sound board

Confessions of a Sound Tech Intern: Essay

Being one of few females in a male-dominated industry is like being in Highlander

Earlier this year I had the good fortune to be offered an internship of sorts: one of Saskatoon’s most beloved sound technicians wanted to take me under his wing, and teach me the ways of mixing, lighting and general stage managing.

I, not being a complete idiot, gladly accepted, and since February I have been building a modest skill set, networking with musicians and other techs, volunteering for fabulous festivals like the Ness Creek Music Festival and MoSoFest, and generally having a rad time.

For those who are unaware of what being a sound tech intern comprises of, each show I work involves various routine tasks: setting up the instrument and vocal microphones, running cable lines from said microphones and instruments into the PA system, setting up and tearing down lighting rigs, being on hand in the event of equipment malfunction during the band’s set, cleaning up empty pint glasses and beer bottles from the front of the stage, clearing the stage of microphones, stands and cables at the end of the night, and asking a lot of stupid questions. In short, equal parts assistant, stage mom, and semi-professional cable-wrapper.

In the six months since starting this little adventure, there are a few critical things I have come to realize about training to be a sound tech, and a female one at that:

A tiny keychain flashlight is an invaluable piece of equipment.

A very small piece of gaff tape will probably suffice in keeping That Thing That Keeps Moving But Shouldn’t stationary. Seriously, just a small piece; that stuff is expensive.

Always be prepared for the worst. Also, be prepared for the fact that what actually turns out to be “the worst” is actually not what you thought would be “the worst.”

If you’re going to panic, do it while you try to figure out a solution; it saves time.
When striking up conversations, musicians/audience members/other techs will either ask you “So, who are you dating?” or “So, which band are you in?”

When aforementioned musicians/audience members/other techs learn that you are, in fact, a tech-in-training, some will then ask “Oh, have you heard of [Local Token Female Sound Tech]? Does this mean you’re going to steal her job and take over?” Being one of few females in a male-dominated industry is like being in Highlander, apparently.

Coffee is your very best friend, especially when tear-down takes until 3-4am.

Hand sanitizer is also your very best friend, especially when handling microphones used by cold- and influenza-riddled musicians.

Outdoor music festivals will leave you dirty, sweaty, smelly, exhausted, malnourished, rained-out, and feeling like you had the greatest goddamn time of your life. They will also make you hate having to power a whole stage, in a tent, off of a single generator. Also, when your boss tells you not to worry about a lighting circuit overloading, do not believe him.

And most importantly: When things do inevitably go wrong, do what you can to fix what you can, and chill out about the rest. Every experience, good or bad, will teach you a valuable lesson and make you love your “job” a little bit more.

Featured photo via Flickr user Simon Wicks, Creative Commons.