Thursday, January 23, 2020

Panic versus ambition

At the Recording Academy celebration honoring Dr. Dre, I ran into a colleague, Carl Beatty of Berklee, who had some advice for me.

"Calm down".

If you are an ambitious person like me, you're always rushing to get the next gig, worried about political in-fighting in your workplace or organization, distraught at what's happening in the world, and leveraging every opportunity that comes your way in a struggle for survival.

But Carl's words were not an admonition. They were a soothing balm. Yes, these days were are surrounded by strife, worry, politics, and protecting our own egos. We have a lot to do and what we do is important.

However, sometimes you have to rest in order to receive clarity of purpose. This was Carl's advice to me.

I have been reflecting on this, and have come up with a comparison of "panic" and "ambition".

On the left, a girl slides down a hill out of control. On the right, the same girl sleds playfully down the hill.


You're running out of money. You have no prospects. You're sliding down an icy slope full-tilt-boogie, ready to reach out for the first thing you can to stop the perilous fall. What will you break today: your arm? Your neck? Your ankle? WILL YOU DIE????


You're sliding down an icy slope because you love the winter weather. You're well-equipped for the outing. The rush of adrenaline and the cold wind on your face is exhilarating. You made a plan to go down this hill and you're in control. Your destiny awaits you: you are prepared and confident in your skills and - even if you fall - you have a backup plan.

Calm down.

If you find yourself in a metaphorical free fall, you can afford to take time and reflect on the things that make you strong, your talents, your skills, what you can offer. If you found you have fallen, you still have your mental capacities and you're smart and creative enough to develop a plan to recover.

Destiny awaits.

Ambition is goal-driven, whilst panic is ... well, panic. Don't sacrifice your goals because you're in a free fall, ready to grab the first opportunity that comes your way. If you are in a position to do so, allow yourself a bit of time. Of course it's not easy, and I'm not saying you shouldn't work your ass off (you should)! But before you reach for that next branch or helping hand, ask yourself: is this a panic move, or can I afford to wait?

Use your imagination. Change your perception. Focus on your goals. Good luck out there, everyone.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Leslie's year in review!

Leslie mixing Leap of Faith at 5A Studios, London

2019 has been an incredible year for Mix Messiah Productions, I'm very proud of what I have achieved this year.

This year's theme seems to be manifestation, as so many of my dreams have come true - though not in ways I may have imagined, as is typically the case! From award nominations to being welcomed as a new member of the Recording Academy;  from seeing the work of the AES D&I Committee flourish at the New York Convention to authoring my first bookWomen In Audio (, I have a lot to celebrate and wonderful colleagues with whom to celebrate!

Leap of Faith

Sound for film and television

In terms of sound for film, working on a movie that had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, showed at the BFI (British Film Institute) and has been accepted to Sundance has felt pretty good. Alexandre O. Philippe's Leap of Faith, a documentary on the making of The Exorcist featuring director William Friedkin and earned a nomination for Best Documentary on Cinema in Vienna. And just announced: the film is headed to Sundance in 2020!

I was also nominated for a Heartland Emmy alongside director Michelle Carpenter for the film, Enough White Teacups. The documentary chronicles the philosophy behind the Danish non-profit, INDEX: Design to Improve Life, and features some of the most amazing solutions to the challenges to sustainability we face today. My role was as re-recording mixer, polishing the sound for Michelle's film and adding some sound design to her amazing digital graphics.

Leslie and David at Coda 2 Coda studios
Leslie and David Liban at Coda 2 Coda Studios
This year, we also wrapped production on A Feral World, a post-apocalyptic tale of survival and friendship between a young boy who befriends a mother looking for her lost daughter. The movie has followed the boy over 4 years as he matures into his teen years. Director David Liban flew out to London, England for the final mix with me (in 5.1 of course) at Coda 2 Coda Studios and I'm looking forward to seeing this film get shared far and wide! Congrats to David and the whole Feral cast and crew!

