Women in Pro Audio: Julie Sloan Women in Pro Audio: Julie Sloan...

In the world of women in pro audio, few stories mirror that of Julie Sloan, whose career spans the electric buzz of Broadway to the demanding world of touring musicals. Julie’s career traverses various roles, including sound engineer, stagehand, writer, and health coach. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, she lightly jokes, “I’m also a custodial stepmom of five.”

Under her belt, she has been involved with shows such as Annie Get Your Gun, Aida, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, and Broadway shows such as Jersey Boys, Guys and Dolls, Jesus Christ Superstar, On Your Feet: The Story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, SpongeBob Squarepants, Ain’t Too Proud, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.

Meet Julie

Julie was immersed in music from a young age, finding expression through piano and guitar. This led her to a high school with an active technical theater department and further into radio/TV vocational classes.

This natural progression took her to college on a music scholarship, but her journey took an unexpected detour. Julie faced a harrowing experience with stalking—a term not widely recognized or understood in 1990, that forced her to drop out of college.

“We didn’t have a word for “stalking” in 1990, at least not a word that anybody believed, including myself. But I dropped out because I was trying to extricate myself from a bad relationship, and the guy started stalking me. I feel it’s important to mention this in relevant contexts in case anyone is experiencing anything similar.” By candidly sharing her experience with stalking, Julie emphasizes the crucial need to acknowledge, confront, and provide support for such challenges. Her openness serves as a call to action for greater awareness and assistance, spotlighting the critical issue of personal safety for many women.

Determined to reshape her narrative, Julie took a hiatus, during which she waited tables while contemplating her future. “I applied to the Indiana University School of Music because I wanted something more for my life. They offered a three-year Associate degree in audio technology. After completing prerequisites, around 100 people applied for one of 14 spots in the audio program. I was one of three women accepted and pursued that degree and a BS in music, guitar principal.”

Always Starting Over

This is when Julie’s story took a turn. “At the end of a very long day tending to multiple gigs, we were wrapping the last cables, and I came across a zip-tied section. I used my pocketknife to cut them apart.” A literal slip of the hand during a gig—wielding a pocketknife instead of the proper tool—resulted in a severe injury, severing two tendons in her left hand. This incident was a painful reminder of the importance of using the right tools and a pivotal moment that redirected her focus on realizing that her true talent lay not in her fingers on guitar frets but in her ability to craft soundscapes.

“The AS degree required an internship, and very few paid anything. Some compensation was my only requirement, which is how I landed a theater internship in Dallas for $250 a month and lived off my credit cards (I don’t recommend this). I didn’t seek out theater; I only sought to reduce my debt load. From there, one gig led to the next, pretty much encapsulating my 25-year career,” she says.

Anything You Can Do…

“Back then, we called it ‘getting girled.'”Julie explains, shedding light on the gender-based challenges she faced early in her career. “Getting girled is being dismissed in various capacities because of your gender.”

Julie delves into the physical demands of live sound, especially in smaller venues. “Men are generally stronger than women, and in live sound, when you’re just starting out in clubs and frat houses, there’s a big physical labor component,” she says. Julie started lifting weights to level the playing field, determined not to be sidelined. “I’d get pissed when some guy would nudge me out of the way to take my spot on lifting a heavy piece of gear.”

Her journey was also marked by instances of not being taken seriously despite her authority. “Early on, I ran into a lot of people (crew heads, house guys, etc.) who just outright wouldn’t listen to my input even when I was the one in charge,” Julie recalls. Yet, she noticed a shift in attitude as she progressed in her career. “Interestingly, the better gigs I got, the less that happened.”

Julie also touches on misconceptions about her demeanor. “People interpret my generally calm demeanor as one of acquiescence, and it’s not,” she states firmly. Her approach is deliberate, not passive, and she is ready to assert her authority when challenged. “I’m not afraid to kick a guy off my crew, loudly exchange profanity with a carpenter center stage at 8 am on a Wednesday, or stand up to a production manager. I don’t start that way, but I don’t back down when someone’s being aggressive with me.”

