How I Went From American University to NPR


GastonThe science behind electronics and acoustics is, without question, essential for a career in audio technology. However, for me, it’s the vast potential of artistic expression that breathes life into my work.

I first became interested in audio technology about five years ago, when I was in a metal band that recorded a demo in the lead guitarist’s house. I helped set up the microphones and oversaw the recording process. Seeing riffs and melodies we wrote in my bedroom come to life as a song—an actual song that people can listen to—was the coolest thing.

I didn’t mix those songs myself, but being involved in the process sparked a passion that continues to grow. Audio technicians like me have opportunities to take great sound and make it even better. We have sprawling canvases of sound where we can explore and express previously untapped reserves of creativity. We create sonic landscapes that take listeners on a ride.

The possibilities are endless.

I’m a broadcast technician in Washington, DC, at WAMU 88.5 FM radio, a National Public Radio affiliate. Basically, I run the board (an Axia Element mixing console) during All Things Considered, one of NPR’s most popular programs.

During All Things Considered, NPR streams segments that follow a very precise schedule. About six times each hour, our team at WAMU is given a block of time for local programming, in which our host briefly discusses news, the weather, or upcoming shows.

The best part of working at WAMU is knowing that thousands of people are listening to what I do. It’s a lot of responsibility, which also is a lot of fun. The fact that my performance affects people’s listening experiences inspires me to do the best job I can.

Audio engineers are in the background, behind the spotlight—and that’s OK. From hit songs and music videos to radio shows and live events, we take pride in the significant role we play in bringing high-quality sound to anxiously awaiting ears.

For many of us, this pride grew during our higher education studies. My confidence crescendoed as I learned about the many aspects of audio technology. I learned that the little things matter—factors such as the microphone(s) being used to record a song. The placement of the microphone(s). Where the musician is standing. The pre-amps used to boost the signal. Processing and effects that alter the sound.

It is in the details—the “little things”—that an audio engineer’s creativity can really shine. It’s where a mix becomes a work of art.

My bachelor’s degree in audio production from American University represents all the effort and knowledge that makes my job such a blast. The audio production and audio technology programs at AU also open up unique opportunities to learn in a real-world setting. I was able to intern at WAMU 88.5 and other places prior to graduating, giving me firmer footing as I transitioned into a career.

I’ve also been a member of AU’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society for about two years. AES has presented me with excellent networking opportunities and served as a window into what’s possible with a degree in audio technology. I have attended master classes and workshops and have listened to professionals speak about the industry. Now, as an alumnus of the Audio Technology Program at AU, I plan on continuing my involvement with AES. It’s an opportunity to support aspiring audio engineers for years to come.



The Audio Technology Program prepared Gaston for his career at NPR. If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, learn more about the Audio Technology Program at American University.

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