Friday, March 31, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Ebonie Smith

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 19: Ebonie Smith

Ebonie Smith (Photo Credit: David Divad (IG: @divad))
Today, we are featuring Ebonie Smith. She is "an award-winning music producer, audio engineer and singer-songwriter based in New York City. Ebonie is also the founder and president of Gender Amplified, Inc., a nonprofit organization that celebrates and supports women and girls in music production. Ebonie holds a master's degree in music technology from New York University and an undergraduate degree from Barnard College, Columbia University. She currently works as an audio engineer and producer for Atlantic Records." [Courtesy of]

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Ebonie Smith: Originally, I wanted to go to the WNBA and spent much of my youth playing basketball. However, I had this latent interest in getting into music. My mother exposed me to music. When I was four, she bought my first album: Blacks' Magic by Salt-n-Pepa. In many ways I think that album set the tone for who I would become as a woman and a human being. Also, I adored listening to the radio in the car. It always had to be on. As a kid I developed a very emotional relationship to music and to sound.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
ES: I started recording in college. I was an audio/visual technician at Barnard College while an undergraduate student. This was my campus job. It exposed me to the world of audio recording, and I have never looked back.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
(Photo Credit: David Divad (IG: @divad))
ES: I dislike questions about obstacles, largely because I don't know how to answer them. There is always this assumption that I have struggled because I am a woman. Music is the most enjoyable thing I do in life, and my career has been pretty smooth. There is nothing that I have "personally" experienced that could be characterized as a struggle. Nevertheless, I would never negate the fact that there is gender-based inequality in the audio world or deny that women face challenges in all professional areas. However, questions about challenges and obstacles shouldn't overshadow the other myriad points I could address about audio and music production. Obviously, I prefer to be interviewed because of my work and my approach to my craft.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
ES: I would prefer to be asked questions about what I'm working on. I love answering questions about my process. I love questions about the nonprofit I founded, Gender Amplified, Inc.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
ES: So many: my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Frances, E.W. Harper. Issa Rae, Tamika Catchings. Julie Greenwald. Ann Mincieli (This is a super abridged list.)

(Photo Credit: David Divad (IG: @divad))
LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
ES: Gender Amplified and Art Girl Army recently joined forces to get girls into music production and audio engineering! We are co-hosting a hands-on workshop in a professional recording studio, followed by an intimate discussion with artist/activist Genesis Be on how to combine production techniques and political activism in powerful ways. It will be held on April 8th, 2017. Visit to learn more.

Learn more about Ebonie Smith at:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Käti Rosehill

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 18: Käti Rosehill

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Käti Rosehill: I would say it started when I was around 8 or 9 years old. My parents took me out to a garage sale, where I happened upon an old cassette recorder. I don’t know why I wanted it so badly, but it was only a few dollars, so they got it for me after some pleading. I used to spend many hours a day recording into it- pretending I was a famous vocalist, pretending I was a radio show host- basically anything my young imagination could think of. I loved the feel of the buttons, I loved re-setting the timer, I loved keeping track of how long each segment was so I wouldn’t accidentally record over anything precious. I had a notebook dedicated to it. Also my father used to play guitar for me, which eventually led to my first guitar at 16.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
KH: I did my first “real” recording when I was about 22 years old, back when I was enrolled in the Music Technology Program at Clackamas Community College. We had to track a song for Audio Engineering 109, so I rallied up a couple of my band friends, stuck them in the studio, threw up some microphones, and went to town. We ended up doing a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” I’m happy to say they're all enjoying varying degrees of success right now! Two of them even got signed to Rise Records. (Which I definitely had nothing to do with, but hey! Don’t forget who recorded you first, says I.)

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
KH: I dislike being asked out on a date after the gig is over. But on a more serious note, I dislike being asked if being a woman makes it “challenging.” To me, that’s just kind of a boring question and also a no brainer. Of course it’s challenging. We make up less than 5% of the industry. I argue that I had to work twice as hard as the other students to even be acknowledged as "taking it seriously.” Even just working in the CD plant, clients who called over the phone would specifically ask for my male co workers and refuse to talk to me, even after explaining that the boys were busy, but I’m also a production worker. Sometimes people ask to “speak to an engineer”, immediately assuming that I’m not. Women are immediately at a disadvantage in this industry, just like they are in many other fields.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
KH: I love it when people ask me what particular field(s) of audio I enjoy doing and what I like about them. “Audio” is such a broad term: it could mean a great number of things, anywhere from a boom operator, to a live sound engineer, to a studio engineer, to a radio producer. I actually started out as a boom operator on small film sets here in Portland, but eventually worked my way into a studio, finding a much greater love for it. Mic technique on set is so important and very fun to learn, but you don’t get to press any buttons unless you’re the field mixer too, which I never was. I’m tall and strong- naturally I ended up a boom.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
KH: Joan Jett stole my heart when I was about 17 years old. I'm still not entirely convinced we won’t be best friends someday. I admired her fire, and deeply appreciate how she paved the way for women like me to actually have opportunities in this field. I’m also a huge fan of Katniss Everdeen.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
KH: I can’t talk about it too much since it’s still in the works, but four Portland musicians from modestly successful backgrounds have recently come together to form a whole new group, including the ex-drummer of Millions of Dead Cops. They’re currently working on writing songs, and when we have enough material, we’ll be recording and mixing that here at Cloud City Sound.

