Company (or Freelance):
Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree?
School: University of British Columbia (Vancouver)
Degree: B.A. Music
School: Cleveland Institute of Music
Degree: M.A. Piano (Performance)
What inspired you to work with sound?
Music, and by relation sound, has always been a part of my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I started piano lessons when I was about 6 and I’ve been playing ever since I also participated in jazz choir, concert choir, and concert band in high school as a flutist. During my undergrad as part of my degree requirement, I took two years of secondary instrument and since I was already a pianist I stuck with the flute. My dad is also a huge classical music fanatic and for as long as I could remember there would always be some symphony or opera recording playing in my house.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
Not until very recently actually! I knew I wanted to do something related to music. I started learning piano when I was 6 but I didn’t want to only teach or perform. I got into video games a few years ago and came to the realization that designing sonic worlds for games was what I really wanted to do.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
My parents always taught me to strive for higher education so that was the first thing I thought of after high school: Go to college and get my degree!
What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)? What do you like most about it?
I prefer sound design and recording. I worked as a production intern over a summer and I really enjoyed the whole process, there’s that feeling of satisfaction that I’ve been a part of creating something that people actually listen to; it was a rewarding experience.
What was your summer production internship like?
I worked for WCLV, a classical radio station here in Ohio. One of the few classical radio stations still running in fact! It’s been around for 50 years this year being its 50th anniversary. While I was there I worked as a production intern, most of my days were spent in the recording studio. I would record Robert Conrad announcing promos as well as his weekend radio show on Saturday evening. I would also do the editing and post production work such as adding in musical tracks to accompany the commercials.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
When I took a class at CIM on popular music my professor did a brief introduction to Pro Tools which got me more interested in learning what I could do. Other than that, during school I was focused on preparing for recitals and the like and didn’t get too much time to really spend on exploring programs.
What kind of programs are you now learning/teaching yourself in order to work with game audio?
I recently worked with Reaper which I’ve really liked so far and I’m currently learning Alchemy. It’s quite an impressive synthesizer!
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
Since I did a performance degree all the projects I had were upcoming chamber concerts or degree required recitals!
Coming from a more music background, what instruments did you learn?
My main instrument was piano but I also learned flute in school for band and dabbled briefly with baritone saxophone My favorite instrument is actually the cello it has such a beautiful rich tone! I currently play on a Boston grand but I would love to own a Fazioli one day. The sound those pianos can produce is just amazing, the best way to describe it I suppose is they have a 3D quality to the tone.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
The two professors in the audio recording department at CIM are Bruce Egre and Timothy Callahan.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
One my dad’s family friends asked me to create a 35 minute mix of classically influenced music for a documentary style video he was making. It was a promotional DVD for an ESL exchange school back in Vancouver.
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
It’s still in the works, I feel like a baby in this industry! But I’m hoping it turns out well
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
Both my undergraduate class and graduate class were very small around a hundred students in total. I made some great friends along the way and we still keep in contact.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
Every so often we would collaborate and do some chamber pieces for fun but it’s more just to have a good time.
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
I met a fellow classmate, Jerry Lang II over this summer who’s very talented. He is a hip hop, R&B producer/classical pianist who also sings. I was lucky enough to have been able to go to a few recording sessions to see him at work.
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
I’d like to think so! I’d say my experiences as a classical musician have trained me to have a keen ear for detail. There have been moments where I played back an effect I was creating over 20 times just to be sure it was exactly how I wanted it to sound.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
I do: http://margaretlu.prosite.com I try to update it as often as I can.
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I use Twitter and LinkedIn pretty much on a daily basis, it’s nice to keep on top of what’s going on in the industry.
Any last words for future audio guys and girls looking to carve their education and career paths?
It’s a really rewarding field, one that is growing and creative, full of amazing people who are willing to take time out of their day to help out and inspire. As with everything, hard work and time pays off. Just keep doing what you do, and good things will come
About Sonic Backgrounds
The sound industry is an ever growing field, ranging from linear sound design in film and TV, to interactive audio in games, and from live theatrical sound design to field recording for the creation of custom libraries. It is only recently however, that school programs have begun to offer degrees in the sound-specific variety. Graduates of these new programs are now coming into the industry, and it provokes the interesting question of how these new, specific programs are preparing individuals for the sound world, as opposed to the older approaches of entry, such as pure passion, musical talent, a film degree, or a computer science degree.
“Sonic Backgrounds” is an interview series focused on interviewing recent graduates of these educational sound programs around the globe, to see what exactly they are providing, and how they are shaping the new “academic”-based sound artist.