Q: Can you tell me about your educational history and what motivated you to pursue an advanced degree in sound?
A: I graduated in 2013 with a degree in theater and arts management from Miami (OH) University, and I moved to Chicago post-graduation to act and perform. I fell into stage-managing improv variety shows, and I helped start a theater company in 2015 to produce shows. I took a class in Ableton Live as a challenge to myself to learn music production, and as a result, I started sound designing for our shows.
It started as a hobby and turned into an obsession to get better. I started recording voiceovers for actor friends and composing/designing for other productions, and I fell in love with the art. I think the idea of combining my hobby of music production with what I’ve known my whole life – theater – was what sparked my love of the different aspects of sound. I found the program at Northwestern, and I was sick of my career in real estate during the day, so I told myself that if I didn’t take this chance now, I’d regret it. And here I am closing up the spring quarter and very happy with my decision.
Q: Why did you want to enroll in Northwestern Sound Arts and Industries Program?
A: When choosing a school to go to, there were a number of programs out there that ticked a number of boxes, but Northwestern was the only one that was all-encompassing. Learning how to mix music is one thing but learning that along with the science and theory behind sound was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
Another big deciding factor for me was the Northwestern connection. Being able to network and connect with fellow graduates is an underrated aspect of the college experience. After seeing how that helped from my time at Miami, I knew the other competing programs would pale in comparison. Selfishly, I applied for Northwestern as an undergraduate after doing the NHSI program, and the possibility of finally enrolling at [the school] was a draw in the back of my mind for 18-year-old Brendan.
Q: What has been your favorite class so far?
A: The History of the Recording Industry has to claim that spot. Taught by the department head, Jacob Smith, it’s a sonic journey from the late 1800s and the invention of the record to modern day and the streaming wars. With so much information to cover, Jacob keeps everything in perspective and draws connections throughout the class to show just how interconnected the industry is with our culture.
Q: What has been the most valuable part of the program for you?
A: Aside from the freedom to explore our sound projects, and the awesome resources and equipment provided, I think the most valuable part of the program is the mentorship and guidance we receive from our professors. All of my instructors have been instrumental to my growth as a sound artist and the departmental staff has helped position me to a career in sound post-graduation.
Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?
A: I have an internship with a post-production studio this summer called NoiseFloor. I’ll be focusing on my composition and mixing skills to be better suited to sound design as a freelance artist. I hope to establish my own brand after graduation and continue learning and working on great music, podcasts and films. I’ll also be building my reel as a composer and sound designer after school. I’d love to design/compose for commercials, films and TV. A dream project for me would be collaborating with some of my favorite artists on an original piece. In the end, I just want to work on projects I believe in.