The BFA in theatre sound design is one of the few programs in the country that allow you to major in sound design for all four years. The in-depth training and increasing level of skill acquisition is heavily practically-based and production-oriented. Each student will usually undertake three major production assignments each year, spread across Dance, Drama, Musicals and Opera, as well as numerous smaller production assignments.
In the first year sound students will usually crew and operate the shows. This helps them become acquainted with our numerous and diverse performance spaces and shops. In the second year, students will be the draftsperson for the sound system design paperwork. By the time a student reaches their third year they will usually assume the role of Production Sound Engineer responsible for choosing the equipment and putting together the whole sound system. In their last year students will be either sound designer/composers or sound system designers depending on their specialization.
The innovative curriculum ensures that sound students receive equal training in the art and the technology of sound design. This ensures that students will not only be able to conceptualize a sound design but will also have the skills to execute that design on a technical level. In addition to sound-specific courses, sound design majors take other classes necessary for a career in theatre sound design such as rigging, computer aided drafting, stage electrics, theatre and audio electronics, as well as classes on innovation and creativity.
Each December, we abandon our regular course schedule for two weeks to allow us to hold specialized workshops and classes that might span several days. Over the years we have developed close relationships with some of the major sound equipment manufacturers and they regularly conduct multiday workshops on their new technology and working practices during this two-week period. During these two weeks we also invite prominent sound designers from Broadway and regional theatre to present master classes. The relationships our students form with these guests greatly influence their career trajectory.
The Sound Program boasts some wonderful facilities, not the least of which is our state of the art sound lab with its seven acoustically designed pre-production workstations. Each workstation houses a Mac computer that runs both Mac and Windows applications used in theatre sound. Each workstation has a MIDI keyboard and control surface and well as a multichannel sound card and sound mixer. The sound program also has a fully stocked sound shop which functions like a professional rental shop. All performance spaces are treated like an empty theatre without a sound system. For each show, the entire sound system is designed and specified, and all the equipment is pulled from our shop and installed in the theatre. When students become skilled in this process, they are prepared to work in all positions in theatre sound from the initial system design, rental, load-in, troubleshooting, technical rehearsals, operation and strike of theatre sound systems.
Our sound lab and shop are located near the performance spaces. There is also a studio space for students working as sound designers on productions. This space is located near the studio spaces for the other design areas in an effort to facilitate communication and collaboration among the design team. The sound studio has workspaces for designers to set up their computer and work on their show and also houses our sound isolation booth for recording voiceovers, single instruments and Foley effects.
Collaborations with the UNCSA School of Filmmaking
In addition to the sound design training in the School of Design and Production, the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA also teaches sound classes geared toward sound design, mixing, and editing for film. Though these courses are not required for sound majors in D&P, students who are interested in learning to apply their skills in filmmaking may arrange to take these courses as electives.
Careers in Sound Design
Upon graduation our students begin their careers in all levels of the entertainment industry. Many have careers in major regional theatres as technicians, engineers, department heads and resident sound designers, while others have careers as install technicians in system integration companies, or as system designers in international Audio Visual companies. Some graduates go on the road in the position of A2s in touring musicals, drama or other forms of entertainment. Some of them work in or head up regional offices of sound rental companies. Some of them assist sound designers or become Associate Sound Designers both Off and On-Broadway. Some work in the cruise line industry either running shows or designing the shows. Some students go on to head up sound departments in houses of worship to deliver the increasing complexity of production value required in their services. Others will move to a major city and develop a busy career as a freelance sound designer and technician.
David Smith, Director of the Sound Design Program; Sound Design Faculty: Bio e-mail
Jason Romney, Sound Design Faculty: Bio e-mail