Leslie with her Pro Tools rig with Three Worlds, One Stage on the monitor
I also mixed Three Worlds One Stage, a film by Jessica McGaugh and Roma Sur which - among other accolades - won the "Best Documentary" award at the Mumbai International Film Festival Global Indian Film Festival in Mumbai. The film chronicles how immigrants from Africa, India and Europe arrive in the United States to choreograph a dance which unites the three cultures on stage. The powerful stories of a classical Indian dancer who conquers injuries from a car accident, a Spanish flamenco dancer who brought her family to Denver, and a drummer who departs from his royal roots to teach students are very moving, and of course the music and dancing must be experienced first hand.

Leslie and Corine Dhondee stand next to a video monitor displaying Bradfor Young
Leslie and Corine Dhondee with Bradford Young on the monitor 
The film essay Cinema is the Weapon by Corrine Dhondee chronicles the work and philosophy of cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival). It has screened in my home city Brighton at the Scrapyard Festival, as well as the Atlanta Arts Centre, Georgia; Scrapyard Festival, London, 01Zero1, London, Bronzelens Film Festival, Atlanta, Urbanworld, New York, The Earls Court Film Festival outreach programme (UK), and Philadelphia, PA.

Seeing the payoff of efforts by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York felt really good. The first-ever hip-hop track was chaired by Paul "Willie Green" Womack, a colleague who I met for the first time at an the Central Region Audio Student Summit hosted by the AES Student Section at Webster University. At that time I told him AES was working on D&I and that's all it took for him to join - and he's really run with it!
African Americans in Audio panel at AES NY: (Top row) Paul "Willie Green" Womack, Jay Henry, Prince Charles Alexander. (Bottom row): Leslie Gaston-Bird, Abhita Austin, Ebonie Smith
We held a panel called "African Americans in Audio" that was very well received. Working with Women's Audio Mission and SoundGirls brought even more visibility for women and underrepresented groups to the forefront. Yes, we still have work to do but I've never been to a convention quite like this, and we have every reason to be proud.

Women in Audio has been published!

It is my great honor to announce that Women in Audio ( has been published and should arrive in time for the holiday season. It features almost 100 profiles (and around 70 personal interviews) of women in music recording, hardware and software design, music recording, live sound, game sound, audio for virtual / augmented / mixed reality, radio, and film & television.
Women in Audio Cover
Women in Audio cover

Sharing these stories with you is something I look forward to, and I am honored to have had so many women share their experiences with me. I posted my experience on my LinkedIn page, saying: "I feel that writing this book was akin to being chosen in an almost supernatural way. Some of these stories were banging on history's door, demanding to be told. In almost every instance, what could have been a simple interview revealed a door that opened another door, until I was falling down the rabbit hole of women's untold stories, adventures, innovations, struggles, and successes. A few times, I had to take long walks outside to take in the scope of this huge responsibility. The stories blew my mind. I hope the book does the same for you."

... in conclusion

Altogether, it's been a wonderful 50th trip around the sun. I'm looking forward to 2020! And as I always say: remember to love loudly and love often.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Three Worlds, One Stage

"Three Worlds, One Stage" is the story of two filmmakers' vision to bring together performers from India, Africa, and Spain for a concert in which they combine their disparate forms of music and dance.

Directed by Jessica McGaugh and Roma Sur, it is on the festival circuit this winter and spring (2019). I had the honor of being the re-recording mixer for this film.

The film has won the "Best Documentary" award at the Mumbai International Film Festival Global Indian Film Festival in Mumbai.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

MMP's work on Infinity Chamber

I'm proud to have been part of the film Infinity Chamber, Available on Amazon September 26! You can bet I'll remind you! Thanks David Emrich and Postmodern Company for inviting me to join the crew. I had a blast editing sound effects along with Foley assistance by Josh Kern and Drew Jostad.

Here's a sneak peek:

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