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James Reber

How I Went from American University to the BBC

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.

Kreeger Studio at American University

Science and Art Flourish in Advanced Audio Technology Capstone Course

The Audio Technology Capstone is an advanced course in our undergraduate program that enables students to embrace their unique skills and particular areas of interest — to explore both the art and science of their future fields of study. It’s an opportunity to engage in discipline-specific projects in subjects such as:

  • Electro-acoustic instrument design and construction
  • Advanced live sound reinforcement techniques
  • Post-production audio for film and video
  • Music Production
  • Electro-acoustic music composition

We give our students a and equip them with tools. What’s amazing is how they turn that canvas into innovative art that reflects each person’s background and future work. Here are a few examples:

Joey Kaitany — Film, Audio Production and Physics in Unison

In spaces, such as an enclosed stairwell at the Union Arts building in Washington DC, Joey Kaitany created a Capstone experience that merged three of her passions: film, audio production, and physics. In a series of three videos, she captured musicians performing improvised pieces on acoustic instruments in locations with highly reflective surfaces, and therefore long reverberation times.

“I wanted to show the way art and creativity can connect these three disciplines into an emotional and immersive experience,” Joey said.

The goal? Use minimal technology to preserve the depth and experience of a live improvisation. The result? A hauntingly beautiful fusion of art and science.

 

Jon Whitman — A Historical Anthology of Musical Styles

With the underlying idea that characteristics of music are recycled back and forth into new music — cultivating continued innovation by composers — Jon Whitman created “The Waves Concerto,” an eight-minute composition that cycles through a historical anthology of musical styles:

Using original themes composed over several years, the concerto was crafted with samples of voices, orchestral instruments (brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion), synthesizers, and live guitar, which he arranged and performed.

 

Logan Bancroft Boucher — Audio Technology Meets Computer Science

Sometimes a well-laid plan doesn’t play out exactly as imagined, but spearheads discovery. While Logan Bancroft Boucher, who came to AU to double major in audio technology and computer science, took a slightly different path than originally expected, he ended up achieving his goal: a working, multi-effects plug-in program that enables users to manipulate an audio track in their digital audio workstation — in real time.

Logan Plugin

The plug-in’s effects included:

  • Stereo Widener Effect — Widens or narrows the stereo field, depending on the parameter set by the engineer.
  • Reverberation Effect — Several parameters can be adjusted to change the sounds of the echoes — taking into consideration room size, wetness, dryness, damping, reverb width, and freeze mode.

Each of these Capstone projects was unique, echoing the passions and skills of the student. This course presents a challenge, but a good one. It’s an opportunity for students in our program to reach toward their goals — and, many times, adjust and add to those aspirations along the way.

 

 

Find a home for your passion at American University. Explore our Audio Technology Program

Andros Rodriguez

7 Successful Producers, Musicians & Bands from Washington DC

In the world of music and sound production, artists and audio engineers usually have L.A., New York and Nashville at top of mind. These entertainment hotbeds are legendary breeding grounds for artistic expression through sound—but they’re not the only launching pads for successful careers in the industry.

 

Culturally diverse cities such as Washington, D.C. often provide the just right situation for development into impressive, fulfilling careers. Here is a list of some truly successful producers, musicians and bands that got their start in DC:

 

Marvin Gaye, Singer

With several world-famous singles including “Let’s Get It On,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On?” Washington D.C.’s Marvin Gaye was one of those artists whose music transcended both generation and genre. As one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Gaye used his platform to commentate on the racial and political turmoil of his time.

 

Andros Rodriguez, Music Producer

Since graduating from American University, Andros Rodriguez has kept himself busy producing tracks for artists such as:

  • Justin Timberlake
  • Leona Lewis
  • Ludacris
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Ben Folds
  • Pitbull
  • Shakira
  • Whitney Houston
  • Madonna

 

Duke Ellington, Composer & Musician

Better known as “The Duke,” D.C. native Edward Ellington brought his big-band jazz music to the masses for decades. A pianist, bandleader and composer, the bulk of The Duke’s music was popular in the early and mid-20th century, although elements of his work continue to influence music to this day. He is one of the most iconic artists in American history.

 

Tyler Osborne, Video Editor & Filmmaker

Tyler Osborne is putting his film and audio production training from AU to good use. He has edited TV programming for Discovery Channel, A&E, TLC and BET, among others. And, yes, he has helped put together shows for “Shark Week.”

 

Wale, Rapper

No list of influential music industry leaders from D.C. would be complete without Wale, who calls himself the, “Ambassador of Rap for the Capital.” With a diverse resume of collaborations and an ever-present desire to be unique — he gained attention for giving away his music early in his career — Wale has managed to keep his art firmly in the public spotlight. Earlier this year he earned an impressive designation: the first rapper to open for a State of the Union Address.

 

Robert Tozzi, Radio Producer

Robert Tozzi, who has a degree in audio technology from AU, continues to provide a great example for how to combine one’s talents and work ethic to accomplish big things in sound production. Today Robert serves as manager of NASCAR programming for Sirius XM Radio, overseeing all weekend programming and operations — including analyst shows and race broadcasts.

 

Tori Amos, Singer/Songwriter

Always one to do things on her own unique terms, Tori Amos founded Martian Recording Studios years after leaving an indelible mark on the alternative rock scene with songs such as “A Sorta Fairytale” and “God.” She was raised in D.C. before eventually touring the world.

Audio Technology at American University

Audio Technology: Bringing Sound Production Careers to Life

At American University, people who’ve been fascinated with music and sound for years are finding opportunities to transform their passion into meaningful careers.

AU’s master’s in audio technology program helps budding sound engineers, rock stars and up-and-coming producers to achieve their dreams. Students learn in the classroom and in the studio. They do internships across Washington, DC, and in New York City—where the art and science of audio production are flourishing.

Watch the video to learn more about the abundance of educational and cultural opportunities for MA in audio technology students in Washington, DC.

Sound like the program for you? Learn more about the MA in Audio Technology at American University.