LGB: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote: website, recordings, films, etc.
KH: I'd like to thank the chair of the music department at Clackamas who recommended me for this job:

Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Terri Winston

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 17: Terri Winston, Women's Audio Mission

I am breaking the format of the blog a bit, because today's blog isn't just about a woman in audio: it is about a movement, and the woman leading that movement is Terri Winston.

When I first met Terri, she was an associate professor at City College of San Francisco and I was an assistant professor at CU Denver. I wanted to be like her: Tenured! I remember it was 2006 and she was running a "Women's Audio Mission" booth at an AES convention with an assistant. She gave me a light blue t-shirt with the red WAM logo.  I was inspired by her, and later that year I gathered together a group of women in Denver to talk about issues related to women in audio.

But WAM wasn't about getting together and talking, they were about "Changing the Face of Sound" (their motto). They got sponsors, built their own studio, began offering classes, and over the last 14 years have become a true force in training women for careers in audio. Terri eventually left her position at City College and is now running WAM full-time. This year, over 1,500 girls will receive audio training at WAM. WAM studios were built by women and they are run by women. They've even inspired other groups, like, which focuses on women in live sound and was born out of a panel hosted by the Women's Audio Mission.

Terri was kind enough to be featured in this blog, and I am truly honored. I'd like to urge you to get involved and help WAM train over 1,500 under-served middle school girls this year! 

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Terri Winston: My Dad is a research scientist/mechanical engineer so I was around and comfortable with technology and science from a young age – his lab was my playpen – and he was always fixing things, the car, the television, the radio, so that was all big fun for me. Trips to the hardware store, one of favorite places in the world, all big influences on me. I was also a songwriter/musician from early on so audio was a natural way to combine both of these loves of mine. I definitely have my 10,000+ hours with tape recorders of all varieties from my childhood.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
TW: I was a musician and songwriter first, so my earliest experience was recording myself playing guitars and singing, back and forth on two cassette tape boom boxes, probably in middle school. Then in college, I was studying electrical engineering, and I started recording the bands I was in on various analog 4 tracks, bouncing a ton of tracks. We did a lot of overdubs. I am a guitar player so I was always tinkering with amplifiers, biasing tubes. We eventually were signed to Polygram, toured a bunch with the Pixies, Throwing Muses and that’s when I ended up working in proper recording studios. My biggest influence during that time was working with Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group). That’s how I got the engineering bug and learned what it meant to be a producer.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio? “What’s it like being a woman anything” bugs me, it’s not like we are aliens or that different.

TW: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio? It would be great if there was gender parity and it was no longer something to ponder or ask questions about. But I am OK being asked why I think there is such a big gender gap in audio because it does need to be addressed if we want to have any sanity in this world. It is crazy that there are so few women in this world creating the messages we hear in that soundtrack of our lives everyday.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
TW: Space was big when I was growing up so Sally Ride / Mae Jemison were up there for me. Then came Patti Smith, and more of a distant inspiration/mentor for me would be Leslie Ann Jones who paved the way for the rest of us.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about? 
TW: We just recorded the incredible Clarence Jones, the Civil Rights leader, and speechwriter/counsel to Martin Luther King, Jr.  His amazing stories are being used in a composition by Zachary Watkins that will be performed/recorded by Kronos Quartet. We had tUne-yArDs in recently; Fely Tchaco from the Ivory Coast; we're finishing up an album with the amazing artist Diana Gameros; and a ton of Audio Books with Simon & Schuster/Macmillan/Hachette. Our next Local Sirens, Quarterly Women’s Music Series is also coming up on 4/26 – we’ve had such amazing performances from women artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upcoming classes in Wireless Microphones, Music Supervision in Film, Radio/Podcast Production.

You can learn more about Women's Audio Mission through the following links:
- KQED radio feature: “Women’s Audio Mission:Smashing the Glass Ceiling of the Studio World” 
- San Francisco Chronicle “SF group gets girls into tech through music, sound engineering” 
- Support WAM's fundraising efforts at

Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Sunday, March 19, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Brandie Lane

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 16: Brandie Lane

Today, we speak with Brandie Lane, a Sergeant First Class in the US Army who leads the Audio Branch of the West Point Band and former audio engineer at Sono Luminus.

Leslie Gaston Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio? (e.g. parents’ record player, making mix tapes, etc.)

Brandie Lane: Both of my parents were college music professors, so a love for music was instilled in me while still in the womb.  To get back at my parents for taking my drum away at age 2, I started playing percussion at age 10 and quickly developed a passion for music performance.  As I grew older, I developed an interest in science and wanted to focus on a career field that allowed me to use my creative strengths in music and still involve a strong science/engineering component.  The audio and recording field made the most sense. 

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
BL: I was a "late bloomer" with recording.  I did not have any real audio background or experiences until I got to college.  I arrived at University of Miami simply armed with passion and a lot of determination.  I struggled to catch up to a lot my classmates who had started their own labels, set up their own dorm studios, and had been recording since high school.  However, I remember my first time in the UM studio as an assistant.  I brought a book to read because I figured a 5 hour session could easily become boring.  However, after what seemed like 15 minutes, the band had recorded enough songs for a demo, my book stayed in my bag, and we broke down the session.  I knew at that point I was in a field that would challenge me and keep my interest for a long time.

LGB: Please compare your leadership role now with past roles you had in other, perhaps larger companies / crews.
BL: I currently am a section leader and in charge of the Audio Branch of the West Point Band.  This means I do a lot of scheduling and operations work, budgeting, and constantly ensure the studio is clean enough for guests to come through.  However, as a leader in my organization, I help facilitate and support new ideas for projects and events that educate, train, and inspire America's future leaders at the United States Military Academy.  

Before I joined the Army, I was head audio engineer at Sono Luminus, a small classical label.  My focus there was to ensure the client (usually a solo artist, composer, or chamber group) was happy and that the recordings captured their vision in the best and most accurate way possible.  While I still focus on high quality recordings and live sound with the West Point Band, the client and the vision are both very different - and many times not only music or audio related.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
BL: The most interesting question that I've been asked is if I think women have better ears. My answer is that women's ears probably have a nicer shape?  But in all seriousness, I feel every audio engineer, man or woman, hears differently.  It's a personal decision how to describe and utilize how you hear and ultimately mix.  You don't read about an album have a "feminine (or masculine) engineering style", so it doesn't really make sense that women can hear "better".  Maybe there's a scientific study about women hearing certain frequencies, but that doesn't mean the mixes are going to be better.  If the client hates your mix, they are not going to care that you can hear up to 23.7 KHz.  Your sound/mix is going to showcase your engineering style and if that style is liked, then great.  

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
BL: Any question that empowers women to stay in the audio field.  

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
BL: My mother will always be my personal role model.  She was lovingly referred to as a "steel magnolia" and embodied the perfect combination of charm and a sharp tongue.  No matter what, she treated everyone with respect, but did not accept anyone's excuses for not living up to their potential or not giving 100%.  She passed away in 2010, but I know her legacy will live on through her thousands of students and hopefully through me. Professionally, I look up to any female in the audio field.  There are so many incredible figures including (but not limited to) Leslie Ann Jones, Ulrike Schwarz, and Agnieszka Roginska and I'm always inspired when I get a chance to personally interact with them.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
BL: The West Point Band just finished a recording project for a nationally televised 4th of July event.  The recordings feature all of the performing elements of the band, including the Concert Band, Rock Band, and Field Music Group.  A lot of time and effort was put in to ensure that the event will be entertaining, have an incredibly high impact, and promote the American spirit. 

LGB: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote.

BL: Please visit and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Friday, March 17, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Lisa Nigris

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 15: Lisa Nigris

Today, we speak with Lisa Nigris, Director of Audio Production at the Aspen Music Festival and School and Director of Audio Visual Services at the New England Conservatory.

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio? 
Lisa Nigris: I started taking piano lessons around the age of 7 and voices lessons at 12.  There was a bit of a revelation when my folks gave me a DX7 and I discovered that manipulating sounds interested me more than performing songs.  In high school, my voice teacher mentioned that Berklee would be a good place to go to explore the various fields within the music industry.  That was good advice.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording? 
LN: My earliest experience with recording was holding a mic in front of my TV speaker trying to capture Kiss performing on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.   I learned about the need for isolation in recording that day … among other things. While at Berklee, we had to record a sound alike project.  I chose the Beatles’ tune, "8 Days a Week".  It was a humbling experience.  Sounded awful, but I learned a lot about listening, and capturing the desired performance from an artist.  A little later in my college career, I was interning at Blue Jay and realized that the repetition of studio work was not for me.  I thrived on the pressure of live sound and live concert recording.  This was a major revelation that guided my career.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?

I’ll answer almost anything if it’s asked in a respectful way, especially if it’s a younger woman asking.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?

LN: I’d prefer to have conversations not be guided by my gender, so whatever questions you’d ask a man, you can ask me as well.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
LN: My first professional role model was Robin Coxe Yeldham.  She was an amazingly talented engineer and educator.  She seemed to be able to balance work, home life, everything, with ease.  I was privileged to have taken some courses Robin while at Berklee. 

