Women in Pro Audio: An Interview with Frieda Lee
“You must love what you do. Keep learning, and keep expanding your capability to learn new technology. Don’t be scared of technology – and I say this especially to women.” – Frieda Lee
Where would the pro audio industry be without the men and women who make it run? A rhetorical question, of course, because live events and pro audio aren’t what it is without the talented people making it run. They are the heart and soul of those in-person events that move our bodies and free our emotions – uniting us in aural rapture. The public doesn’t know all the sweat (and sometimes blood and tears) that go into setting up the perfect audio system for that sold-out concert. Nor should they – the whole point of a successful show is that it goes off without a hitch, that every note and sound is heard in perfect clarity, never detracting, or tarnishing the experience for the guests. And the people who make all this happen, the ones who deserve a lot more recognition in this artistic tech industry, are all the women.
This month, we’re kicking off another one of our L-Acoustics Women in Pro Audio series, a segment recognizing and celebrating the achievements of many of the phenomenal women in pro audio. From sound mixers to engineers, owners, and the women in between, we’re highlighting those who are so integral to this industry – the ones who provide their talent (and blood, sweat, and tears), to elevate the pro audio field with their innovation, skill, and perseverance. For this Women in Pro Audio series, we would like to introduce you to Frieda Lee, L-Acoustics Application Engineer for APAC.
When Frieda was in high school, she joined her school orchestra because of her love for music. This love of music transformed into more of a life’s mission. She always felt that music would be a part of her life, so she applied to study at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. Only seven students out of a thousand were chosen from the region, and she was one of the lucky few (a very impressive feat!). She’s now studying for her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sound Design and Music Recording at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. When she graduates, she plans on fully working in those fields.
Currently, Frieda works as an Application Engineer for L-Acoustics, conducting training seminars, and engaging in sound design assistance, system calibration, on-site assistance, and product demonstrations. She advises those who want to keep up to date with pro audio to read the pro audio magazines, “there’s great info in them!” For those who are interested in learning more, she highly suggests checking out L-Acoustics’ online education platform, “It’s very good information and a great way to learn,” Frieda comments. She also full-heartedly believes that the future of pro audio lies in immersive hyperreal sound.
Because her job takes her on-site, Frieda has been able to experience a few incredible shows. Her favorite, she noted, was the Vietnam Airlines Classic Hanoi Concert in 2019. The concert marked the third return of the London Symphony Orchestra to Hanoi, with the participation of approximately 100 artists, featuring some rare musical instruments, many of which are more than 200 years old. Frieda says, “I might be biased due to being in an orchestra when I was younger, but I really loved being a part of the Vietnam Airlines Classic Hanoi Concert. It was the first L-ISA show in Vietnam with the London Symphony Orchestra. It was such an honor to help set up an amazing audio system for these talented artists. Everyone was pleased with the outcome, and it was such a fantastic show!”
If Frieda could change one thing about the industry, she hopes the future of audio will be more environmentally friendly with less packaging, less power usage, and fully recyclable products. She states, “Processors/DSP are now using less power compared with those in the past. Our amplified controllers with L-Drive protection could maximize output power and minimize nonlinearities. Hopefully, in the future, the audio industry could put more effort into environmentally-friendly measures.”
Eco-friendly ideologies aside, we asked Freida about being a woman in this industry and if she’s come across any unique challenges. Her answer was quite surprising. “Nowadays, women can work as well as men, even women who are not physically as strong. Thanks to newer technology, audio equipment (such as digital consoles and amplifiers) they’re smaller and lighter than before. Also, we have many tools (such as forklifts, hydraulic lifts, etc.) to help set up. It makes our lives so much easier.” Frieda’s advice to other women in the industry (and is probably applicable to all industries), “You must love what you do. Ask yourself, ‘do you love the pro audio industry?’ well before you get into it. Your answer will help you define your choices. Keep learning, and keep expanding your capability to learn new technology. Don’t be scared of technology – and I say this especially to women. Technology is improving our lives, and also in the pro audio industry. Motivate yourself, and stay positive. Stay hungry! And also – stay foolish. It helps you push boundaries.” The best advice she ever received? “Think before you act.”
Frieda’s experiences are a beacon of encouragement to other women looking to get into the tech side of audio. She encourages other women to apply and primarily promotes that more women, especially in Asia, become more active in audio.
When we asked Frieda if she was proud of anything during her career, she respectfully and modestly replied, “I enjoy most of the projects I’ve worked on, and I feel grateful for all the experiences. But I’m not sure if I’m proud of anything, or want to be proud of anything, because, in Chinese, we have a proverb: ‘Pride comes before a fall.'”
When asked to address the current events of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frieda positively stated, “I feel confident that live events will slowly return to normal; even during the pandemic situation, our live events do not stop. Just change the format, and call it ‘live streaming.’ Technology can compensate for a live event – such as using a virtual set. But I am sure that live events will persevere and come back in full force soon and that they will be even better than before.”