‘I am the sound guy’

Riley Mills

Contributing Writer

romills@goshen.edu

Kimberly Glick is a Goshen College professional staff member, working for the on-campus audio visual department ITS Media. She is a Goshen College alum and has been working in audio and the music industry since graduating college.

What inspired you to go into audio engineering? 

I got into audio because I took a year off college in my sophomore year and joined a band. We recorded an album; the recording engineer was also in the band so I ended up spending a lot of my time with him learning about the recording software and the gear we used. I realized I loved it, and I thought “this is great, I’m going to be a recording engineer.”

So eventually you came back to GC and filled the position that you are in now. What position is that exactly? 

The Audio Visual Operations Manager for campus—the position shifted a little bit when I came. I am more interested in technical work and system design than Sarah was – she had the job before me. I’ve picked up more of the venue systems management and more technical and design work. Positions kind of shift with your skill set here, ideally.

You work full time, but do you do any freelance outside of ITS Media? 

Yes. A couple years ago I started freelancing specifically with Ignition Music Garage downtown because the college has had a relationship with Ignition. I had turned down a lot of other freelance gigs since coming here, but I started taking the shows at Ignition because at the college a lot of what I do is administrative or very little straight mixing front of house. It’s a lot of coordination, planning, scheduling, training, and then occasionally shows, but even that is often ‘let’s run a microphone for an orchestra concert.’ And what I really love… I love mixing. Those Ignition shows are worth the effort to me because of the friends I make and because I’m doing what I love.

It’s unique to find a woman working in tech, especially in sound tech, so do you think it has been an advantage to be a woman in this field? 

That’s a really good question. I was actually just discussing this last Thursday. The band that came through Ignition had a woman as their front of house engineer. That’s the first time I’ve had that happen in any of the venues I’ve worked since I started running sound. We had a little bit of a talk afterwards and were actually asking that same question. We were trying to decide if it’s been a good thing or a bad thing to be a woman in the field, and we sort of came out at both.

And what makes it both an advantage and disadvantage? 

You get to decide how you want to see it. Sure, there are times when guys will be dumb, or actually women, too. People in general don’t expect you to be able to do the job because they’re not used to it. They’re used to seeing men mix. When I was living in Virginia I had a band walk in and say, “Where’s the sound guy?” and I said, “I am the sound guy.” “No really, where’s the man?” and I had to say “No, it’s me, really.”

Do you feel that was projected more so because you are a woman? 

Some of that’s being a woman, and some of that’s because I don’t fit the stereotype of an audio engineer. I don’t have tattoos, I don’t glare a lot; I do wear a lot of black, but it’s usually dressier than grungy. Which are all really visual and superficial things, but you do find that people have an image in their head and if you look smiley and are small, they’re probably just going to make assumptions.

But as Holly, the woman I was talking to at Ignition, said, you will also get a lot more attention. People will notice you because they’ve never seen a woman do this before. And that means that even if you aren’t at the top of your game, if you don’t mix amazingly well that night, you may get the call next time because the band or venue will say, “I remember her.” Which is something that guys don’t usually get in this field; they have to be either spectacularly good at something or just somehow really different to get that level of attention.

You say you’ve only met one front of house female audio engineer so far; Holly. Do you have an idea of how many women are working in AV tech? 

Drawing specifically from an audio visual conference that I go to that is the big conference in the industry, I think less than five percent of the attendees are women. But in terms of women actually running front of house sound, it’s probably actually much less than that. But I don’t know that anyone has numbers on that.

If another woman interested in the field asked you for guidance, what kind of advice or warnings would you give to them? 

Ask for help. That goes for men and women, but especially the women that I’ve met have been a little bit afraid to ask for mentors. Ask questions, ask for opportunities and pursue those opportunities. Ask for jobs that you don’t feel ready for. A lot of women I’ve talked to say ‘I wish I had learned earlier to try things that I didn’t think I would succeed at.’ Many people are more willing to help than you might expect.

What’s your passion that keeps you in the audio visual field? 

My passion for keeping going in the field is that I love music. I really, really love music, and I like mixing and working with bands. The fact that I enjoy the work itself has made it possible for me to keep going when things are hard. Also the fact that I thrive on learning new things. This field is perfect; there’s always something new to learn. But it hasn’t felt like there’s a clear ‘this is what I want to do and this is the path I’m going to take to get there’ that I’m using to make my decisions. A lot my story has been taking the opportunity that’s in front of me and then trying to learn whatever I can from that.

One of the other things that plays into all of this is that I think one of my goals that I’ve always had but have been afraid to state is that I also love writing music and performing. That’s part of what I think keeps me in the field. Being part of the music industry on the technical side, while I love it, it was also partially driven by the goal of playing music and being friends with musicians and staying in this world that I love.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

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