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
LN: At New England Conservatory, we’ll be opening our new building in September.  We began the design phase of this project roughly 5 years ago.  In addition to a new dorm and library space, the building will include a black box theater, large recording studio, orchestra rehearsal space, and a small stage area in the dining commons.  The AV installation begins soon.  I seriously cannot wait to see this dream become a reality before my eyes!

LGB:  Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote.
LN: New England Conservatory presents hundreds of concerts in 5 concert halls throughout the year.  Many of these events are free of charge.  If you are in the Boston area, please come and hear some music!

Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Gender Amplified

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 14: Gender Amplified

You can find out more about Gender Amplified here:
and here:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Jan McLaughlin, CAS

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 13: Jan McLaughlin, CAS

Today, we speak with Jan McLaughlin, President and CEO of Sounds Good, LLC. 

Leslie Gaston Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Jan McLaughlin: My paternal step-grandfather was a musician. According to family legend, he played the violin and the clarinet but I only ever heard / saw him play a Hammond Spinet. We spent hundreds of hours at that organ playing/singing. It’s the hearing and creating something from nothing that thrills me. I’ve played many instruments badly. My fingers are not fast enough and I can’t count to save my life. In order to learn that, had to record and listen critically.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
JM: Gramps had a wire recorder. He let me play with that. He and the fellas you hear singing on the linked track would load the Hammond on a pickup truck and roll down the hill to the local radio station every Sunday for a weekly broadcast. This recording was undoubtedly a rehearsal. My next recorder was my own 4-track Teac used for rehearsals of singing/playing guitar: the only way to get better. Later, I had various-sized bands with finally six members including drums, bass, saxophone, lead guitar and a sound man. Before the sound man, we used my gear and I did the stage mix. Did some live recordings from which only a couple sets survive despite the fire that ate most of the tapes and the recorder.

LGB: Please compare your leadership role now with past roles you had in other, perhaps larger companies / crews.
JM: I’m President and CEO of Sound’s Good, LLC the rental house for my production sound equipment. Have been Queen of that domain from the get-go though only formalized it as a business entity--far too late--in 2010 when I began to take the notion of being an entrepreneur seriously. Had long been a hobbyist student of media/public relations/propaganda and as a result began to employ devices from those play books. As I turned up the ‘Businesswoman’ heat, realized I would at some stage of negotiations back down in fear. My solution was to hire an agent who gave me:

     • Distance from Money. Raised to believe that talking about money was unseemly. Had to get over that.
     • Time: “My agent will be in touch.” What that really meant was I took time to figure out how to play it. One solution was to whisper to the woman decider, “Look, I’m the highest paid mixer in television and I have a uterus like you. How cool is THAT?” Cinched the deal.
     • Chutzpah. In my mind, he was the pit bull in my pocket. Eventually I was able to internalize the pit bull and take him out on command.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
JM: I look forward to the day when nobody finds the fact that we’re women in audio remarkable.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
JM: I think there’s a lot of room to contemplate accommodation of maternity and motherhood. Breast pumping time/space, child care and family leave for example. There’s a group of Local 600 camera women who’ve organized to brainstorm such things and have already done great work though there’s much more to be done: pregnancy is still technically a disability. Oy.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
JM: My first entrepreneurial role model was Joanie Cantor a businesswoman who moved to my little home town when I was in high school. Joanie opened a high-end boutique of ladies clothing for the country club set who until she arrived had to travel an hour to Pittsburgh to shop for clothes. My ‘study’ of her was mostly unconscious but her influence was profound and lasting. From Staten Island, she brought The New York Times to my attention and was the first outspoken, opinionated woman I’d met.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
JM: Currently brainstorming words for a dance-based performance with choreographer Toni Taylor with whom I’ve worked in the past. Will do that until I begin work on season two of HBO’s “Divorce” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church. We had our camera test this week and it was like the first day of school and the prom but without teenage anxiety. You’d be hard pressed to hire a more professional collection of craftspeople and that, that is a joyous work experience.

LGB: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote.
JM: It’s my guess that Marc Webb’s “Only Living Boy in New York” will be a worthy motion picture. We finished principal photography mid-November 2016. Callum Turner’s chemistry with Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemmons was palpable. Just heard from the ADR team so picture’s locked. Hope to speak with the re-recording mixer soon. It was the first film and second project I’d done keeping all the sound in the digital domain from the time it left the mics. Re-recording mixer was happy with the first project so I’m thinking this will sound passable too.

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Monday, March 13, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Caryl Owen

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 12: Caryl Owen

Today, we speak with Caryl Owen, a Peabody-award winning Broadcast / Recording Technician formerly of National Public Radio.

