Women in Pro Audio: Andrea Arenas
“Speaking for myself as part of an audience, I will never give up attending live events. After a year of doing everything online, I was going crazy; I couldn’t wait to feel sound waves in my body again. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. ” Andrea Arenas
Live events and music mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a needed respite from the mundane routine of life. For others, it’s a way to connect with like-minds, other cultures, or the arts. Sometimes it’s all of the above. And for this month’s Women in Pro Audio, we got the chance to interview a talented woman working behind the scenes making all these profound live event experiences possible.
Sound Technician at La Perle by Dragone in Dubai, Andrea Arenas is a sound engineer who does it all. She runs tracks for rehearsals and shows from Front of House, monitors, or backstage, and assists with maintenance, repair, and sound equipment modification. “Because of my musical background, I have the opportunity to also run the music on Ableton sessions, play percussion and sound effects during shows as Musical Director backup, and I’m back up coach for the percussion training sessions for artists playing drums during the show.”
Andrea got started in cultural activities and events when she was just a ten-year-old musician. “But it was later during my time in university—around 2006—that I started to get fully involved with sound as a career. Since then, it has been my lifestyle!”
Andrea wanted to be a musician when she was a child, but when she was 17 years old and graduated from school, she decided to get involved with sound on a more technical, behind-the-scenes level. Social pressure, mostly from her family, pushed her away from becoming a full-time musician because of the perceived financial instability. “However, I feel I just found a way around it and never really gave up on music. Music never abandoned me, and I reunite with her every time I mix a show or a song,” Andrea smiles.
Not Your Standard Job
Andrea mentions that her job isn’t your “typical nine-to-fiver” because there are no “normal” hours. “It’s not the standard job and lifestyle that most people have,” she says. “Especially for a woman. It’s a job with irregular schedules, where you have to work on holidays and weekends, and you’re always wearing black, and no dresses. You work late at night, travel all the time, sometimes live in a boat, work in circus tents, have no time for kids, you’re climbing and lifting things, and you’re surrounded by lots of men all the time.
“And I must admit, every time I felt like society was right about me not being “normal,” I would try to change my path and do “regular” jobs. But it never worked. Every time I’ve come back to this industry, I’ve also come back stronger in my belief that this is what I chose to do with my life, and I’ll choose it every time. I love what I do.”
Her Favorite Industry Resources
Staying current with industry technology is vital to Andrea, and she recounts all of her favorite resources. “Many manufacturers’ websites have become very informative about their new products and technologies; some even have technical tips or blogs. If I’m aware or catch wind that new technology has been released, I look up that new tech on their websites. I also check out AES resources to gain deeper knowledge. When it comes to innovation in sound, they are infinite. Since the pandemic, all types of webinars are available all over the internet too; the ones I’ve used the most for mixing tips are Mix With the Masters webinars. And I always recommend SoundGirls resources, an organization I volunteer for that empowers women working in the audio industry.”
Andrea has noticed that industry challenges for women often shift depending on the culture or region. A struggle many women face, it’s often hard to pinpoint a distinction. “I’m not sure if the challenges I’ve faced working within my country or outside my country are more related to latitude, gender, or simply unpleasant coworkers, or all of them combined. I’ve always tried not to give it much thought, though. I just keep going regardless of others’ opinions and intentions because I’ve learned the only thing I can control is my behavior and attitude towards work, so I always try to make it the best. And that’s my strategy and way of doing things during my whole career—and my life too.”
“I’ve enjoyed all of the events I’ve been part of. However, one of my favorites was in 2017 when I volunteered for a three-day event with SoundGirls called Girlschool at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. The crew, bands, and musicians involved in this event were all female. I must say it was the smoothest, most stress-free, and most satisfying experience I’ve been a part of. All women involved were just awesome, and the result was amazing!”
Andrea has worked on many different projects that she feels it’s hard to generalize the whole industry and narrow down one piece of advice or one thing she’d want to change about the industry. Instead, she says, “Things can vary a lot depending on the country you are working in, the type of production, the amount of money involved, or the level of professionalism of the people involved. So maybe to keep it simple, I would say that being respectful towards your work, being respectful towards your colleagues, and being professional are the most important things to maintain in any industry.”
She also stresses, “Don’t let others’ expertise intimidate you enough to silence your thoughts. Speaking your mind will always be important so your voice can be heard. Others can learn from you, and you can learn from others. I understood very early in my career that there will always be people younger or older than you with more or less experience than you at your workplace. But this shouldn’t diminish your goals or be an excuse to keep you away from doing a great job. Be passionate. Be an active listener. And mostly, be a problem solver.”
Why She Loves This Job
Her favorite part about what she does is building that special moment for the people in the audience. “Being a part of someone’s moment of joy, even if it only lasts as long as a three-minute song, or maybe as long as a whole 90-minute show. It feels so satisfying to know that I’m making those moments happen and to be part of a team that makes that joy possible.”
She also loves that she gets to meet people she didn’t think she’d have the chance to meet and travel to places she never thought to travel. “Especially people or places you may have admired since you were a kid! The perfect example is Cirque du Soleil. It was a dream come true being able to work with them. And when I started to become recommended by other colleagues in the industry (without even realizing it), that meant my work was speaking for itself and was paying off. Those are proud moments for me.”
The Future of Live Events
As live events start to come back, Andrea foresees a few changes. “I think in the next couple of years, we’ll see a lot of hybrid events trying to combine new technologies that allow people to enjoy live events within the “new normal” rules. Speaking for myself as part of an audience, I will never give up attending live events. After a year of doing everything online, I was going crazy; I couldn’t wait to feel sound waves in my body again. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. So let’s hope events can keep on going stronger than ever!”
Andrea also looks forward to the pro audio innovations breaking through, especially projects that aid those with disabilities. “I’m very excited about new research and project proposals in pro audio that will improve the experience for people with disabilities. And I hope to see all the amazing innovations to come that will improve the live sound experience for us all, in general. For example, this month, I read a fascinating publication titled “Spin-orbit interactions of transverse sound,” where a research team at the City University of Hong Kong discovered a new type of sound wave. Imagine the implications this could have on the industry! I also had the opportunity to go to Expo 2020 in Dubai, and all the innovative projects for the future are mesmerizing. I look forward to what this industry has to offer.”
Check out more about Andrea on her website: http://www.andreaarenas.com.