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 Soundgirls.org, 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 http://wam.rocks/GiveToWAM

Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC