By James Reber
I’ve been interested in audio since I began playing the guitar as a child. I wanted to know how my favorite artists achieved their signature sounds — and how I could re-create them.
That said, it wasn’t until I discovered the Audio Technology program at American University (AU) that my passion for sound began developing into a career and not just a hobby.
While working toward my bachelor’s degree (2013) in audio production and master’s degree (2015) in audio technology at AU, several opportunities proved integral to my future success in the field, including:
- Working on recording projects with students who were just as passionate about audio as I was
- Having access to the same tools the professionals use
- Practicing proven recording techniques while enjoying the freedom to experiment with my own ideas
Audio technology is just as much about art as it is about science. Like any art form, you have to understand the fundamentals and technical aspects of audio before your creativity can really thrive. It’s one thing to get signal into a mixer or computer, but true artists are able to capture sound with whatever aesthetic they desire to create.
From Student to Audio Production Professional
During my undergrad coursework at AU, an internship with the BBC proved to be a prime pathway to my first job in the audio technology industry. As a broadcast engineer for the BBC, I help look after the technical infrastructure of the news bureau, including audio and video systems as well as IT. I also assist with live and prerecorded news programs, such as our nightly program “World News America.”
The transition from student to sound engineering professional has been a natural outcropping of what I learned at AU — how to innovate creative solutions and improve workflow. One of the best parts of my job is carefully considering every possible solution to a problem and determining which one is best for any given situation.
Discovering a Future in Audio Technology
This fall I’m teaching ATEC 311, Sound Studio Techniques I, an undergraduate level class at AU. It’s my students’ first class in the Kreeger Building studios, so my main goal is to help them become comfortable enough with the equipment to confidently run a recording session. We’re covering topics such as basic signal flow for recording and mixing, headphone sends for monitoring, microphone techniques, and using outboard gear to process audio.
It’s exciting to reflect on my own journey into this field, to encourage the growth and development of current AU students, and to deeply consider how all of us will be affected as technology and culture evolve.
Careers based in technology don’t stand still for long. In audio technology, I believe the increasing popularity of virtual reality will create a need for 360-degree or binaural recordings. You can only be completely immersed in a virtual world if the audio corresponds with the visuals. I think this will create a whole new field for audio professionals who will have to start thinking beyond stereo or 5.1 mixing.
No one knows for sure what the future of audio production and technology will look like, but it’s exciting to think about. Whatever happens, art and science most assuredly will continue to collide.
Do you see yourself having a career as an audio engineer? Learn about how students thrive after completing American University’s MA in Audio Technology program.