January 29, 2022

NMC’s audio tech program is back … and better than ever

Sounds Like a Winner
By Harper Haase | Jan. 8, 2022

If you’ve ever fallen down a rabbit hole watching NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concerts, Traverse City dwellers are in luck.

NMC’s Audio Technology is now hosting Sound Bytes, a completely student-run production that features local and student musicians.

Sound Bytes is live-streamed on YouTube via the program’s Facebook page; there is also an in-person option at Founder’s Hall. Still in its early stage, the program has mostly featured student performers, though they hope to host the local multi-instrumental duo The Lofteez. The duo’s eclectic music features a fiddle, keyboard, guitar and bass. The Lofteez – who have played a Sound Byte event before – play regularly at distilleries, wine cellars, and brew pubs. (Local performers looking to get involved can contact the program through Instagram, Facebook, or email.)

HANDS-ON FROM THE GET-GO
While past years have required more hands-on guidance from instructors, new program coordinator Brady Corcoran says this year’s class has been able to do set up, sound control, and take down all on their own. The hands-on experience prepares students to go straight to work when they graduate.

The program has two options: Full-time students take roughly 14 credits per semester and graduate with an audio technology associate degree. Students unable to make the full-time commitment can choose the Level II Certificate track, consisting of an eight-credit course load per semester.

All students graduate in early summer — just in time to get live entertainment experience during Traverse City’s most lively months. The degree also opens doors to studio opportunities for those interested in the recording side of entertainment.

While the program mainly focuses on music, there are projects to learn post-production sound editing in film and television as well.

Entertainment is about networking, and “if they’ve done their networking and we do our job networking for them, they have a good shot at getting work right away,” Corcoran says.

HOW AUDIO TECH GOT ITS GROOVE BACK
Since losing its program coordinator in 2015, the audio technology program has gone from the brink of extinction to thriving in the campus community — all while operating without an official coordinator.

Much of this growth can be attributed to the newly appointed program coordinator, Brady Corcoran. Corcoran left his job with record labels and recording studios in Los Angeles to teach at NMC in 2014.

After the professor’s first year teaching, the previous coordinator abruptly resigned. Corcoran was at a friend’s bachelor party when he got the news that he had one week to prepare to take over all instruction. Instead of simply picking up the dead weight, Corcoran gave the program a total makeover.

The first step was to clean it up: disorganized coursework, messy recording studios and unstructured lab hours stood out glaringly after Corcoran’s history with high-profile record labels.

He knew students wouldn’t — couldn’t — take it seriously if professors didn’t treat it accordingly.

After putting in hours of pro-bono overtime, the studios finally had an air of professionalism.

The only catch? It was located in the basement of the University Center. It’s hard enough to provide incentives to join a dying program, but a 15-minute drive around the Boardman Lake to sit in a basement was not a great place to start.

Regardless, Corcoran and students prevailed. Last year they upgraded to Founder’s Hall on main campus. Corcoran says moving "from a windowless basement in an office building to their own building (with windows!) — has made all the difference in the world when it comes to student engagement, excitement, and retention.” 

A PROFESSIONAL SETTING
Once the studio was set, Corcoran began to create management systems for open lab hours. Setting specific hours was the first step, which evolved into an online booking system and having check-in/checkouts. He then visited schools to connect with job fairs and reconstructed curriculum for organization.

The growth didn’t come without a price, though. Corcoran recalls “spreading himself thin” trying to both teach his classes and re-build the program from scratch. The first two years were especially tough for both the students and Corcoran. During the long, painful process students volunteered their own free time to help out.

The new coordinator takes credit for his hard work, but also gives students equal credit.

“This is the best class I’ve had since I started teaching in 2014,” he shares.

The transition to having a coordinator was smooth because of Corcoran’s previous involvement, but he calls it “dumb luck” that he was brought on alongside “this new class of students that’s just… amazing.”

Corcoran’s love for the audio tech program is clear. The growing pains they experienced during the first few years paid off — they’re now comfortable enough to focus on involvement with the campus and local communities.

STUDENTS DIVE IN
While Sound Bytes provides fun, hands-on sound tech practice, students have opportunities to get involved on the management side as well. One student recently took upon the role of social media manager, bringing a much-needed social presence to the program and increasing community recognition. Second-year students have the opportunity to be lab assistants, keeping recording studios up to par and managing scheduling.

For more, visit nmc.edu and search audio technology degrees and certificates.

*Pictured above: Audio tech student Skye Martin performing at Sound Bytes. Image courtesy of NMC Audio Technology

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