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Audio Visual Industry a “Sound” alternative

I am writing to those young men and women who are considering enrolling in theatre tech or recording arts post secondary programs.

I feel you need to be armed with the experience of those before you, and to be aware of the alternative ways in which a career can be forged without spending thousands of dollars and years in post secondary schools.

Years ago, I received a mail out from a school (which shall remain nameless) but at the time the revelation of what I should pursue felt like it had literally, fallen on my lap.

I was a disillusioned musician who needed to find a “real” career, if not in music, in my mind, it needed to be the closest possible thing to that creative passion.

When I decided to attend Recording Arts School, I felt it was the right move for me to make. I had no mentors at all, but this course seemed to be the impetus and motivator for me to find footing in my own life. To this end I would not discourage people from going to school for their own sense of advancement. However I am here to say that, post secondary education for the industry that we are in, is not always the answer.

I had a good understanding of sound from an aesthetic view point and not as much from a technical one. I knew concepts from performance, I knew what to ask for in my mix as a drummer/performer and I knew what I liked from a sound production stand point when I listened to music, recorded or live.

So I set off to be an Audio Engineer, I signed on the dotted line and that line was a signature that would have me indebted for $16,000.00 +, for years to follow.

The course and school was new and they made no apologies about it, still demanding that we pay a hefty fee for a recording school that did not even have a basic cafeteria let alone a recording studio in house.

The school and its founder made promises about the industry which were quite linear and bias. We would all finish the course and have a myriad of options in the Recording Industry once we went through the “Internship placement” which the school promised to arrange as part of the curriculum.

I am going to date myself here but, the reality was that opportunities were dwindling with the advent of Digital Audio Technology sweeping the industry and with it, were opportunities in the recording industry. It was a time of great change and there was no real way to suggest that there would be an increase in opportunities. Major recording studios were closing their doors, literally, down the street, while the school’s owner, preached about unrealistic post graduate, student job placement percentages.

The other questionable practice in the recording arts industry is the concept of an internship placement. It never ceases to amaze me how many post school graduates I have spoken to, tell me how they graduated with great grades and also found their own internship placement because the school did not act quick enough on their own promise to find placement for them.

Upon completion of the internship placement they were not even considered for a paying job. I find this to be completely unacceptable. To those folks who enter such an agreement I would suggest to stop taking on kids that you will not spend the time to train and not truly consider for a paying job when they are done their internship placement.

What was also amazing to me was how the Audio Visual Industry was never mentioned once in my tenure at the school. For an industry that brings in billions of dollars in revenue, I would say this is not just a plain oversight it is plain neglect.

In speaking to graduates at the same school, years well into my own career, they were equally as uninformed about this side of the industry, and I found this to be perplexing. This begs the burning question (at least for me) and that is, should we not do everything in our power to prepare students for the real world? Is there a filter between educational institution and student? Is this a point from which we can ponder such a concept? If there is a filter, why does such a filter exist?

The reality is that many of the kids that graduate from these schools do not have the real tools to navigate in a recording studio and or a live event environment because they have not been truly informed or prepared. They have been inundated with theoretical jargon and no hands on experience. They should be told clearly that, having great grades does not necessarily make you a star in these environments. One of the women in my class had stellar grades but in following up with her I found that she was bagging groceries at her local grocer. She did not have the wherewithal or the personality type to advance her career. The fact that she was not armed with this information, is tragic.

A diploma is also quite meaningless when you are pushing cases down a long hallway to a truck at 4am. Or when you are running out of the studio to get coffee for the “artists” who are working into the wee hours and “burning the midnight oil” so to speak. Believe me when I tell you, these people do not care if you have a diploma or what your grades were in Communication Art class. You can also be assured that you will be running menial tasks with or without a diploma. It is par for the course and it is what you need to do to get your foot in the door and make your mark.

Nino Monaco





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