I’m Not That Girl

Addressing the communication style often associated with women, Julie shares a pivotal realization. “Women tend to say things like ‘I may be wrong, but…’ or ‘I think that maybe…’ “she observes, recounting an incident that changed her approach to communication. During a production, a question arose about a software she was relatively new to. She knew the answer, but since she wasn’t 100% familiar with the software, she hesitated—only to listen as a male colleague confidently provided a fabricated response. This was a turning point for Julie, leading her to eliminate those qualifiers from her speech. “If there are people out there just making stuff up, I don’t need to add an element of doubt into what I’m saying,” she reflects. This shift has bolstered her confidence and altered how her input is received in the male-dominated field of pro audio.

The Gender Gap

Transitioning to theater sound, Julie noticed a stark contrast in gender representation. “When I ended up in theater sound, about six women were there. Like, actually six, not metaphorically six. And I only had a place there because of the women who came before me and paved the way.” Yet, she’s witnessed a positive change over the years, attributing growth to visibility. “I’ve had several women who are now in the business tell me that they saw me mix Jersey Boys and realized it was a job women could do,” Julie states, highlighting the importance of role models in diversifying the field.

Julie comments, regarding the lack of women in pro audio, “When I got here, the career track into live sound started with a physically and emotionally demanding path.” She reflects on the early days, “Not many women are interested in pulling cables out of beer puddles or mud at 4 am, especially when you’re surrounded by dudes that maybe give off the vibe that you don’t belong, or you need to prove yourself.”

Defying Gravity

“The road taught me so much about facing challenges,” Julie begins. “You always have one goal: Get the show up. There’s a built-in deadline. Not meeting it is not an option.” She emphasizes the relentless push toward problem-solving. “It forces you to triage, to identify the most important steps to make the show happen on time.”

Julie shares her strategy for overcoming obstacles: “My current favorite question for a challenging situation is ‘What would it look like if this were easy?'” She clarifies, “This isn’t about wishing something away. But it is more about acknowledging that worry, and trying to force an answer isn’t very productive. Shifting your mindset helps solutions come to you.”

Reflecting on moments of doubt, Julie admits, “I’ve felt like walking out a few times. But my ego wouldn’t let me do it.” Instead of giving in, she transforms these experiences into lessons. “I identified the parts of the gig that made me feel that way. Then I added them to the list of things I won’t tolerate in the future.”


“Reopening Tina post-pandemic was one of the most emotionally weighted things I’ve ever done,” Julie shares with palpable sincerity. Reflecting on the 18-month shutdown, she reveals, “I decided I was going to get the show reopened and then turn it over to my assistant and leave the business full time.” Despite not engaging with the show’s mix during the hiatus and focusing instead on her wellness, Julie found an unexpected clarity upon return. “All the tricky parts of the mix that I’d had trouble with had gotten sorted out in my brain without my conscious help,” she marvels. Her reopening night performance was a personal triumph. “It was the best I’d ever mixed it!”

A Few of Her Favorite Things

“Doing a one-off monitor gig for GWAR in the mid-’90s was ridiculous,” Julie recounts. She describes the unique challenge of protecting equipment from the show’s notorious use of prop bodily fluids. “We did sound check, and then the stage manager had to wrap all the wedges in heavy plastic… Cut out an X over the HF driver,” she explains, acknowledging the makeshift solution’s effectiveness—or lack thereof. “They also had to lay down carpeting over the entire audience floor for the same reason, and two guys’ entire job on the load out was cutting up and removing the bloody mess.”

Julie cherishes working sound for a tree planting ceremony with the Dalai Lama. “I had the standard unobtrusive mix position at the side of the tent and did my best to blend into the surrounding plants. He walked around the outside of the tent on his way in and made it a point to look every single person in the eye and bow his head to them over prayerful hands—including me. The energy coming off of him was powerful.”

