I chose to speak with Mel Stark for my informational interview because I’m interested in audio production and after hearing Mel speak in our class, I knew she’d be a great resource for information. I wasn’t wrong.
I had a list of questions ready for this interview, but after sitting down and just talking with Mel for a few minutes, I abandoned my formal interview track and went for a more informal, “What do I need to know to be successful” type of discussion with her. This just felt right to me, and I feel like I learned more than if I’d stuck with my carefully worded questions (which I did seem to get answered in the course of our discussion).
One question I did ask was what skills or qualifications does someone need in this field. Mel turned the question back on me and asked what kind of audio production I’m interested in. The answer to that question, “I’m not entirely sure, I’m still trying to figure it all out,” led us into a discussion of all the different avenues open to someone pursuing audio and the different skills necessary. Since my only real experience with audio is voice-over work, that’s where I’m leaning, but I’m also fascinated with sound for motion pictures and foley work. Having this as a starting point, we talked about Mel’s Audio 120 (Audio Production) class (which I’m planning to take Fall term) and the things I’d learn there. It was very clear, after talking with Mel, that she loves teaching and is very invested in her students’ success. But as with all things, the student needs to be willing to work hard and bring their best to each class and each project. I can’t think of better advice for anyone pursuing a career in any field.
Being familiar with computers and software is a critical part of audio production and engineering and so anyone pursuing this field will need to continually improve their skills and comfort with technology. I appreciated Mel’s reiteration that for her audio classes, especially the introductory ones, she is invested in helping her students get comfortable with the equipment and tools necessary to complete their work. Having this kind of support is invaluable and we’re foolish if we don’t take advantage of it. Like all the instructors here, Mel is preparing us to be successful, but we have to take responsibility for our own futures and our own knowledge and skill sets.
When I asked Mel what events should I attend or what kinds of things should I be participating in to help me in this field, she reminded me of the huge range of audio and visual events going on around Lane County, such as film and music festivals, art performances, and Future Music Oregon at the University of Oregon. She also mentioned a local audio producer who offers voice-over workshops as someone I should get to know. I’m hoping to take one of his workshops later this year to hone my skills and connect with others in this part of the industry.
One other thing Mel mentioned about being successful, and I believe this goes for any pursuit, is to be yourself. One of the great benefits of a career in the arts is that we get to infuse the projects we work on with our own personalities and individual ideas. Being true to the work means being true to ourselves and pushing ourselves to learn a bit more, stretch a bit further, and try new things.
I’m glad I took the opportunity to speak with Mel for this project. I came away with a renewed sense of excitement for audio production, and my eyes are open to avenues other than just voice-over and film sound. I hadn’t considered dipping my toes into audio engineering for music, but with Mel’s suggestion to look in at the audio studio in Building 6, I think some classes in audio engineering may just be in my future. Thanks, Mel!