Leslie Gaston Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Caryl Owen: My Mom played piano, and I spent hours on the floor underneath it, listening to her playing. I still like the sounds underneath a grand piano! I had a little pink and grey Columbia record player and what seems to have been a complete set of Golden Books Records, but my real favorites were our recordings of Scheherazade and Richard Rodger's Victory at Sea.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
CO: Well, it all started with recording favorite songs off the radio onto cassettes using a cheap mic pointed at my clock radio's speaker. I still have some of those atrocious sounding things! I learned how to run a cheap PA mixer for the guys who had a garage band down the street in high school, Mixed for my bands when I wasn't singing (and sometimes when I was,) played around at college radio stations, shadowed a friend who was a monitor mixer for Kiss, and eventually took a class at a little local recording studio where I ended up running the office while teaching classes - sometimes I was only a week or so ahead of my students; that's a good way to learn fast!

LGB: Please compare your leadership role now with past roles you had in other, perhaps larger companies / crews.
CO: I've always worked for studios or stations, but I've been teaching audio recording since I began working in the field. Mentoring someone who has a deep desire to learn is one of the most satisfying things I've done, I'm so proud to have helped some very talented people get started.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
CO: Ask anything you like, I'll answer if I feel it's germane to the conversation. Is being a woman in audio hard? Sure! Not as bad as it was in the 70's, but there are still problems, I have a friend who was sexually harassed by her boss in November of 2016.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
CO: The same questions an interviewer would ask any man.
LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
CO: Xena, Warrior Princess and Martha Stewart.
Kick ass, and be perfect.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
CO: I've just retired but have a couple of prospects to consider.
Of the things I've done in the past, I'm probably most proud of the many projects (and three Peabody awards) I worked on with David Isay. Even after all this time, Ghetto Life 101 sounds amazing, especially when you consider that the original recordings were made to cassette by a couple of kids, and the mix was all analog, multi-machine choreography. We figured it took an hour to mix each minute of the final piece.

LGB:: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you want to promote.

CO: Nothing right now. My last show, To the Best of Our Knowledge ( is in the able hands of my last mentee, Joe Hardtke.

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Sunday, March 12, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Karrie Keyes

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 11: Karrie Keyes

I am breaking format from the blog a little bit today. Our featured Woman in Audio today is Karrie Keyes, and I’d like to take a little time to explain how I met her.

I had recently become Vice President of the Western Region of the Audio Engineering Society (October, 2016). My goal as a member of the AES Board of Governors is to help discover how to address diversity and inclusion in the organization. Right away, I began reaching out to as many women as possible. I first reached out to Terri Winston at Women’s Audio Mission (a future guest on this blog), and visited WAM in San Francisco. Being surrounded by women at their facility in San Francisco was transformative in ways that I will try to explain during my interview with Terri later this month. 

More recently, at an AES student event in Denver, a friend asked me if I had heard of I looked them up and discovered another world of women in audio of which I was only peripherally aware. As it turns out, was actually born from an AES Conference panel, “Women of Professional Concert Sound” (San Francisco, 2012) that was hosted by WAM and moderated by Terri. 

Around the time I was getting my feet on the ground with my new AES position, I was planning a trip to LA for NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants conference). I reached out to Zionya Nolan, a woman of color in audio (who I look forward to meeting in person!) to try to arrange a lunch date. She wasn’t going to be there, but suggested I reach out to Karrie, so I did.

Karrie subsequently invited me to be a panelist at a mentoring session at NAMM hosted by Soundgirls. From that event I met Catharine Woods, Fela Davis, and Jett Galindo. And the rest is history: from these connections I decided to start the “31 Women in Audio Blog”.

At the mentoring session, I witnessed the powerhouse that is Karrie Keyes’ organization, Their activities are gaining momentum and they are currently in the middle of their annual fundraising for their Live Sound Camps for Girls. Karrie explains, “we have some awesome rewards available and all proceeds benefit the camps. Over 70% of the girls attending our camps receive financial aid. ” (Mix Messiah Productions proudly donated a $125 AES Membership which has been snapped up, but there are other ways to support, please consider doing so). 

You can read more about Karrie here, but she was kind enough to answer a few questions just for me.

She recalls that listening the radio and music lessons were the childhood experiences that led to her love for audio. Since started her professional career loading trucks and learned the trade by working shows. Eventually she became the monitor engineer for Pearl Jam. As she has emerged as a respected professional, she says that in her leadership roles with Pearl Jam and SoundGirls.Org involve the important aspect of listening: “Really listening to the artist to determine what they need sound wise onstage,” She says. “And with SoundGirls.Org, really listening to the challenges women face in this industry. ”

She doesn’t like being asked what it’s like being a female engineer. Instead, she would prefer “to be asked the same questions men are asked. To at least be given that respect.”

When I asked her about her role models, she replied, “Angela Y. Davis and the awesome women that are leading women led organizations.  Laura Whitmore of Women’s International Music Network, Fabi Reyna from She Shreds and Mindy Abovitz of Tom Tom Magazine, Women like Beyonce, Madame Gandhi and Grimes that are taking control of their careers and art.”

