Celebrating a Year of Women of Pro Audio Celebrating a Year of Women of Pro Audio...
In an industry where every sound and nuance matters, the voices of women in professional audio are resonating with increasing clarity and strength. Over the past year, L-Acoustics has dedicated itself to amplifying these voices through the Women in Pro Audio interview series. Each month, we’ve had the honor of featuring an extraordinary woman working in pro audio. We delve into their personal journeys, their unique challenges, and the passion that fuels their careers in live or professional sound.
They talk about challenges overcome, the triumphs celebrated, and the joy found in a profession that profoundly shapes our experience of music, live events, and sound. Without these women in pro audio, experiencing connection and live sound euphoria wouldn’t be as profound and memorable. With their expertise, those live event experiences hold court in our minds’ core memories. And without showcasing these women, fewer young girls would see reflections of themselves in this industry. The stories of these women in pro audio are not just narratives of personal achievement but are also beacons of inspiration. They highlight the diverse paths one can take in the world of pro audio and that more women can do this.
Without further ado, let’s look back on some of the women uplifting our industry.
Front-of-house engineer Jade Payne shares why she works in live sound. “Knowing that you were part of something truly unique over a moment in time, never to be repeated. And you were there to see and hear it—that feeling is one of my favorites. I am a front-of-house engineer, and I’ve been gifted with being part of that experience, helping shape those moments—hopefully in a beautifully memorable way—for thousands of people.”
Jade loves the notion of a musical spectacle from both sides of the stage. She is just as comfortable at FOH as she is performing with major touring acts like IDLES. The talented audio pro started her career as a passionate musician and concert-goer who started mixing once a week at a church on Staten Island, New York. From that first gig all the way to the infamous Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, she’s become a rock-solid FOH engineer.
Krysten “KD” Dean
“I want to be that cheerleader or support system for others that look like me. I want to let them know that they, too, can do what I have done,” says Krysten Dean, Sound and Systems Engineer/Crew Chief for Eighth Day Sound and Clair Global.
Krysten Dean, aka KD, enjoys the day-to-day challenges of live sound and touring. “I learned a long time ago that corporate was not my forté, so I found myself bored with it; the pace for change could have been faster, and there were way too many meetings. I also felt like I needed to be more challenged.”
One of KD’s most memorable shows was when she was the monitor engineer for Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg at Coachella. “That was the year we did the hologram of Tupac as part of the set!”
“I believe that women can bring a different vibe into this space, which is still so male-dominated, and we should be confident in using that sometimes different attitude and approach in our work,” says Naomi.
Naomi Nash is an audio engineer specializing in monitor mixing, but her experience with audio didn’t come right away after her teen years; she retrained at the age of 31. “I had become a little jaded in my previous office-based career and decided to get back into music technology. I had undertaken a short course on studio sound engineering in my late teens, and it just seemed natural to come back to that,” she recounts.
She loves what she does because of “What happens at the top of the show. The sound of the audience—as the house lights go out—the roars of expectation and anticipation. I love that sound! It makes me proud that all these skilled people have come together in one place on one day and dominated their individual goals and jobs to create this special moment. It’s a collective effort, and I am so happy and grateful to share that moment with people you come to know and love as family.”
Paula Andrea Hernández Coral
Meet Paula Andrea Hernández Coral. “I love that a live event’s artistic and technical components combine to create an incredible experience for everyone – and each show is unique and different every day. I love music and seeing so many talented people making beautiful and badass sound!”
Originally from Colombia, Paula is a multi-talented musician, sound engineer, and monitor technician doing everything from patching to front-of-house and mixing. She moved to the US for her Master of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technologies. “When I was studying for my Master’s, I did an internship at a company in Nashville where I got the opportunity to be a part of festivals and concerts for local venues. I probably wouldn’t have been in the live industry if I hadn’t done that internship. I love live sound now!”
Marlene “Marle” Bruggemann
Live sound engineer Marlene “Marle” Brüggemann, from Austria, had no idea live sound was in the cards. In fact, Marle originally wanted to be a marine biologist, then later thought about being a chemist. “I was heavily into music and tech. My mother and her family are composers and musicians. And now I’m a live sound engineer! I am incredibly proud of myself for being brave enough to do this job and trying to get better. When my sound vision and the actual sound outside match, it’s a fantastic feeling for me. That’s when I sometimes leave with a few tears of joy and a smile during mixing.”
Marle’s pro audio advice is to “Listen to your known tracks through the local PA for two to three minutes. And walk around the audience area before mixing. Stay critical and curious, and enjoy redundancy, redundancy, and redundancy.”
Flurina Hunkeler is a talented Swiss freelance sound engineer based in London. She splits her time between touring and London venues like Village Underground, Lafayette, and Omeara.
After creating a live sound course for women in London, Flurina has said, “At the moment, it’s in the beginning stage. But it’s amazing how many young women are generally interested in live sound or sound engineering. I hope to empower them and give them positive energy. And honestly, they give me so much in return, too. I really enjoy working with other women in sound engineering, and it’s so much fun. It reminds me of the things I love about this job. I want to help other women to have impressive careers in sound. If I can give female colleagues some tools and contacts to get a great gig, that’s a beautiful feeling. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind.”
“There was something about studying audio that sparked something within me. I was having fun again. It was something new and cool, and I could still do music. I kept my head down, studied, and as they say, the rest is history,” recounts FOH engineer Amanda Davis on her sound journey.
The multi-talented Memphis-born and LA-based audio engineer, teacher, production manager, singer, and musician Amanda Davis is the FOH engineer for Janelle Monáe, has mixed shows at the White House, has multiple Grammy performances, and even had the honor of mixing for the late and great Prince.
Beth O’Leary is a live event freelance audio engineer making waves in the industry. She does everything from monitor teching to front-of-house with passion and skill.
Despite the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Beth’s love for her work shines through. She cherishes the moments when crowds are elated by the music she helps produce. Beth has worked on huge concerts and major events like the MTV European Music Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Her pro tip for working in this industry is: “Resilience. Bouncing back and not taking things too personally. And seeing every gig as a new start will help you stay the course and not burn out,” Beth advises.
A professor at Rowan University teaching music industry courses and a skilled freelance audio engineer, Barbara Adams began her sound journey after seeing an ad for Full Sail University on the back of a Spin magazine in the ’90s. That’s when she decided to jump into pro sound, and she hasn’t looked back since. During her nearly 30-year tenure, Barbara met her husband while doing sound for his band. She’s worked gigs while pregnant, then later breastfeeding. Now, she takes her 15-year-old son to work gigs with her, and now, 25 years later, she still does sound for her husband’s band.
“I have the best job in the world: mixing and teaching the next generation. Despite the technical challenges and exhaustion of working long hours, I love what I do. There has been a shift recently, primarily because of COVID-19. People are sharing their knowledge and building more of a community. This was not the case when I first started. But I think it has created a better work environment for all of us.”
“Whenever I’m at FOH during a show, witnessing the audience immersed in the performance brings a sense of pride. I find genuine joy in observing their reactions to a show I’m involved in,” says Rena Kozak, FOH engineer, electronics technician, and musician from Calgary, Canada.
Currently working front-of-house for Kid Koala’s “The Storyville Mosquito,” a multi-disciplinary performance and theatrical cinema experience, Rena says, “I love being able to see this show every time. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and still laugh and cry every time, even at rehearsals. It’s extraordinary.”
Meet Emily Magpie, a mastering engineer who produces high-quality digital masters based in Bristol. Emily had been a producer and artist for over seven years before she started specializing in mastering. She’s passionate about taking a creative and technical approach to give music the finish that makes it shine.
“Luckily, I work a lot with women and nonbinary people. I work with everyone. And I want everyone working with me to feel like they’re in a safe space, especially those communities. It’s not easy to be a minority in this industry. Mostly, my clients and the people I work with are amazing. I’ve had just one or two cases of mansplaining or an expectancy that I don’t know what I’m doing. Which, of course, I found very frustrating. Visibility is one of the biggest challenges. Not seeing many people who looked like me in those spaces meant it took much longer for me to feel like I could be there.
Kim’s vast journey has brought her to PA tech-ing for the legendary band A-ha and getting drenched while pulling multicores from a flooded stage. Collaborating with skilled system tech Mark Pantlin at Solotech, the experience was a pleasure and a valuable learning opportunity.
Reflecting on her journey, Kim is proud of the achievements she has made along the way. Each step is a testament to her hard work and dedication. “I love looking back at the road I’ve taken—every move forward came when I felt ready, seizing opportunities along the way. The hard work has been intense, but the payoff has made it all worthwhile.”