Thanks so a scholarship from Meyer Sound, I was able to attend the 2014 Broadway Sound Master Classes, hosted by LDI. I have been wanting to attend these classes for several years, but many factors, including cost, employment conflicts, and location have made it difficult in the past. I was thrilled to attend this year, and the subject matter was exactly what I needed, as much of the conference was centered on designer/composers.

These conferences could not have come at a better time, as I am in the process of composing music for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Coming off of a long school year (Illinois State’s season up through this year has been 12 shows during the academic year), I was hitting some mental blocks as I prepared for ISF. These masterclasses happened early enough in the ISF rehearsal process that I was able to attend (though I did have to step out a couple of times to attend production meetings over the phone), and as I left New York, I found myself refreshed and inspired to get back to things at ISF.

Living in the cornfields, I don’t come across too many sound designers in my daily life, other than the ones I teach, so being in a room full of them for several days at a time was both exciting and surreal. And, to hear from designer/composers about their experiences invigorated me, as it is comforting to know that designer/composers who work in larger venues than I do often experience the same difficulties that I do in getting their work done. It helped me so much to hear how they developed strategies to face those difficulties and to communicate their needs to directors, producers, and collaborators.

Additionally, I found ways to incorporate material in my class. There was one session where we were asked to walk around with an ear plug in our ear for a short amount of time, in order to try to understand how different the world would be if we only had one ear. Knowing that I will be teaching a student next semester who is deaf in one ear, this experiment was so helpful. Not only would I have never thought to do that myself, I would have never thought to have my students do this. I will be incorporating this exercise into my sound design classes next year, as experiencing the world with one blocked ear made me think more about how we hear and how we craft listening experiences, and I hope it will do the same for my students.

These master classes were such a great experience for me, but they also opened my eyes to the fact that we have a lot to do in terms of gender equality in our field. Not only did we not hear from female designer/composers, but at the reception at the end, I was actually asked if I was one of my male counterpart’s girlfriend, implying that I couldn’t have been there in a design capacity. This was after I had been up to receive my Meyer Sound Scholarship certificate. The funny thing about it is that my colleague and I had just been speaking about how there is still work to be done in getting female voices in the room, and how encouraging it was to see so many female attendees at this event.

All that aside, it was inspiring to be in a room with the likes of Abe Jacob, Tony Meola, Lindsay Jones, John Kander (holy cow I got to hear John Kander speak!!!) and all of the other presenters at BSMC. Hearing from other designers and composers helps me feel empowered to continue on and do my best work, as well as encourage my students to do their own best work. I cannot wait to return to these master classes in the future.