Karrie is still doing live sound. When asked about her upcoming projects, she says “I am looking forward to Eddie Vedder solo tour in June throughout Europe and am of course the next adventure with Pearl Jam.”  

Also, SoundGirls.Org is hosting Live Sound Camps for Girls in the summer of 2017.

Finally, and just as exciting, SoundGirls.Org also has started a directory for women in music production. Women are invited to add themselves to the database.

Thank you so much to Karrie for being an amazing powerhouse of advocacy for  women in audio, for helping girls get into the live sound field! 

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Friday, March 10, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Erica Brenner

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 10: Erica Brenner

Today, we speak with Erica Brenner, a classical music producer formerly of Telarc who now runs her own production company, Erica Brenner Productions

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Erica Brenner: My mom was a music major, a pianist and a vocalist, and we had classical music on 24 hours a day. I took great pride knowing classical music when I was young. There’s a piece by P.D.Q Bach called the “The Unbegun Symphony” (a parody of Haydn’s "Farewell Symphony") which cobbled together a lot of classical works. Only one of my other friends and I could name all the pieces that were in there – a source of great pride! So I was basically immersed in music growing up.

Later I became a music major. I was a flutist, and I came out to Cleveland and got a job in the Canton Symphony Orchestra. While I was here I met Elaine Martone, who was the director of production at Telarc Records who also played in the CSO. She asked me if I would ever be interested in editing for their record label. I hadn’t thought of the audio industry in any way, shape, or form until that moment. I trained on the job; I didn’t get any real schooling in audio at all. She wanted a classical musician to edit their CDs because she knew a classical musician would understand phrasing. In fact, I was given a lot of freedom to make edit decisions.

LG: Let’s talk about how your role evolved at Telarc.
EB: I was trained almost completely at Telarc. I was the recording work study student while I was a grad student at Yale and did a small amount of razor-blade editing, but otherwise, learned to edit at Telarc on a Sony 3000 digital editor. As I got proficient at editing, I was asked to start producing. In addition to producing, I became the Director of Audio Production, overseeing the scheduling of all audio post-production toward getting the final master to the manufacturer. In the “wheel of production” which involved graphics, the CD booklet notes, audio, visual conception, I took care of making sure “audio spoke” of that wheel delivered on deadline. There were 6 of us working in the audio department, in addition to owners Bob Woods and Jack Renner (the original producer/engineer team at Telarc), and Elaine, who became Exec. VP of Production and oversaw the entire production department. A very well-oiled machine. And then the record industry — as we all know! (laughs) — took a turn, and Telarc was sold to Concord music group. After Telarc was sold, they decided that the production department was no longer needed. So everyone got booted. Now Telarc still releases maybe 3-4 CDs a year, but in our hey day it was 3-4 or more per month!

A few of the guys formed their own company; Elaine and Bob formed their own company; and I formed my own company. And what ended up happening is that we still work together. I am not an audio engineer, I’m a producer, so when someone says they need a recording, I coordinate studio rates, plan schedules and logistics like piano tuning, etc. and manage the session from beginning to end working everybody through the recording process itself, following the score and making sure everything is covered. But I always rely on an engineer to bring the audio expertise. It’s a very collaborative process between engineer, musicians, and myself. I usually prefer to edit my own projects. A lot of producers don’t but I love it. That’s where I started, I have most control over the project, and I can work so closely with musicians to get what they want.

Even though many of us still work together as a team on session, we are now separate business owners and that is a huge difference! Now, I have to do everything: I am my own accountant, my own marketer, my own business analyst. It was quite luxurious at Telarc (at least from my “employee” status at the time) to have so many “departments” that handled everything! I think everybody should have to own their own business coming out of college for a couple of years, whether you are a musician or a doctor, or baker, or anything, just to understand what is needed to do it. I wish I knew then what I know now about being in business. Relationships are huge. And really proactive communication. Communication has been transformed drastically with social media; it’s crucial that people understand the value of proactive communication and keeping relationships committed.

When you find someone who you work well with it makes the process very streamlined. You can talk to someone and push back a little bit. And having the benefit of a partnership was something I valued. I didn’t realize how much I valued it until I lost my working partner, Tom Knab, who recently passed away. Or like Jack Renner and Bob Wood (owners of Telarc): as a producer/engineer team they were masterful. And that’s how I was trained.

LG: What questions do you dislike being asked related to women in audio?
EB: I think this has to do with women in the workplace, not just working in audio, but when I first started going out on sessions I was in my early 30s. I’ve always looked a little younger than I am and I have always been mortified by how many people — even women — would ask me how old I was. We would be having meetings and people would ask, “how old are you? Like, “Do you have any experience?” And I thought, “Would you ask a man this question”? I think [Bob] produced his first album when he was 27 or 28 and I doubt anyone ever asked him how old he was. I would like for all women, when they walk into a room, to be given the same benefit of the doubt as a man would be: that they can handle the task in front of them. That was the experience that I wasn’t very comfortable with.

