Graduate Sound Design

Graduate Sound Design

If a musical crescendo takes your breath away, or an eerie stage whisper gives you chills, then the sound designer has done their job. It’s the sound designer’s job to take an empty room, and fill each inch of space with the right volume, pitch and tone for music, sound effects and voices. This complicated study of sound and construction is offered as a three-year graduate concentration at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Master of Fine Arts

First Year
Each year of the graduate-level Sound Design concentration, you will be given responsibilities for at least three major production assignments in dance, drama, musicals or opera, with your role becoming more and more integral as you progress through the program. During your first year, you will be expected to work as an Assistant Sound Designer for the productions. At first, you will be a Second Assistant to a more experienced student while you become acquainted with the various venues and sound technology. Later in the year you will work as the Sole Assistant responsible for maintaining the sound system paperwork and sometimes working as a member of the deck sound crew. In addition to this practical production experience, graduate classes will cover technical graphics, theatrical rigging, sound system design, the software and tools needed to analyze sound, as well as the process from analyzing a script to creating a sound design.

Second Year
During your second year, you will assume the role of Head Sound Engineer for at least three productions, taking the preliminary sound system paperwork from the Sound Designer and turning it into a fully-assembled sound system. Once the sound system has been installed, you will operate or mix the sound content for the production while supervising the sound crew. Classes will cover sound system engineering, theater electronics, advanced lessons in tailoring and composing music cues, and sound design technology.

Third Year
Classes in your final year will include lessons on creativity and innovation, theater audio electronics and a graduate sound seminar, which will address the challenges of sound designers as well as strategies pertaining to aesthetics and audience cognition. This year, you will become the lead Sound Designer for major productions, along with some additional training in theater music composition. You will also be expected to prepare and present your thesis paper on a topic of your choosing.

Graduate Sound Design Careers

Our graduates boast an assortment of positions in the professional world of sound design. They have gone on to become sound engineers, technicians, department heads and sound designers for regional theaters. Others assist sound designers or are associate sound designers both on and off Broadway. Some are on the road working for touring musicals or dramas, while others are on the high seas running and/or designing shows on cruise lines.

We have seen our graduates become install technicians in system integration companies, system designers in international audio-visual companies and even heads of sound departments for places of worship. For some, their experience and portfolio were enough to launch busy careers as freelance sound designers and technicians in major metropolitan areas.

Related Concentration


Sound Design Faculty
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