As for her “uber-geek” moment, Julie shares an unexpected delight during tech rehearsals for “Jersey Boys” in New York. “I have a theory that has so far held true. Any time you’re in tech rehearsals for a theater show, at some point while waiting for a light cue to be written, actors will spontaneously break into tap dancing. They can’t help it. But while in production for Jersey Boys in New York, we were lighting a club scene in which the actors had live instruments alongside the band, and they broke into a spontaneous rendition of Rush’s Tom Sawyer. As a geddycorn, I was thrilled.”

Industry Changes

“I would fix the need for sleep deprivation,” Julie says, highlighting a widespread issue across sound niches. She points out the dangers and inefficiencies of working without adequate rest. “Not only does nobody do their best work without sleep, it’s flat-out unsafe.” Julie advocates for industry change, too. “It would be awesome if producers took the initiative to make sure every crew member has the opportunity for adequate sleep.” She emphasizes the importance of responsibility and care for the crew’s well-being in the fast-paced environment of live sound production.

“I wish for the industry to prioritize health,” Julie emphasizes. She notes the unfortunate trend of industry professionals sacrificing their well-being for their work. “So many people pay the ultimate price, dying too young because they put the show before their health.” Julie believes in the necessity of individual action towards health as the starting point for broader change. “Improving our work begins with taking personal responsibility for our health, even though systemic changes from the top are essential too.”

Climb Every Mountain

“Michele Roberts, the former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, once said in an interview that she finally decided someone else’s racism or sexism isn’t her problem; it’s theirs. That’s been a liberating approach.” When providing advice to other women getting started in the industry, Julie reflects on the empowerment of the realization that personal worth isn’t dictated by others’ prejudices.

She emphasizes the importance of soft skills in the industry and for women wanting to get into pro audio: “Meeting people where they are and staying calm under pressure are rare skills.” Julie shares her own practices for maintaining composure, “I’ve improved my ability to stay calm under pressure exponentially by working out and meditating.” She also reminds newcomers of the industry’s interconnected nature, “It’s like a giant office building; you’ll see the same people over and over again.”

On career elevation, Julie advises, “Get a meditation practice.” She champions the calm it brings, especially in high-pressure situations. “Nothing keeps you calm under pressure more than having a meditation practice,” she asserts. “Most of the time when people say they hate meditating, it’s because they think they’re doing it wrong. But there is no wrong way to meditate – it’s practice.”


The world of live productions embodies a whirlwind of unpredictability and excitement. Each show and venue brings its unique set of challenges, from last-minute technical glitches to adapting intricate setups in new spaces. Everyone on the team must be quick-thinking, adaptable, and ready for anything. Whether it’s a sudden equipment failure or a creative workaround for an unexpected issue. Julie recalls a particularly memorable technical snafu.

“We were using a Cadac J-type console for ‘Jersey Boys’ in New York, a digitally-controlled analog console. Right in the middle of a system test in 2006, my main fader display turned into gibberish.” Despite having a full case of spare parts, replacing the CCM didn’t fix the issue. “I ended up calling Gary Stocker, the go-to guy for Cadac emergencies in the US.”

The solution?

“Long story short, I was screwed, and we had a show to do. Gary walked me through manually mapping the console so it would pass signal. Backstage, the guys built a button box to handle phone rings and door buzzers. So, I figured out which actor’s mic we’d pick it up on because we were out of inputs, and I mixed it manually off the channels with no groupings. No A/B input changes, no A/B output changes, no changing DC masters, and no auto reverbs off and on. I mixed the show manually, catching all the changes on the fly.” Julie admits, “It still makes me nauseous to think about it.”

The Encore

Julie’s narrative is a candid reflection on the nuances of navigating the pro audio industry as a woman. Highlighting the blend of resilience, adaptability, and assertiveness that has defined her career. As Julie looks toward the future, she hopes for a healthier industry. One where personal well-being is as much a priority as the show’s success. Her journey, marked by personal and professional milestones, is an inspiring blueprint for women navigating the rewarding world of pro audio.

Julie is currently keeping busy subbing on SIX and Hamilton. She’s finishing her first book Lights, Camera, Breakdown: Raising the Curtain on Workplace Well-Being.

Read last month’s Women in Pro Audio interview here.