However, I felt like I worked at a company that valued everyone’s contribution equally. Telarc was a progressive company from that standpoint. Sometimes I'm asked what’s it like to work with so many men. I don’t think I have ever worked with a woman engineer. All the engineers I’ve worked with are men, but I am not directing men, I am directing the product. I have always tried to keep gender out of it.

I feel lucky to work with the engineers that I have. It’s all about the music. It’s about what the artist wants to say. It’s not about me. I try to tell artists that they might hear me over the talkback telling them that things are out of tune, or not quite right, but just know that every time I hear something my thought is, “would the artist like what just happened”? If the answer is “no”, then I have them do it over.

LG: What questions would you prefer to be asked related to women in audio?
EB: For me, any time there’s the ability to have diverse points of view and different voices and perspectives, it is good. I guess I’d say having women and what I consider to be their relatable, empathetic point of view with artists can be a very positive thing in the recording environment. I think my approach, and other women I’ve seen produce, have a certain nurturing style with artists, although it’s not completely gender specific, because Tom Knab exhibited that, so it’s not that men don’t have these quality, but I would say that having different voices is always beneficial. And recording sessions are stressful because they can be very intense.

LG: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
EB: Well, my mom’s passion and complete immersion in music has always inspired me; Elaine Martone learned how to be a leader among men and she is extremely bright and smart and passionate and committed to what she does. And she has just been somebody who’s always been a role model, and a great friend. And I am always in awe of the strength of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high”!

LG: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
EB: I have been incorporating a lot of video work in my services. In order to pay the bills, you must diversify! I am excited about Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion performed by Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra in Cleveland. It’s a 2 CD set that just came out this week. It’s beautifully recorded by Tom Knab and it’s an amazing performance. I’m extremely proud to say that Tom and I worked on it as our last project together.
You can learn more about Erica Brenner at

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC

Thursday, March 9, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Leya Soraide

Mix Messiah Productions Presenta: 31 Mujeres en Audio, una serie que celebra el Mes de la Historia de la Mujer.

Día 9: Leya Soraide

Hoy, vamos a presentar Leya Soraide, una mujer que trabajo como una ingieniera de sonida en vivo. Le conozco gracias a!

Leslie Gaston-Bird (originally in English): ¿Qué experiencias infantiles crees que te llevaron a un amor por el campo del audio?
Leya Soraide (respones in Spanish): Una de las experticias que marco mi infancia seria que toda mi familia se dedicaba a montar sistemas de sonido para iglesias y festivales pequeños , así que crecí viajando mucho, algunas veces cableando y obviamente ayudando a mis padres . Mi curiosidad era poder manejar la consola, me atraía mucho la cantidad de perillas y botoncitos.

LGB: ¿Cuál fue tu primera experiencia con la grabación?
LS: Mi primera experiencia de grabación fue debido a una tarea que me asignaron en la universidad ( UNITEPC) a la que asisto , ahí estudio Ingeniería de Sonido estoy en mi cuarto año, escogí grabar voces de dos adolecentes de mi ciudad que ganaron un concurso local de canto , fue una experiencia muy bonita al poner en práctica todo lo teórico que aprendí.

LGB: Por favor, compare su papel de liderazgo ahora con los papeles anteriores que tenía en otras empresas, quizás grandes / equipos.
LS: Por ahora estoy iniciando una organización llamada dB Girls – Bolivia, lo que buscamos es que nos formemos y actualicemos como profesionales en todas las aéreas: Sonido en vivo , Estudio de grabación , Radio, Cine , Tv. En mi país somos pocas las mujeres que estudiamos la carrera de Sonido y aun peor un porcentaje bajo las que ejercemos la carrera , tal vez sea porque aun hay machismo en nuestro medio.

LG: ¿Qué preguntas le DISGUSTAN que se les pida que se refieran a mujeres en audio?
LS: No me gusta que me pregunten si una mujer puede hacer el mismo trabajo de un hombre , eso realmente me disgusta , tampoco que me agrada cuando me preguntan mi edad ( tengo 21 años ) , estoy muy consciente de que la experiencia viene con los años pero nadie nace sabiendo , por ahora voy formándome como persona y profesional , realmente detesto que me pregunte por qué mujeres que estudiaron la carrera de Sonido antes de mí , no lo ejercieron , realmente no tengo conocimiento de ello .

LGB: ¿Qué preguntas le gustaría PREGUNTAR acerca de las mujeres en audio?
LS: Me gustaría preguntar como se interesaron por la carrera , sus proyectos y todo relacionado con el Audio.

