believe the goodie-two-shoes act, and she knows me well enough to know that I don’t either. 
Reclining comfortably within the folds of the couch my child sits, bare feet resting firmly on the wood floor.  In a pale blue t-shirt and dark-blue jeans, my princess chews on strands of her braids as she waits for her turn to play with her friend’s cell phone.  While she chimes in when asked a direct question, she leaves the answering mainly to her friend.  Teens are, I’m told, “still a step up from childhood but a step down from adulthood.”  Her friend would have me believe teenagers spend much of their time studying, being responsible, and studying ways to be responsible.  She would have me believe they are all mature, little Bible readers.  Somewhere after reciting her goal of working to earn money to pay for college and well before she has the chance to tell me about becoming a missionary for fashion-deprived children, or something, I pop the cap on my pen and slip it in to my purse.  I become worse than a reporter—I become a mom.
We talk about her boyfriend, the one she has had for six months and, thanks to technology, has met only once in person.  The girls, one mellow, one not, and I talk about sex, alcohol, drugs and their friends who do them.  Neither of them held magical notions about becoming teenagers.  One is, and has been since the age of 12, allowed to wear make-up and date (though they “don’t actually go anywhere”) boys.  The other one is not.  Today, both are teenagers.  One will lead, one will follow.  My daughter claims she doesn’t mind not being allowed to wear make-up or to date.  According to her, she doesn’t feel pressured by peers to do anything.  Besides, she’d rather be a leader.  She says she’s too smart to follow her friends; she’s the one in gifted classes, after all. 
My daughter doesn’t plan to have sex before she’s ready, to date before 16, to drink before 21, to do drugs or smoke, ever.  I didn’t plan on half of those things, but did most of them by the time I was 17.  So, I recognize the difference between what she wants to do and what she does, between what she says and what I hear. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reflections of Home

Weekends, holidays, summer nights my sister and I running in and out of the house “close the door,” echoing in the distance.

Giggling, late at night we lay in the guest room, room #3, counting the seconds it took my great-aunt (who wasn’t so great) to breathe.  Often we were so engrossed in the game that her breath surprised us, making us jump.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Company She Keeps (From my Writing Attic)

In school, my daughter is in advanced math and reading; she raises her hand to ask a question, and gets along with everyone who tries to get along with her.  Teachers love her.  At home, she voices opinions about everything from who I date to what she, her brothers, and I have for dinner.  She baby sits her baby brother and is her little brother’s nemesis. 
Years ago, my daughter grabbed her little brother before he could fall through our second-story window.  The window opened outwards though, because there was no screen, we never opened it.  Somehow, the lock had slid out of place.  When her little brother leaned against the glass, his big sister noticed the slow-motion opening, yanked her brother from the ledge, and saved his life.  She tells this story often, altering the ending to fit her moods. 
I will not always be the most influential person in my child’s life.  My little girl  is a young lady equipped with a gaggle of friends.  I know how important friends are: they validate a person.  I know how dangerous friends are: they validate a person.  They will listen when I won’t or can’t; they will talk when I won’t or can’t.  They will be “there” when my daughter doesn’t want me to be. 
So, I try to be nice to her friends.  They are my potential allies, my unwitting partners available for the price of a slice of pizza or a well-timed, iced-cold glass of Coke on a particularly hot day. 
My daughter and her best friend are connected by thick, black wires, a cross stitch of technology enabling communication from one to the other at any given time.  With her perpetually-puffy cheeks, thick child-like curves and mathematical fluency, this friend is one of the kids I like my daughter playing with.  Telephone, Internet, cell phone, hell, possibly even a well-calculated and extremely loud yell would travel the distance from our house to hers.  Today, this friend is trying on a different shade of teen.  Telephones, Internet, cell phones and the primitive yell are not advanced enough.  So she clunks from her house at the mouth of the street to my daughter at the curve of the cul-de-sac. 
She climbs the 28 stone steps much the same as she did seven days before, but today she enters our home as a teenager.  She has been a teenager for months; today is the first day I notice.  She waits in the living room, eyes bathed in glittery, golden shadow, cheeks red as two blistering slaps, lips an astonishing screech of red, as my daughter, my sons and I look her over.  Even my two-year-old doesn’t say a word; maybe she doesn’t look any differently to him.  It’s not the first time she has worn make-up, it’s just the first time she’s worn it around me.
The girls, one chubby, one slimmer, one made up, one dressed down, traipse to my daughter’s room.  It’s a planning session.  I don’t go up.  We’ve talked about her room.  In her mind, we are going to create a teenage wonderland.  She’ll provide the teenager; I just have to provide everything else.
 Suddenly, my volleyball prima donna declares her room has to be pretty, because she plans to spend a lot of time in there.  “I’m going to have lots of stuff,” she says with a giggle, “because teenagers have lots of stuff, I don’t know what kind of stuff.”  And, she doesn’t seem to care much because she’ll be in her room, with her stuff (and not her brothers), talking to her friends.  And maybe I won’t mind because she’ll be in her room, instead of out there doing whatever it is teenagers do, or God forbid, doing what I did when I was a teenager.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

From the Attic: Nonfiction Essay

Motherhood is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences many of us will ever have.  It is one of the most demanding roles in society yet there is no training manual, no official how to guide.  Although it seems to be a trial and error venture, it is largely based on personal expectations and experiences as well as society’s values, norms and expectations.  Society has assigned mothers the responsibilities of care giver, nurturer, disciplinarian, role model, cook, maid, etc.  It is a flexible, ever changing role.  Up until two years ago, I was the type of mother I would have wanted my mother to be.  I had two children, worked full time, cooked, cleaned, chauffeured, mediated, coached,  nurtured, disciplined, educated and enlightened my children.  There was nothing I wouldn’t do for them; in fact there were few things I did without them. The more I did for them the more they expected and the more they expected the more I did for them. I was effectively lost. I was a mother, but ceased to be myself. I had wandered, willingly and feet first in to the depths of motherhood and I was drowning.
Sometime after my separation I realized I was gone.  It had been so long since I had other interests that I had no idea who I was or what I liked outside of the world I had created with my children. I had plunged in too deeply.  According to The Marriage and the Family Experience “the cultural expectations attached to mothering impose high standards of devotion and labor-intensive, self-sacrifice on mothers,” (Family 128). Not only was I behaving like a superwoman, society expected me to.  Housekeeping’s Helen is at the other extreme.  She chooses to drown in the lake rather than to drown herself in the world “full of responsible opinion about discipline and balanced meals,” (Housekeeping 110). She prefers to remain on shore while from a distance “presiding over a life so strictly simple and circumscribed that it could not have many any significant demands on her attention,” (Housekeeping 109).  Helen’s perception of motherhood can be seen in her relationship with her mother.  She leaves Fingerbone, which symbolizes the traditional society and moves to a more modern society.  In Housekeeping Helen is at one extreme, rejecting society’s expectations while Sylvie is at the other, embracing them and losing herself in the process.  However, Helen’s suicide and Ruthie’s longing for her mother shows the need for a balance between being a mother and remaining oneself. This is one of the most poignant mother/daughter relationships in the book. To appreciate their relationship, I must begin by briefly analyzing the relationship between Helen and her mother.
Sylvia symbolizes the woman Helen does not want to be.  Sylvia remains in Fingerbone after her husband’s death and raises her daughters in a state of domesticated “perfect serenity” (Housekeeping 13). It is a feminine world of habit with flowers and cookies and without “the troublesome possibility of success, recognition, advancement” (Housekeeping 13).  All of the roles within the family are fulfilled by women, still Helen “was the abandoner” (Housekeeping 109). Although traditionally when a white woman “leaves adolescence, she is expected to either go to college or to get married and have children,” (Family 125) Helen uses her marriage to escape the traditional values of Fingerbone. Helen becomes a single-working mother, providing the necessities while treating her children “with a gentle indifference” (Housekeeping 109).  Sylvia is the mother of “whited shoes and braided hair and fried chicken and turned back bedclothes,” (25). While Helen “swept and dusted, kept our anklets white, and fed us vitamins,” (Housekeeping 110) she abandons the expectations of her mother and thus society, turning her back on them and never mentioning Fingerbone or her own mother to her children.
The legacy Helen passes to Ruthie is of a single mother who according to Sociology in a Changing World accepts the traditional male role as the financial provider “because one of the breadwinners leaves the family” (Sociology 487). Her job provides the financial security Ruthie’s non-existent father does not.  In reality as well as in literature, the concept of family is changing.  It is adapting to fit new molds and new lifestyles.  There are more households headed by single mothers than in the past yet some children are still affected emotionally, mentally and/or physically.  It is interesting how much of their relationship revolves around Ruthie’s memory and longing over the letter Helen tears with “neither doubt nor compassion” (Housekeeping 52).  She is able to feel anger over her loss where before there was only astonishment (Housekeeping 52). Helen’s decision to tear up the letter and later to commit suicide makes Ruthie and Lucille orphans.  It also binds Ruthie more closely to her.
Ruthie spends much of her adolescence on the shores of society.  She is neither willing nor capable to adjust to the demands of traditional gender expectations.  She is the opposite of the woman of her day. Ruthie is awkward and confused, uninterested in fashion and make up. She does not attempt to understand society and is clumsy within its confines.  She is happiest when she is finally accepted by Sylvie and knows she can rely on Sylvie.  Helen’s suicide “established in me [Ruthie] the habit of waiting and expectation which makes any present moment most significant for what it does not contain,” (Housekeeping 214).  Ruthie will carry Helen’s memory as a wound.  When Ruthie speaks of her mother, it is typically as Helen.  Helen’s escape was successful. Her drowning in the lake was a symbolic drowning, an escape inward and away from society’s gender roles and expectations.  She is seldom considered as a typical mother, submerged in her duty.  In other regards her suicide was a failure, she is still considered, though not as often, as mother.  Her plunge into oblivion has frozen her in the state she least desired in Ruthie’s mind.
It is difficult to judge whether Helen’s abandonment causes Ruthie’s mental deterioration but it likely contributes to it.  Helen’s plunge into oblivion sends her away from society, from responsibility and from her daughter. It is perhaps because of Sylvie’s dramatic departure that Ruthie has plunged within. She is forever left wanting the mother who has learned to balance individual expectations with those of society.  Helen was expected to pursue the traditional route and conform to society.  Instead according to …” Helen had internalized a masculine concept of individuality as detachment” (who). Some of her traditionally masculine traits are her smoking, working and choosing. Helen is the only woman mentioned in Housekeeping as smoking; as a single mother she joined the ranks of women responsible for providing for their families and Helen had the freedom to make her own choices.  She chose death over life, freedom over responsibility, individuality over society.  In the end, Helen chose Helen.
Her choice affected her relationship with her daughters and their relationships with society. Lucille chose to conform to society’s expectations for women, to drown in them and lose the self of her youth.  By choosing to live with her home economics teacher she is choosing the domestic life of cooking, mending and keeping house.  She chooses to accept the values society has deemed appropriate for a young woman and turns her back on the nonconformist ways of Sylvie and Ruthie. Ruthie chose to remain on society’s shores remaining separate and having nothing to do “with these ceremonies of sustenance, of nurturing,” (Housekeeping 214).  She turns her back on the norms of society, burns down the house and the symbols of domestic stability it represents.  Ruthie has found the stability within chaos.  She is a traveler, belonging no where, everywhere. She is constantly watching but not absorbing and certainly not seeking to conform.  Though she sometimes wishes to belong she only wades gently in the water and only with land in sight.
Land and stability for Ruthie are now meshed within her relationship with Sylvie and their devotion to one another.  Sylvie fills the hole left by Helen’s suicide. Neither Sylvie nor Ruthie can return to Fishbone, as it symbolizes society. Free of the confines and gender restrictions imposed by society, they are either drowning together or both drifting further from shore.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...