In the audio technology industry, degrees, internships, and key connections are valuable tools. However, one key factor makes it all matter: passion.
With real passion for sound—and a work ethic to match—talented individuals from any background can find success in the world of audio technology.
American University adjunct professor Maurizio Sera, a multi-platinum award-winning audio engineer, is living, breathing, headphone-wearing proof that when passion, work ethic, and opportunity collide, great things can happen.
Maurizio, known as IRKO in the music industry, has helped shape the music of high-profile artists Jay-Z, Kanye West, Diddy, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, and many more. However, like most audio engineers, his journey wasn’t as glamorous as the list of people he’s worked with. It was dotted with hard work, networking, and a love of music.
“I get paid for my sessions, and that’s fine, but part of my payment is twisting an instrument, knowing that what I heard first in my head will be heard by millions of people,” he said. That passion simmered and grew through a long but rewarding process.
Maurizio was born and raised in Venice, Italy, where he entered college to study computer science. It didn’t take long for him to discover his calling was elsewhere. He dropped out to instead enter a three-year audio engineering program—which he completed in nine months.
Obviously, Maurizio had found his niche.
During his tenure in higher education, he interned with one of his instructors before building a studio in his father’s garage, just outside Venice. He honed his craft in that studio for five years.
Maurizio’s business blossomed and eventually led to a successful partnership with one of his former teachers. And the two of them spent a couple of years creating and equipping the largest studio in northeast Italy.
When he later set off for New York to garner insight on how to take his business to the next level, Maurizio reconnected with an old acquaintance to do some work—including production of a Jay-Z record that ended up going double platinum.
Maurizio’s globe-crossing career took off after that, and eventually so did his desire to help aspiring audio engineers from various backgrounds blaze their own professional trails.
“I was thinking, ‘I have a unique experience that has led me here. Maybe I should start to share it with others,’” Maurizio said.
After being invited to a small community college to teach and share his story, Maurizio has made a point to schedule workshops and classes all over the world. Eventually he plans to expand his workshop series and begin promoting it online.
At American University, Maurizio has been working with the Audio Technology Program to drop real-world knowledge on students. His first class, called “Speakeasy,” was focused on hip-hop mixing. His second class was an inventive model: For three weekends, 10 students worked with a guest producer to take a beat with a sample in it and replace that sample with a different style of music.
Overall, Maurizio wants to help prospective engineers better understand everything from mixing to how royalties work. For students, his central advice is simple yet potent: Take full advantage of the opportunities provided by a program such as the master’s in audio technology at American University. You have the chances to “mess up” and experiment before entering the industry.
“If you don’t know your keyboard well, practice here so you are more efficient when you get out in the real world,” he said. “Then you won’t be going through that phase of ‘practice’ once you leave, because you already messed up all you could in safe environment.”
If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, click to learn how to achieve a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.