LGB: ¿Qué personajes femeninos tiene usted, ficticio o real?
LS: Mi personaje favorito es mi madre , es un ejemplo a seguir ella también sabe de audio , ella me enseño a soldar mis propios cables, otro personaje seria Karrie Keyes realmente la admiro mucho por su trabajo con Pearl Jam y con

LGB: ¿Qué proyectos próximos te entusiasman?
LS: Bueno , ando entusiasmada con terminar mi carrera de Ingeniería de Sonido (UNITEPC) , también ando planeando hacer cursos sobre Sistemas y Redes digitales de audio.

Muchas gracias a Elizabeth Leon por los traducciónes.

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Piper Payne

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 8: Piper Payne

Today, we are featuring Piper Payne, a mastering engineer in Oakland, CA, where she works on albums for independent artists and major labels. Formerly a mastering engineer with Coast Mastering in Berkeley, CA, Piper is now co-owner of her own mastering facility. She is the President of the SF Chapter of the Recording Academy and serves on the P&E Wing Steering Committee and the P&E Wing Advisory Council. She is also on the committee of the AES SF Chapter and is an active member of Women's Audio Mission. Piper is an audio professor and guest lectures often about mastering and recording.

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led to your love for the field of audio?
Piper Payne: When I was in 1st grade I really wanted to play drums, but my dad wouldn’t let me learn drums until I learned how to play the piano (my parents are super structured). So I took piano lessons on the computer, and at the same time was learning how to build my own computer and program it with Red Hat Linux when I was 6 or 7. I’ve been into computers, robotics and things like that since forever.

But the point is I’ve had a disciplined way of learning for a long, long time. When I was in 2nd grade I took drums, then fast forward… I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian for a while but I changed my mind when I figured out I might have to put an animal down. So I looked at percussion as a career. Then I decided I didn’t want that to be a burden to me financially. So I started a degree in Electrical Engineering.That’s how I got into audio, that’s how I got to put those things together.

When I was taking drum lessons I did not know it was weird for a girl to be a drummer. When my grandpa taught me carpentry, I didn’t know that was weird. And I didn’t know it was weird for a little girl to build a computer. I didn’t have any specific experiences that made me become an audio engineer as a woman. I just did what I did, followed things that I loved and eventually ended up in audio.

LG: What was one of your earliest recording experiences?
PP: I was convinced my house was haunted so I would bug my house with little recorders to catch the ghost. (At that time those “Ghost Hunters” shows weren’t out). I had one of those mini cassette recorders. Do you remember the toys that were little microphones with a little spring in it and sounded like a spring reverb? I was fascinated by that.

The first actual real recording I did was a Rolling Stones cover, “Bitch,” when I had access to the studios at University of Michigan. That was the first, big, 40-track recording I made. It was terrible. I haven’t listened to it since. I made that on the API Vision in the first studios at University of Michigan (around 2005-2006).

LG: What is your group dynamic like?
PP: I do work with a group. I am my own boss in terms of like my schedule, flexibility, kinds of projects I will deny (which is extremely rare). But I have a fantastic team of really capable and wonderful people who make sure what I do is as efficient and fair to my clients as possible. At this point I don’t think I could run this kind of operation by myself: Jonny handles all the business sales and is my agent for my mastering career; Audrey, a graduate of Women’s Audio Mission, handles my clients and my schedule; and my audio apprentice is Dee. They are the reason work gets done at my facility. In terms of the projects themselves, that’s reliant on group work and cooperation. If everyone in the chain does their job perfectly, the job is an A+. By the time it gets to me, if the project is compromised, I have to use my tools to fix things instead of maintaining the integrity of the project or for making it better. So that’s kind of group work.

LG: What do you dislike about the conversation regarding women in audio? What would you prefer to talk about?
PP: I would prefer the conversation be about the kind of work I’m doing as an engineer rather than as a female engineer. It bugs me when the first questions is “what famous records have you worked on?” I would prefer if people would ask me about my career and what it takes to be successful rather than the gear I have. There’s this weird expectation that I don’t know enough about gear. People say “What mastering DAW do you use” or something to try to trip me up … that doesn’t happen as much now but that does happen for a lot of young women.

I LOVE talking about challenging projects. If I ask Leslie Ann Jones about a challenge she had and overcome, I can learn about how to deal with that if it comes up for me. I love talking about sound, about presentation of records, and about the way records make people feel. I love physical or somatic reactions (when your body does something without your brain knowing) to music. I love talking about other awesome women in audio.

LG: Who are your role models, real or fictional?
PP. Hillary Clinton. Susan B Anthony. My mother.

LG: What upcoming projects would you like to mention?
PP: Upcoming projects: I just finished mastering the digital and vinyl release for Madame Ghandi’s new records. She is one of the amazing women leading the Future is Female movement. I just finished Geographer releases (Animal Shapes). I have a whole bunch coming in: a really cool a cappella record right now by Lisa Forkish, and a soundtrack for a documentary called “The Nine”, - a ripping doc about the plight of down-and-out people in the central valley of California. And I just finished the digital and vinyl soundtrack of the video game “Headlander”.

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC