Beats By Girlz Founder, Berklee College of Music Associate Professor, Music Producer, Erin Barra

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Beats By Girlz Founder, Berklee College of Music Associate Professor, Music Producer, Erin Barra

By Leslie Buttonow

What do you do when you spend time learning and perfecting a craft, and then realize many others are looking to you to learn what you do? You teach, of course! And that’s exactly what Erin Barra did, but in more ways than one.

After spending some time as a songwriter and producer, Barra brought technology into the fold from a desire to reach certain goals she had for her career. She also used that experience to land a teaching job at a young age at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Along with her use of tech came the realization that other women were interested in learning about how she made her music and the tools she was using, which inspired her to formally encourage other young women in their musical aspirations.

Here, Barra shares some of her story with us, as well as a few musical treats from some of her current projects.

To find out more, visit beatsbygirlz.com and mammabarra.com.

The WiMN: Tell us a little about how you started using technology in music—did you learn traditional instruments first and then incorporate it, or has technology been there throughout your musical journey?

EB: I was trained as a classical pianist from a very young age and didn’t really get involved in music tech until much later in life, when I was around 24 years old.

The truth is, I got into music tech out of sheer necessity because I had goals that needed accomplishing and not enough resources to pay someone else to help me achieve them. The people who control the tech are largely the ones who hold the power and so after years of frustration, I decided that I was going to get behind my laptop and play that role for myself.

The WiMN: What is the most gratifying part of teaching music students?

EB: For me, teaching is a lot like writing, producing and collaborating, which is what drew me to the music industry in the first place. All of those things, including teaching, are just ways of communicating with other people and exchanging ideas, thoughts, and emotions. That’s what I enjoy the most––communicating, and being able to do that with brilliant young creative minds is the best.

The WiMN: Where did the idea for Beats By Girlz (BBG) come from?

EB: Towards the end of my career as being purely an artist, when I really began to master the tools, it became clear to me that people were more interested in how I was making music and the tech tools I was using than actually listening to my music. People started calling me the “Ableton Lady” and wanted to book me on shows that featured women in technology.

At one point, I sort of looked around and realized that I’d been inadvertently cast in this role as a leader and role model for other women who wanted to write, produce and perform with their laptops. Once I figured it out, I felt a responsibility to actively try and fill the shoes people already felt I was wearing, so BBG was born out of that desire to help other women who were looking to me for help and offer role support.

The WiMN: In your role both as a professor and with your BBG workshops, how have you seen girls’ participation in music and music technology change over the years?

EB: I see so many more women in the music tech space than I did five years ago––on stages, in classrooms, in studios––and I also see far more people talking about the issue of gender equity in general. There’s still a massive amount of work to be done, but we’re moving in a forward direction.

The WiMN: Was there ever a time when you felt you had to prove yourself as a woman working in music technology, which has traditionally been more male-dominated?

EB: I feel like I’m constantly being challenged and doubted by the people around me, not only because of my gender, but also my age. I’m the youngest person in my department at Berklee and I lead several committees and groups full of men who I’ve had to work twice as hard as to gain their respect. I even get it from my own students sometimes, since they’re so used to being directed by older white men.

At a certain point, it’s just not worth investing any energy into it. My resume and reputation speak for themselves, so I let those things do the talking and tune out the rest.

The WiMN: You’re also a songwriter and solo artist—are there any projects you’re working on (or recently completed) that you’d like to share?

EB: I just produced a track for a Swedish artist named Matilda I’m really into (listen here); another young American rock artist named Chloe Jane (listen here); and a song I produced for the amazing Leon Waldo just released worldwide (listen here).

I’ve also been creating a lot of video content that features my performances and productions, paired with how to video tutorials that break the whole process down. You can see them here.

The WiMN: If any of our readers are interested in helping to bring a Beats By Girlz chapter to their community, where do they start?

EB: You can visit beatsbygirlz.com for more details and ways to get involved, give to the community and start your own chapter. 🙂 

Front And Center: Sound Engineer and Co-Founder of SoundGirls, Karrie Keyes

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Sound Engineer and Co-Founder of SoundGirls, Karrie Keyes

By Myki Angeline

Sound engineer Karrie Keyes has spent over two decades monitoring sound for some of the biggest names in rock, including Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – and she accomplished this as a mother of twin daughters. A true inspiration to women in a field where women make up only 5% of audio engineers, Keyes co-founded SoundGirls to give women (and those who identify as women) a platform to support working in professional audio and music production by highlighting their success and providing a place for them to connect, network, and share advice.

We are thrilled to present Karrie Keyes with a 2017 She Rocks Award at the upcoming NAMM Show in January. In honor of the occasion, she recently spoke with us about her life on the road, how she overcame the struggles of being a woman in the sound engineer industry, and what SoundGirls has in store for 2017.

Visit SoundGirls website here.

WiMN: Congratulations on being a She Rocks Awards honoree! What are you looking forward to most at the ceremony, and what does it mean to you to receive this award?

KK: I attended the awards for the first time in 2015, and loved hearing the stories and achievements from the honorees. The sense of community that this awards show creates is very important and empowering. I am humbled to be honored. The hard work I do on a day to day basis for the SoundGirls community is important for women and girls. To be recognized for that work is very rewarding.

WiMN: Give us your professional title and what you do as a part of SoundGirls. How long have you been a part of this organization?

KK: I am the co-founder and executive director of SoundGirls. I run the organization on a day to day basis. That includes: editorial, finances, website management, social media, organizing workshops and seminars, answering email, speaking engagements, community outreach, fundraising, and developing our Live Sound Camp for Girls. Basically everything.

WiMN: What was your introduction to music in your youth?

KK: I would just fall in love with songs I heard on the radio. I think differently than some, to the point I would be so emotionally excited when they came on the radio. Back then, I took music lessons from about 3rd grade through middle school. Options to work in music were not presented to me in high school, but it was something that called to me. I tried to remain content by being a fan and attending as many concerts and shows as I could.

That is one thing SoundGirls works to change. We feature monthly profiles on Women Audio Engineers, so now when young girls are searching online for female audio engineers they have a face; a role model. You can’t be something you can’t see.

WiMN: You aspired to be a writer when you were younger, and travel the world. Do you still write now? Have you traveled the world?

KK: I love to write and I write a lot of content for SoundGirls, so that is nice. I have been able to travel to a lot of places by touring with bands.

WiMN: What attracted you to audio/monitor engineering?

KK: I had the desire to be around music and that creativity. So, when I had the chance to hang out at shows and help a local sound company, I just jumped at it. You can take a lot of chances when you are 17. From there I learned on the job and eventually was running the stage and able to mix monitors for the support bands and eventually the headliners.

WiMN: Describe one of your most memorable sessions.

KK: Oh geez! There are too many. When I was working one-offs on a regular basis, everyday had the potential to be a magical and memorable experience. The power of live performance to transform, elevate, empower…to transport to another a place is – well, there is nothing else like it.

WiMN: Do you play any instruments?

KK: Not now.

WiMN: Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on currently?

KK: SoundGirls! We are just gearing up for our annual fundraising, which provides scholarships to any girl that wants to attend our Live Sound Camp for Girls during the summer. Last year we provided four camps across the U.S. with over 100 girls attending and providing 70% of the girls attending scholarships. (The camps and SoundGirls is open to all genders and non-conforming genders. Our membership base is about 35% male and 65% female). We are close to launching a directory for Women in Music Production, where women and those that identify as women can upload their resumes, experience, job discipline. The directory is free and can be utilized by anyone that is looking to hire women for their production team. Now, when people say they want to hire women but can’t find them, there will be a directory full of them.

WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity in the music industry simply for being a woman? If so, how did you overcome it? Do you feel it made you a stronger, tougher person?

KK: Once, the road manager for Pearl Jam posted a picture of the women on the crew (which we have several from Production Manager, Production Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Monitor Engineer, Management, Photography and Fan Club, Lighting Crew) with the caption, ‘The Tougher Side of the Pearl Jam Crew.’

Women must work harder, smarter, and be tougher, and by being those things is how you overcome adversity. Since starting SoundGirls I have learned that the issues women face are not limited to women; it affects all marginalized people. The industry needs diversity.

WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career as an audio engineer?

KK: My advice is the same for all. Follow your passion and do what you love to do. It may be a hard path to walk, but one that will be incredibly rewarding. SoundGirls is a wonderful and supportive community where you can ask questions, find resources and mentors and start on this amazing career path.

Front and Center: Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound, Leslie Ann Jones

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound, Leslie Ann Jones

leslieannjones_webToday we are thrilled to feature another 2016 She Rocks Awards recipient, recording and mixing engineer Leslie Ann Jones.

Working in the business for over 30 years, Jones engineered at many studios before accepting her current position as Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound in Northern California.

Jones has worked with such artists as Herbie Hancock, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Marcus Miller and more, while contributing her recording and mixing talents to television and film scores like Apocalypse Now, among many others.

Today, Jones continues her engineering career recording and mixing music for records, films, video games, television, and commercials. She has won numerous Grammy Awards for her engineering work, and will soon add a She Rocks Award to her list of accolades!

Find out more about Leslie Ann Jones and Skywalker Sound here.

WiMN: What was your introduction to music as a child?

LAJ: My parents were both in the music business. My father was bandleader-satirist Spike Jones, and my mother, Helen Grayco, was a singer.

WiMN: What attracted you to audio engineering?

LAJ: I was a guitar player and singer in my teens and early twenties. Although I did quite a bit of recording, it was from the other side of the glass. At some point I had sound equipment and formed a PA company with friends and decided I really enjoyed mixing and the freedom I had to be creative with sound. I was hooked!

WiMN: Describe one of your most memorable sessions.

LAJ: That is hard because I have had so many memorable sessions. I guess it would be the first time I worked with Peter Matz, the great arranger. I was always a fan of his work, even as a child, so it was a thrill when I was finally able to work with him.

WiMN: How do you approach engineering and mixing for music, versus movies, television or video games?

LAJ: Well, there are technical differences, different terminology, and a different end user. But the truth is my approach is very much the same. I try to translate what the composer or artist is creating. They hear in their head what they want, or they have composed it on paper. My job is to have that come out of the speakers in a way that represents their artistic intent.

That sounds simplistic—but with the right microphones, studio and a great staff to work with—it happens. And it is a real joy.

WiMN: Do you play any instruments?

LAJ: I am a recovering guitar player.

WiMN: Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on currently?

LAJ: Well, my most recent project is also memorable for me. I got to spend a couple days recording Lisa Fischer and JC Maillard. They are doing a project for Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, here in the Bay Area. I have such respect for their talent. It was a quite a thrill for me.

I am also producing and engineering Ann Moss’ second album. Ann is a wonderful soprano who loves collaborating with contemporary composers, both classical and pop. We have a lot of fun working together.

WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity in the music industry simply for being a woman? If so, how did you overcome it?

LAJ: Having a good sense of humor helps. I learned long ago to ask for help when I needed it and not try to think or act like I could do everything. When I first started there were always moments when I’d be in the control room and the client would walk in and ask where the engineer was. I had to say, “I’m your engineer.” But once I got a drum sound all was right with the world!

I’ll never know how many jobs I didn’t get because I am a woman. I am just grateful for the all the great jobs I do get, both in spite of and because I am a woman.

WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career as an audio engineer?

LAJ: Don’t make plans on a Friday night???? The technical stuff is not as challenging as the hours. People skills are very important. Raise your hand and ask questions and find a mentor.

WiMN: What does it mean to you to receive a She Rocks Award?

LAJ: Well, this award really means a lot to me, especially considering all the past recipients. I’m glad to represent the technical and creative side of the studio. And I am very happy Laura started this event as a way to single out all the great women in our industry.

Front and Center: FOH Engineer for Janelle Monáe, Amanda Davis

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: FOH Engineer for Janelle Monáe, Amanda Davis

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Traveling the world, working with one of the most influential female artists, and being surrounded by music that you love and are passionate about… Sounds pretty ideal, right? Amanda Davis gets to call this her reality, because she works for powerhouse musician and activist, Janelle Monáe, and is fresh off of touring with the whole Wondaland Records crew as their Front of House (FOH) Engineer.File_000

Davis has learned that the thrill of FOH Engineering is the equivalent of happiness for her. Having gone through schooling focused on studio engineering, upon graduation she realized that she had a greater calling: live, front of house engineering.

Read on for more about Davis, her inspirations, and what she’s learned along her journey, and for more on Wondaland Records, check out their official website.

WiMN: How did your love for FOH engineering come to fruition?

AD: My love for FOH was an evolution. The school I went to focused more on studio recording, so when I graduated that was the goal: to be a recording engineer. While interning I needed money, so I got a church job and some local club gigs and I found that I was having more fun doing that. I then decided I was going to focus on live sound and figure that out. I love traveling and learning, so being a FOH engineer enables me to both and I love it!

WiMN: What’s your favorite part of the job?

AD: My favorite part of the job is that first down beat of the show! You’re at the venue all day preparing for the production, and when the band hits the stage and the crowd is going crazy it’s the feeling of, “Ahhh this is what it’s all about.” 🙂

WiMN: You used to be a studio engineer. Can you describe the key differences between that and FOH engineering?

AD: One difference between studio work and live sound is that everything needs immediate attention. A lot of times when recording, people will say, “We’ll fix it in the mix.” That’s not an option when you’re mixing FOH, because the mix is what’s happening right at that moment. If it’s not “right” now, then you better figure out how to get it as close to “right” as possible. Another is mic choice and placement. Some of those decisions need to be made based on the venue and/or application. When recording in the studio, you’re dealing with a contained situation and a room that has been specifically designed for recording… That’s not always the case with live sound venues.

With Janelle, the look of the stage is a key component of the production, so there’s no drum shield. With that, I can’t really have a lot of condenser mics on my drums – the toms in particular. We have to be specific about our vocal mic choices as well, especially with an artist like Janelle – she’s all over the stage! We don’t travel with a PA so I have to really tune the PA and ring out her mic. She comes out into the audience, where sometimes the PA hangs low and close to the stage, so she’ll run right in front of it.

WiMN: Do you have any gear and tech “must haves?”

AD: I don’t really have any “must haves.” I use a Yamaha CL5 and the onboard processors are pretty good. It also has the U76 compressor that simulates the 1176, and that works great on my main vocal. I just started using the Waves CLA compressor plugins on my drums, and I love it. That’s about it!

WiMN: Have you faced any adversity being a female FOH engineer?

AD: I haven’t really had to face too much adversity for being a female in this industry, thank God. When I’ve walked into a venue or have had a call about a show, I would get the whole “double take” look, or after the show guys would say, “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but great job!” Like, how am I supposed to take that? LOL!! I just say “thanks” and keep on moving. I’ve been with Janelle for two years now, and after all that time you tend to work with the same people, so that doesn’t really happen to me anymore.

WiMN: You’re on the road a lot with Janelle Monáe. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?

AD: The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep a good and positive attitude. Knowing your stuff is very, very important, but if you walk into a venue or festival with a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to taint the experience. Show days are already long as heck – no need to make them longer by being a scrooge. If you love what you do, take refuge in that and positively approach your day in every aspect – if you feel good, then the music and the mix will, too.

WiMN: The protest song, “Hell You Talmbout,” was released this summer through Wondaland Records – did you play it during the tour? Tell us about your experience playing “Hell You Talmbout” at rallies, and the importance of this track.

AD: The rallies took place on show days during load in, so I didn’t get the chance to participate and play the song during that time. But we did close every show with it, and the crowd response was quite moving. People really engaged and felt the passion and intention of the song.

Police brutality is real and we can’t keep quiet about it. We have to continue to bring awareness to people who may not know that things like this happen all of the time in our communities. I’m proud to have played a small part in the “Hell You Talmbout” movement – we have to continue saying these names, and keep encouraging people to look out for humanity. I do believe that these attacks from the police were racially charged, but we have to know that at the end of the day, we as human beings have to be more aware that this is about humanity as a whole. If we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? Black or white, we have to show love and respect for all.

WiMN: Do you look up to anyone in the music and audio industries?

AD: I look up to anyone who’s doing their own thing and aren’t being buttholes about it. I’ve connected with some very successful engineers and they have looked out for me – I admire that about people. All that we do is make music – there’s no reason to be mean to people, especially to the young engineers just looking for a chance or for advice. Someone gave us a chance, and it doesn’t cost a thing to give that to someone else.

WiMN: Which musicians do you find yourself jamming out to the most?

AD: It’s cliché, but I honestly love all types of music. I particularly love the old school, soul sound, as well as alternative electronic. I jam out to The Suffers, Lucius, Lianne La Havas, Emily King, ACEG, Com Truise, anything Pharell does… I could go on and on!

WiMN: Where do you see yourself in five years?

AD: In five years I would like to still be on the road, and mixing great music. I just finished a tour mixing all of the artists on Janelle’s label, Wondaland Records – that gave me a chance to mix six different genres in one show! I’m aware that I may not be a good fit for EVERY type of artist, but I do want to continue to expand my clientele and skill sets.

WiMN: What advice do you have for other women who want to venture into the sound engineering track?

AD: My advice to other women wanting to venture into live sound is to believe in yourself and the knowledge that you have acquired. The only difference between you and a man is just that: your gender. It’s easy to get in a bind and second guess yourself because things happen so quickly in live sound, but be confident in yourself and go for it.

If you mess up, fix it and remember it so that it won’t happen again… That’s the best way to learn. If you don’t know, admit that you don’t know and then figure it out. Don’t approach a mix from a technical perspective, because if you get all technical you lose the life out of the live music experience. People come to shows to feel something, and an overly processed mix can take away from that feeling. I dance when I mix LOL, and that works for me… Find what works for you, and have fun!

Front and Center: Great Lakes Regional Producer at Varsity Vocals, Emily Flanders

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Great Lakes Regional Producer at Varsity Vocals, Emily Flanders

By Gabriella Steffenberg

Since the 2012 release of blockbuster hit Pitch Perfect collegiate a cappella has boomed11035468_1564305670496726_8937257579816538451_n in popularity as well as in notoriety. Behind the curtain, Varsity Vocals puts on the show nationwide organizing and running one of the most prestigious a cappella events.

Insert Emily Flanders, who has ran countless Varsity Vocal events and puts a smile on the face of anyone and everyone she meets. Paired with her invaluable pre-show pep talks, there’s no better woman to talk to before hitting the stage.

For more information on Varsity Vocals, check out their website.

WiMN: Do you currently work and/or volunteer with anyone else?

EF: I’ve just moved to Chicago, but until very recently I was working full-time for a large national nonprofit. I volunteer my time for the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America, where I’m in my fifth year as Concert and Professional Showcase producer of BOSS, an educational a cappella festival in Boston. I’ve have also volunteered for 826 Boston and a few other local non-profits. I’m looking forward to getting more involved in Chicago.

WiMN: Describe what your experience has been like at Varsity Vocals.

EF: I attended my first ICCA Quarterfinal in 2005, and loved how it brought so many groups together. I started shadowing the then-producer of the Midwest to get involved. When I finished school, I contacted Varsity Vocals’ Executive Director Amanda Newman and started working as a producer not long after! I have worked in both the Midwest and Northeast regions. Now that I’ve relocated to Chicago, I’ll be taking over as the Great Lakes Regional Producer.

Varsity Vocals has really evolved over the past few years, and our team is nothing short of spectacular. All the regions have nuanced differences, but we work incredibly hard to uphold the high standards of the organization across all our shows. The fact that we have so many long-term producers is a testament to how much we believe in what we do, and also a testament to Amanda’s leadership.

There is something magical about working on a show from beginning to end, from booking the venue to handing out awards on stage. I know how hard every single competing a cappella group works to get to that stage because I’ve been there myself, and the groups are my motivation. My work allows students to have a venue to not just perform, but share something special with their group, their loved ones, and an audience. Varsity Vocals gives us that platform.

WiMN: The popularity of the ICCA (the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) has boomed since the release of the a cappella movie, Pitch Perfect. What kind of changes have you witnessed?

EF: We are grateful our audience has expanded and that more people know and love a cappella because of Sing It On, The Sing Off, and Pitch Perfect. It’s allowed us to work in larger venues, like Boston Symphony Hall and New York’s Beacon Theatre, and has exposed more people to the art form. The more people inspired, the better – hopefully, it leads to local schools and communities supporting their own a cappella groups/music programs in general.

WiMN: Tell us about how a cappella has shaped your life, specifically in your college years.

EF: I grew up performing in musicals, choirs, and community theater, but my first experience singing small-group a cappella was at Interlochen Arts Camp at 13.

I auditioned for a madrigal group subset of our choir, and was hooked. Tight harmonies, minute dynamic changes, the importance of blend – it was exhilarating and terrifying to be responsible for not just my own performance, but for the well-being of the collective. I took all the performance opportunities I could from that point on, and in college I sang with the Washington University Amateurs. We competed in ICCA, we toured the country, and even got to record “The Luckiest”  with Ben Folds and open his concert at the Ryman in Nashville.

More importantly than performing, though, were the lessons I learned. A Cappella groups typically come together through auditions; with music as a sole common interest, you get a lot of interesting personalities. We fought, laughed, fumed, loved, and then laughed some more. We were a family of differently minded people with semi-finished prefrontal cortexes, but we really cared about one another and the music. The Amateurs shaped who I am as a person, and I’m grateful to still have those friendships today.

WiMN: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

EF: Reading, cooking, writing letters, going dancing with friends, voting.

WiMN: Who is your favorite musician at the moment and what about them inspires you?

EF: Janelle Monáe is an incredibly inspiring human, musician, activist, and an unapologetic QUEEN. She lives boldly, and her music reflects that. I really admire the way she uses her art to direct attention – not for her benefit, but for the causes she supports and the greater good. We should all be so driven and brave.

WiMN: Do you have a woman in the music industry that you look up to?

EF: In my specific corner of the industry, I admire Amanda Newman’s work ethic and courage under fire. She gets a lot of heat from competitors, angry parents, and people who tell her how to run her business. I’ve also seen men take credit for what she’s built. She remains collected under pressure, keeps her head down, and pushes forward while protecting her organization and staff.

Also, I admire any woman in music today who works behind the scenes, and those who have worked hard to make that possible in the past – all without being center stage. There is still much work to be done – it’s mostly still the “man behind the curtain” on the production side of things (whether that be live or recorded music). I admire women who work hard to gain the skills they need to do what they love.

WiMN: What’s a piece of advice you have for women who want to break into the a cappella industry?

EF: This community is continuously growing, but you may have to make a role for yourself if you want to make it a full-time profession. Most of us doing anything are doing so for free or part-time. Don’t feel limited by the available paying jobs out there – if you know that you want to do this professionally, be real with yourself about your current abilities and then work hard to make it happen.

I adhere to Ann Friedman’s Shine Theory, which is great for any industry, including music. By surrounding yourself with other successful women, you will learn and be inspired, have great ladies to back you up, and have the “associated power of awesomeness.” Don’t compete, befriend. Don’t be the artist who won’t hire a great bassist because you don’t want another blonde woman on stage. Don’t make excuses and say you “always are better friends with dudes.” Don’t allow others to treat you as a token female. Be better, and remember: true confidence doesn’t come by cutting other great women down. “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”

WiMN: What are your goals for the upcoming year?

EF: Work hard, keep listening, and find inspiration everywhere I can. Also, I should probably eat fewer gummi candies.

Front and Center: Drummer, Film Score Composer and Audio Engineer, Lorena Perez Batista

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Drummer, Film Score Composer and Audio Engineer, Lorena Perez Batista

lorenapb

Lorena Perez Batista from Punto Fijo, Venezuela, has music in her DNA. At her young age, she has already done more than some will accomplish in their lifetime.

It all started when she packed her bags to travel overseas from Venezuela to the United States to pursue an opportunity most would consider unachievable – applying to the ultimate destination for musicians, Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. But there are no obstacles for Perez Batista.

Since her arrival to the United States, she has landed an endorsement with Gaai Drums; written for the world’s only magazine dedicated to female drummers, Tom Tom Magazine; and earned a spot in the top five worldwide players in the Hit Like a Girl drumming contest, for which she became the Venezuelan ambassador this year.

But there’s a lot more. Perez Batista has played as a supportive artist to music giants like Latin Grammy Award-Winners Camila, Belanova and Javier Limón; written music for movies like Christmas in Palm Springs and orchestrations for documentaries like Conquest of the Skies 3D

She’s currently an audio engineer at RMI Music Productions, where she works with Multi-Platinum recording artist Russ Miller, who is now in the process of recording an album for South Korean artist Lee Moon Sae. She’s also tapping into the educational world with Wondertree Kids by developing an exciting project that combines original music, dance and sign language for children, providing early learning experiences to foster their development through music. In addition, she teaches drums at the Academy of Music for the Blind; a non-profit organization dedicated to provide music education to talented blind students.

For more on Lorena Perez Batista, visit her website at http://lorenaperezmusic.com.

WiMN: What do you think the perception of female musicians is like in Latin America?

LPB: I think we have great female musicians but maybe not enough of them. And like in the rest of the world and in the music business, men outnumber women and that can be a challenge.

When I was growing up in Venezuela I remember there were more well-known worldwide Latin female acts like Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan and Olga Tañón. Nowadays I feel like most of them are hidden treasures that might not get the exposure they deserve. For example, singer-songwriters like Natalia Lafourcade and Marta Gómez, or albums like Raíz by Lila Downs, Niña Pastori y Soledad should be heard more! There are other upcoming female musicians like Mariana Vega, Linda Briceño and conductor Alondra de La Parra who are currently demonstrating what they are really capable of: proving that as female musicians we just have to work a little harder and speak a little louder to be heard.

WiMN: What prompted you to choose drums over other instruments?

LPB: Since I was a little girl drums and rhythm have fascinated me; I used to dance everywhere I went! Growing up I used to make drums using anything that I would find in the house and played along with my favorite songs. That led my mom to realize I had a real interest in the instrument so she got me a drum set and a drum teacher. That decision determined what would happen next!

WiMN: Who are some of your favorite drummers?

LPB: I have always enjoyed playing drums as an accompanist who makes people dance and not as a soloist who is put in the spotlight. So I grew up playing along songs by Michael Jackson (JR Robinson, Jeff Porcaro), and bands like the Foo Fighters (Taylor Hawkins), Incubus (José Pasillas) and Los Amigos Invisibles (Juan Manuel Roura/Mauricio Arcas). All of them really influenced my playing. I also love playing music that has heavy percussion like South American Folk, Caribbean and Flamenco music. Originally this type of music doesn’t have a drum set so I like to work on adapting those rhythms to the set.

WiMN: Whom would you love to share the stage with?

LPB: One of the singer-songwriters I mentioned above, Natalia Lafourcade. I admire her work, growth and versatility, and I believe there is nobody who can compare to her. She really loves what she does and she transmits that love through her music, voice and lyrics. Every album she has released has a very different theme and sound and I appreciate how she has accomplished that with dedication, great collaborations and pure genuineness.

WiMN: Describe your experience of attending Berklee, from the moment you decided to apply, to traveling from overseas and getting accepted. What were the biggest challenges? What was the male to female student ratio like at Berklee classrooms?

LPB: I never imagined I would be able to study at Berklee, it seemed impossible to me. Why would a small-town girl from Venezuela dare to travel to the freezing city of Boston? And to study music? However, my family and my incredible colleagues and professors from my previous school, Miami Dade College, encouraged me to apply to Berklee. So with a lot of research and help from others I was able to prepare a great audition that led to a scholarship.

Once there I noticed that the male to female ratio was around 70/30 so I got used to being the only female drummer in the room! But I must confess, sometimes that would work to my advantage.

Berklee was a wonderful learning and growing experience. I had the chance to share the stage with internationally recognized artists, study with award-winning composers and performers, and meet amazing people from all around the world with whom I have the pleasure of working with now.

WiMN: Tell us about your experience working in Los Angeles.

LPB: After spending almost a year in Venezuela performing and writing music for television, I decided to move to Los Angeles at the end of 2013. The city gave me a warm welcome with a scholarship from the Women’s Music Summit presented by the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN), and a chance to perform with former Michael Jackson guitarist Jennifer Batten and former Béyoncé bassist Divinity Roxx. That day I knew I had made a great decision by coming to L.A.!

From there on I have performed with artists like Shahkar Bineshpajooh, singer-songwriters like Robert Reid Gillies and Moises Velasquez, and at television shows like El Show de Platanito with an exciting all-female band.

I have also been working with award-winning composers like Sandro Morales, Juan Carlos Rodríguez, Elik Álvarez, Freddy Sheinfeld and Joel Douek. I have had the opportunity to write music for movies like All I Want For Christmas and Christmas in Palm Springs, and for soap operas like Los Miserables for juggernaut broadcast television network Telemundo. I have also worked as an orchestrator for the latest documentary for IMAX 3D for David Attenborough’s Conquest of the Skies 3D, and as a second engineer on the album Rhythm Sphere for multi-platinum recording drummer Russ Miller and percussionist Pete Lockett.

WiMN: Can you tell us more about your current projects?

LPB: I work at RMI Music Productions under the guidance of Russ Miller, where we are currently recording for a new album by Korean artist Lee Moon Sae. I am also composing and producing a series of albums for Wondertree Kids, a learning and development center for children. It will be an exciting project that combines original music, dance and sign language for kids, providing early learning experiences to foster their development through music. This year I will also be performing live with artists like Robert Reid Gillies and Moises Velasquez, and I will continue to write original music and record drums for TV stations and independent artists.

Front and Center: Capitol Studios Vice President, Paula Salvatore

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Capitol Studios Vice President, Paula Salvatore

paulasmallThis week, we’re thrilled to introduce another She Rocks Awards honoree and a true legend of the LA recording world: Paula Salvatore.

As Senior Director and Manager of Capitol Studios for the last 24 years, and currently as the Vice President/Studios, Salvatore has been an integral part of recordings for some of the industry’s most iconic artists.

Many successful engineers have come up through the ranks under her guidance, and Salvatore’s commitment and loyalty has earned her the respect of her renowned clientele.

Musician, producer and now director, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and once drummer for Nirvana, released his critically acclaimed documentary, Sound City, in which Salvatore is featured. She also co-wrote and performed the end title theme, entitled “Sound City.”

Get to know Salvatore below and find out more at capitolstudios.com. We are thrilled to spotlight her along with our other She Rocks Awards honorees on Friday, January 23rd at the NAMM Show. Purchase tickets and find out more here!

WiMN: Can you tell us about one or two of the most memorable sessions you have been a part of?

PS: Phil Ramone produced the Duets I & II sessions with Frank Sinatra here in 1993. It was a thrill to experience these classic arrangements being recorded by the legendary man himself. The real deal! Another favorite was Sir Paul McCartney with the “Live Kisses” iTunes Live Concert along with the Kisses On The Bottom recordings.

WiMN: What lessons have you learned being surrounded by such talented artists, engineers and producers?

PS: Humility is the most attractive attribute. The greatest artists are truly the most humble. When artists are in their creative surroundings, they are more at ease, so you can develop special, long-lasting associations and friendships.

WiMN: In your eyes, how has the studio business changed over the years? What are some of the positive or negative aspects to running a studio in 2014?

PS: Budgets of course have affected the amount of studio time booked for projects. Pro tools and efficient home recording facilities have enabled artists to work longer hours/days and maintain limited budgets. Mixing projects are a challenge to book.

Despite these challenges, being a part of Capitol Music Group puts us in a unique place to serve the company and its artists. Capitol Studios is able to book tracking and orchestra sessions since we can provide an economical alternative to large scoring stages. Also, Capitol offers both vintage and state-of-the-art technology for artists.

WiMN: Can you tell us about the experience of being involved in Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary?

PS: It was such a career and personal highlight in my life. To have the opportunity to be featured along with such legendary artists and peers in a documentary was an amazing experience. It’s a privilege and a bit whimsical to be a part of this musical history.

WiMN: Who are some of your female heroes of the music industry?

PS: I was inspired by artists like Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell and Rita Coolidge. Rose Mann Cherney, a leader in the recording studio world, has inspired and mentored me over the years and has been a fine friend. Althea Mathis believed in me and gave me my first job in the recording business.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career in the industry?

PS: Always stay positive and helpful to others while pursuing your dreams. Learn patience, humility and be ready and encouraged to learn from others. Give yourself time to grow your career in the musical community. As a woman you must maintain a higher integrity on matters of discretion, competition and respect.

WiMN: What are you looking forward to at the 2015 She Rocks Awards?

PS: Sharing this prestigious award with all the other remarkable woman of the She Rocks 2015 celebration. Also having the opportunity to be recognized as someone who can be of service and inspiration to other women in this wonderful community.

Front and Center: Radio Memphis General Manager and On-Air Radio Personality, Dianna “Dirty D” Fryer

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Radio Memphis General Manager and On-Air Radio Personality, Dianna “Dirty D” Fryer

Dianna “Dirty D” Fryer didn’t want to be a D.J. — she was set up by long-time Memphis, Tenn., radio/media veteran Ric Chetter who recognized her latent talent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Fryer, general manager and on-air personality at Radio Memphis, is an advocate for unsigned artists and has a soft spot for all metal genres. She hosts two shows, Metal Music Mondays, and Radio Memphis Around The World, where she plays music from artists in every corner of the globe to listeners in more than 140 countries.

Her favorite thing is to provide a platform that allows musicians to soar and be discovered. When you don’t hear her owning the mic at Radio Memphis, you may find her at a local Memphis karaoke club pouring her heart out to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”

Listen to her shows at www.radio-memphis.com.

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WiMN: Tell us the story of how Radio Memphis came to be.

DF: Wow. A lot really went into that. Radio Memphis was a vision that was created by long-time radio/media veteran Ric Chetter. The idea for the premise of this radio station was actually an answer to what true radio had been missing for a very long time…to deliver great programming with LIVE interaction that was focused around the real reasons for existing: the music and the artists.

One of the brainchilds that Ric conceived when working with terrestrial radio was a show and project called The Great Unsigned. It focused on giving independent artists huge opportunities with product companies, tour management groups and national advertising campaigns through promotions, live sponsored events and air play. After doing that, Ric learned that both the fans and the industry loved the Memphis sound, no matter what style of music. He also knew that we had a TON of talent in the entire Mid-South that not only needed a platform to be heard from, but one that had the ability to reach the masses.

Now, placing this full-service radio station online was the logical answer almost four years ago, as long as TWO THINGS happened:

1) The quality of the sound signal that we would put out had to exceed the normal standards for terrestrial radio.

2) We had to be LIVE, not streaming, not recorded for uploading and later listening, but  LIVE. You know, the kind of LIVE that meant listeners could call in and everyone could get involved with the moment at hand… the way radio is supposed to be!!!

We did start out way ahead of the curve for this type of media and programming, but, you know? It turned out to be the best answer. We went from broadcasting in a studio out of the back of a house to now pumping out our HD-quality signal from the old Twilight/Leeway recording studio that’s located inside the Emmons Building in Memphis. I believe we show up in 140+ countries now… we’ve got thousands of listeners… and we are really getting to do our thing… LIVE of course!!!

WiMN: When Radio Memphis was founded, you weren’t really too keen on being on-air talent. Explain how you were brought along to the team.

DF: I  never considered being on-air when I joined Radio Memphis. Period. I wanted to be involved with helping create the image and develop a brand. I felt it was more important for me to learn how this machine worked, not just internally, but how it would impact the artists, fans, advertisers and the music business in general.

We HAD to be willing to do what others were afraid to do; even more importantly, we had to keep the parts that did work for radio and combine it with new world technology, all while creating a solid plan on how to do good business and fair business on a new platform that was coming, that was HERE. Whether you wanted to or not, you were gonna have to deal with and do business on the internet and everything and everybody was gonna jump onto it, too.

I was more focused and I still am, really, on developing relationships with artists, listeners, clients and music groups. I wanted to know how radio as a business fits into the jig-saw puzzle of this CRAZY COOL circus we know as “the music industry.” It was all new to me.

I actually met and became instant friends with Ric while he was still with terrestrial radio.  He knew at that point that I had worked with local musicians by helping create and putting together events for non-profit groups. I’ve done everything from motorcycle rides to full concert shows. I also did volunteer work for the promotions department at the station Ric worked for, so that I could attend the MEMPHIS IN MAY festivals and other station events to enjoy the music and meet artists.

When he decided that he needed to pull in help for Radio Memphis, Ric asked if I would join his staff. I really did not have the time necessary to devote to the cause…my life was going in a different direction at that time, but I ended up agreeing to help with a few live events and maybe play with some bumperstickers, nothing huge.

To get things going, I knew that the station needed some things, so I went ahead with making the contacts and all the arrangements necessary for our promotional materials. Then I began assisting in branding the station’s appearance, and about five days into our agreement, Ric made me the Promotions Director. I turned him down and we fought about it for two weeks…HARD. Obviously, I finally agreed.

Over the course of time, one step forward always lead to another offer resulting in another argument that lead to another level of advancement (I am currently the General Manager).  Really – all kidding aside – all along the way, I was given great attention and provided awesome tools to learn, grow and develop. I was always afforded the opportunity to be on the ground floor of every process when it came to the station and its operations.

Now after being there for a about two or three months, I was told that I needed to hang out with the “the night guy” (Brother Doug), get to know him and keep him company. “By doing that, it will give you a chance to watch and have a better undestanding on how everything works with the equipment,” Ric said. NOW I know what was reallly going on… I was being set up!!!

Our night jock is a radio veteran and he didn’t need any help, nor did we spend any time working on operations. Brother Doug threw a microphone in my face and demanded that I talk to him. So I did. There was no prep… just free form, crack a mic, say-it-like-was radio.  I had several “hangout” sessions with my radio family after that… but never considered myself a radio personality… not even after being dubbed “Dirty D” at that point.

After time passed (and apparently after Ric knew he wanted me on-air), he sat me down and explained to me that not only does the listening audience LOVE to have a live D.J. to interact with and get to know, but that women tend to do extremely well in radio because they can see things from both sides of the fence. He also said it was really a proven fact that the listeners respond to a female voice exceptionally well.

Then he suggested I become a regular personality on-air. Of course I said no — that was until I became very well-acquainted with the metal community. I really saw first-hand how limited the choices and support were for this genre and I wanted to do something to fix that. So, I asked Ric if we could create a show that someone else could do highlighting these artists.

I told Ric It would be a great avenue for them, that they would promote us and we’d gain even more listenership. We’d play all genres and it would be fun. I said it all and I had total “wins” across the board! And he agreed… with one non-negotiable stipulation: I had to host that show. I wasn’t gonna let these artists down, so of course I agreed.

After two or three quick sessions on how to run the board (remember, the night guy never did show me), I was thrown on the board, cans on, mic hot and told to have fun. Then, they shut the door and LEFT me with it. That was probably the best damn thing that could have happened to me. Not only did I realize how much I do love what I do… but I found out that I actually had a voice.

WiMN: You host two shows, Memphis Metal Mondays, and Radio Memphis Around The World. What can listeners expect on each show, and when and where can they chime in?

DF: Yes, I do! You can hear Memphis Metal Mondays every Monday night starting at 9 p.m., CST. I play independent metal artists from Memphis and the Mid-South till 11 p.m. CST, and then I’ll flip the switch and spin metal from all over the world till midnight, sometimes longer. There’s nothing better than slamming some metal after having to deal with a MONDAY.

Radio Memphis Around the World airs every Saturday from 1 p.m. CST to 5 p.m. CST. I created this show as our direct response to the insane support we were getting from all over: rock artists, pop artists, blues, country, all of it!!! So I spin all genres of music on that one.

With both shows, you’re gonna hear awesome music… I could be interviewing an artist, maybe even an industry pro. Sometimes a particular musician may be a guest D.J. and riding shotgun with me… we’ve been known to throw some live performances in the mix, so it really could be anything. Both shows are still evolving and I am always looking to see what I can do to make them better and really incorporate things more from the artists’ point of views, because it really is all about them for me.

You can find us at www.radio-memphis.com … and there are free apps for smart phones.

WiMN: What are some of the most exciting interviews you’ve done?

DF: I am gonna tell you that they are all exciting, really. Everything from new artists being ecstatic about being heard, to veterans in the industry that wanna offer the much-needed history lesson and advice, and the current music industry to national artists that wanna call to give the up-and-coming a little faith, hope and love.

We get to talk with a lot of different people, and they are all amazing. I’ve gotten to sit in with those who may have played with Elvis, to some of the best kings and queens of the blues, and ’80s metal bands I personally grew up with like Tora Tora, Shinedown and the original Saliva. Hell, we’ve even had the pleasure of having the king of wrestling Jerry Lawler spend time at Radio Memphis, who happens to love the local scenes. I love music and everyone’s story is awesome to me.

WiMN: You pride yourself in showcasing indie acts and unsigned bands. How important is it for you to offer a platform to showcase these musicians?

DF: You know, I get to listen to some pretty amazing talent. There is soooooo much incredible music out there, and I know that for most of these artists the only thing they need is to have the right pair of ears hear their stuff. I want to make that available to these guys.

THIS (Radio Memphis) is for THEM… We DO NOT take a dime from artists. You just don’t do that. We’re a radio station and we definitely run it like one. Our job is to help secure this solid platform through radio ads, concentrating on audience development and strengthening our business relationships, so that this music has a place to really launch from.

We have had artists that have been offered to be tour support across seas for major headlining acts; we’ve had bands have companies take their stuff, have it pressed and distributed on THEIR dime, just to return the profits back to the band because a certain region of the world had to have it.  We’ve had a band be approached about using their music for a national commercial; we have had independent bands meet national bands and make tours happen, all from being heard on Radio Memphis.

I am very grateful to be a part of their journey and watch dreams happen, so it’s extremely important to me. If opportunities present themselves to these artists because they were found on Radio Memphis… then I feel like I am doing my job.

WiMN: How friendly is the radio scene towards women?

DF: I think the radio scene LOVES women!!! [Laughs] Don’t get me wrong… I think everyone has to be on cue and ready to talk from all angles… and the scene has not only evolved to give women a great place in radio, but in a lot of cases the successful ones are dominating it because they understand how men think and are STILL being ladies doing it.  Make sense?

WiMN: How friendly is the metal scene towards women?

DF: From my view? The metal scene LOVES women, and it’s not because of the outfits or all of that craziness. Alright, it doesn’t hurt if the outfit is sexy [laughs]. I’m talking about the women that view themselves as ARTISTS; they have a confidence; they deliver a message through their music; they command attention; they perform and I mean really put on a SHOW.

Early on, it was very rare to see a woman just RIP IT UP in metal and be successful. In fact, it was almost always suggested that sexual imagery was absolutely necessary in order to succeed. Things are not like that anymore, and women can succeed in any genre if they choose to. It’s not about a woman/man thing, it’s about creating music.

Man, when you close your eyes you don’t even know what someone looks like. You sometimes can’t even tell who’s singing, but what you can tell is if that song grabbed you.  Metal music might have really been considerd more of a man’s world a long time ago, but for me that idealogy is long gone. Are there as many women playing and fronting metal as men now? Not by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really come a long way, but the only reason we are not seeing more women grab that mic, guitar neck, or drumstick is because of those individuals… not because of the scene. I think the metal scene wants MORE from more women: incredible songwriters, incredible voices and creative talents they are!! 🙂 Step up ladies!!!!

WiMN: Let’s have some fun. What is your favorite song to sing on karaoke?

DF: Damn. You found me out!! 🙂 Okay, actually there are two: “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.

Believe it or not, when “Total Eclipse of the Heart” came out, I would sit in the driveway with a dual cassette jam box, have the tape playing on one side and record myself singing on the other side over and over and over again. Yeah, I know… it really was one of my all-time favorite songs.

WiMN: Best metal bands ever?

DF: Ever? WOW. What an unfair question… how can you narrow it down? So many come to mind!!! I have always been a Dio girl. I listen to ’80s hair metal, alternative metal, thrash, grunge, melodic-operatic metal. Operation: Mindcrime and Queensrÿche come to mind when I think melodic-opera style. Big shout-out to Pamela Moore. I did catch your interview with her, by the way. Talk about a talented woman in metal and in the industry… my hats off to her.

WiMN: What advice would you give to a young woman seeking to pursue a career as a radio announcer?

DF: Learn EVERYTHING about the business. Being on the microphone is only about 1/10th of what it takes to make things work on air. I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend time with the reasons WHY you would be on air. Cultivate those relationships with people and learn the entire processes.

The entertainment industry, be it musicians, actors, writers, media, radio, whatever, is just that – entertainment. It is definitely a lifestyle, and commitment to these types of things can not be part-time or only done when it’s convenient — that is, if you want to be successful at it. That would really go for any dream you may have.

I do know that when you wake up and you want to do it as badly as you need to breathe, when you are willing to sacrifice and have sacrificed everything you’ve got to make it happen, you might be on to something. As for radio? Believe or not, the less you talk and the more you listen will teach you just about anything you might need to know. Promise. 😉 xoxoxo

Front and Center: Berklee Music Production and Engineering Professor, Susan Rogers

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Berklee Music Production and Engineering Professor, Susan Rogers

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Well before her career as a professor at Berklee College of Music, Susan Rogers was a highly successful record producer, engineer and mixer. Prince, Barenaked Ladies and David Byrne are just a few of the well-known artists she had the opportunity to work with.

However, in the late ’90s, Rogers quit the music business to attend school, where she studied music cognition and psychoacoustics. As quoted in her Berklee College of Music profile, “I loved making records, but along the way I began to realize that I might also enjoy working as a scientist.”

Today Rogers holds a unique position that allows her to combine her knowledge of music and science. She is an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music in the departments of Music Production & Engineering and Liberal Arts, and also the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory.

“To be teaching engineering and production at Berklee is satisfying, because these young people are just starting what will probably be extraordinarily exciting careers,” Rogers says. “I am eager to hear what this generation will do in the service of the music industry.”

For more on Susan Rogers, click here.

WiMN: How did you become interested in music and making records?

SR: Like many kids I took piano lessons and dropped out for lack of interest. My passion was for records. I was a record-and-radio-listening fiend from about age 7 onward. I used to fantasize about being in the studio, despite the few pictures of studios that I had. Perhaps just as some people are innately driven to play or write music, others may be innately driven to listen to it. That could be tested, perhaps!

WiMN: You worked as a mixer/engineer for an impressive roster of artists. What is one of the most valuable lessons you learned along the way?

SR: Haha –– so many that I get paid to teach even the fraction of them that I learned! Working in the arts necessitates that we become expert problem solvers, but we can never encounter every possible one. And sometimes we need time before we realize the value of a lesson.

In hindsight, one of the most valuable for me was to learn to ask the question any three-year-old would ask: “Why?” Once I started challenging my own assumptions and habits, I became more open-minded and better at my job. The other invaluable lesson was to learn how I worked, so that I understood my strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which I could be of value to people. Producers work to understand the strengths and weaknesses of others, but to know our own is worth the time spent.

WiMN: You left the record industry in the late ’90s to attend school for music perception and cognition. What inspired this change?

SR: I left to begin studies as a college freshman. My decision to leave the music industry in 2000 was inspired about 10 years earlier. I began to envy those with a formal education; I was becoming increasingly curious and excited about the natural world; my fantasies changed from working in a studio to working in a laboratory. It was gradual, but it was definitely a calling. My aim was to work as a cognitive ethologist –– one who studies the minds of non-human animals. I learned about research in music perception and cognition while an undergrad and it made sense to funnel what I knew of the art of music into the science of music. It was a smart decision but I still wonder every single day what it is like to be a pig, or a spider, or a hamster….

WiMN: Tell us about your current position at Berklee.

SR: I teach record production, audio electronics, and analog tape recording in the department of Music Production & Engineering and music cognition and psychoacoustics in Liberal Arts. Most of the students I teach are focused on engineering, mixing, or producing. Some are working towards careers as artists or writers. Others are in film scoring, music therapy, music business, and more. None are science majors but all are musicians and every one plays an instrument or is a vocal principal.

Berklee students know way more than I do about tonal music theory, so teaching them is a lot like teaching grad students. We come together as experts but with different areas of expertise. They are extraordinary students and people, and I have a great deal of respect and affection for them. There is no place like Berklee because of its unique history, faculty, international population, and focus on popular (non-classical) music. It is a teaching college, so I get less research time than I would at a research institution and that’s tough for my science goals, but there is nowhere else in the world where my dual skill set would be put to such full use.

WiMN: Who are some of today’s female producers or audio professionals you respect most?

SR: The women I know personally: Leslie Ann Jones, Sylvia Massey, Ann Mincielli, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, Trina Shoemaker, Sheila E, and my colleague Leanne Ungar.

When I think of these women, I think of the things we laughed about and how easy and immediate it is to have fun with them. We have many things in common, including perhaps that we never apparently regarded our gender as an obstacle. We occasionally or never talk about being statistical outliers or about some of the unique challenges, but I can’t recall any of these successful women complaining that she had it tougher than anyone else.

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been any challenges?

SR: Fewer external than internal challenges, I suppose. Early on (late ’70s and early ’80s) I worried about what to wear, if I’d be feminine enough to have a boyfriend, if I would have to give up having children or marriage, and things like that. Ultimately I had enough to worry about with acquiring a skill and building a career, so I quit being worried about those things and let them develop naturally.

The people who paid me to provide a skill didn’t care whether or not I had a Y-chromosome (didn’t) or wore Doc Martens (did) or high heels (didn’t) or had a boyfriend (did) or a child in daycare (didn’t). I cared. These challenges were in my head. The only exception, of course, is child-bearing. We can’t deny or overcome the fact that women take much, much longer than men do to successfully reproduce. That is a challenge to those women who decide to have kids. I decided not to. And in full disclosure, when I started out in Los Angeles there were men who didn’t want to work with women and studios that didn’t want to hire women, but I didn’t want to work with those men or in those studios, so we were even! The men I worked with and the studios I worked in were outstanding.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career as a record producer/engineer?

SR: Learn your skill really, really well. Accept that you’ll never be the best or the worst overall because there is no such thing. Cherish the times when you are so absorbed in your art and craft that you lose yourself. Regard every pleasant and unpleasant stimulus through the lens of your art. For example, if you enjoy a movie ask yourself why –– what elements of it worked so well? If you had a terrible experience at a restaurant, ask yourself why. The proprietor couldn’t have meant for you to have a bad time, so what failed? Hang out with people who are funny and smart. Be patient and understanding with people, but don’t be a pushover. Buy yourself something nice, like a designer handbag or a vintage bass amp. Be yourself with all of your might.

WiMN: What’s in store for you for the remainder of 2014?

SR: Oh, it will be over in three months! I’m going with students to the AES in Los Angeles where they will compete in the Student Recording Competition. I will be on a panel with Thomas Lund, Bob Ludwig, George Massenburg, and Florien Camerer titled “Loudness Wars: Give Peaks A Chance,” where I will report on auditory change perception and so-called “hidden hearing loss.” I will be speaking at the 9th Art of Record Production Conference at the University of Oslo this December. And, of course, teaching.

 

 

Front and Center: Sound Engineer, Kim Watson

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Sound Engineer, Kim Watson

kimwUK-based sound engineer Kim Watson has been providing live sound for pop, rock, jazz, skiffle, country and western musicians since 1999.

A former bass, flute and piano player, Watson always knew that she wanted to work in the music industry, but didn’t find her true calling until her introduction to live audio in college.

Equally at home as a monitor engineer or mixing front of house, Watson enjoys the daily challenge of live engineering. “Once that day is over it’s on to the next show, next venue, next band,” she says. “Always changing and never gets boring!”

Check out our interview with Watson below, and find out more about her at http://www.polarisaudio.co.uk.

WiMN: What made you pursue a career in live sound?

KW: I have always known that I wanted to be in the music industry. I just didn’t know in what respect until I went to college. I started out as a musician. I used to play bass guitar, flute and a bit keys. I took a Music Technology course and was hooked. Our lecturer was teaching us the ins and outs of analog desks, and I was fascinated.

I went on to meet a local PA provider and became his apprentice. I learned so much working for him. I started out in the grassroots local club gigs. Load ins up flights of stairs. I think its the instantness of the job that keeps me going. Once that day is over it’s on to the next show, next venue, next band. Always changing and never gets boring!

WiMN: What is the most gratifying aspect of your job?

KW: I wear lots of different hats in my job. I tend to end up on the monitor desk. I really enjoy mixing monitors as I get to see the interactions between the band members on stage and be a part of that energy from the show. I love mixing front of house even though I feel quite disconnected from the action whenever I am out there, but I still really enjoy being the one in control of the sound that the audience hears.

Whatever roll I take on as a member of production, I always look for the bit that gives us the adrenaline rush to get through the day.

WiMN: Why do you think there are so few female sound engineers in the industry?

KW: I have seen a HUGE increase in the number of female engineers over the last few years. I think with the new technology coming in the gear is lighter and easier to handle, so more woman are finding lifting equipment isn’t so much as a struggle as it once was.

College courses make it possible for women to gain knowledge of how the gear works before they enter the world of work. When I started college, I was already working for a PA company. I learned the hard way on the job. One person was willing to give me a chance and didn’t hold it against me that I was a woman. I think men overlook the woman who approach them for work experience because of the lack of muscle. I was lucky.

I also think the industry is becoming more professional all round. More and more bands see it a good thing to take out their own sound engineer and this is a position that is pretty easy for a woman to fill. The work is “lighter” but still hard work. I have been on both sides of the fence working as system provider and working directly for bands, where I walk in and mix that one band and then done for the day.

WiMN: What is one piece of advice you’d offer to a young woman who would like to make a living as an audio engineer?

KW: It’s all about reputation.

To succeed as a woman in this industry you have to give 110% every day. You need to make the people you are working with remember you. Being that extra 10% person over everyone else on the crew will make you memorable. Also get business cards and hand them out. Don’t be scared to say “hey can I give you one of these.” Add them on Facebook. Network, network, network!

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman working in this male-dominated field? Have there been challenges?

KW: When I started out I had to pay my dues working with the local crew. I was always in the back of the truck throwing the gear around as good as any of the guys. I had to prove I could do it. Both to them and to myself. Once I had the crew’s respect, I could take that step up to being a sound person and giving the crew orders –– and they respected me for it. I have seen other women come in and step in to that sound person roll but had issues with the crew because the dues hadn’t been paid.

I have been lucky as I gained the respect early on and haven’t come up against many situations where guys try to push me out and take over. Whenever I have come across it, I tend to step back… I have a theory that if you give someone enough rope, they will hand themselves. Eventually they will be gone or they will be stuck in their dead end job for good. But I will pass them and move up.

As a woman, I think we hold ourselves back until we are confident enough to step up. I used to teach snowboarding; the guys would go ahead and fall over, and the girls would hold on until they were sure. We need to be more self confident and not be afraid to make mistakes.

WiMN: What is the #1 rule to abide by while living on the road?

KW: Enjoy every moment of it! There isn’t a better job in the world!

WiMN: What’s in store for you for the remainder of 2014?

KW: For me I’m out with my regular band, The Subways. Their new single is due out in October and the new album at the beginning of next year. Which means we are on the start of the album cycle. We hit the road to Germany next week for a few club shows, and then a full UK tour in October.

I’m carrying the monitor and line system on this run. I’ll be taking out a Yamaha LS9 and Sennheiser G3 IEM system along with a full mic package.

November and December I’ll be back at my usual house gig at Newcastle 02 Academy.