In 2020, Peter Rice, Course Leader for Theatre Sound at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and member of the Association of Sound Designers, created a new arm to the Association. Named the Educators Working Group, the aim was to consolidate the minds and experience of various educators and engineers to answer the simple question; what is expected of new graduates and what skills are highly sought after by the industry?
“Before I took up my role at RCSSD, I was working at the Young Vic Theatre,” began Rice. “Back then I knew most of the other engineers at all the West End theatres and it was a real community, but when I moved into education, a similar community of lectures didn’t seem to exist between other Higher Education establishments.” Rice mused that this could be down to the fact that many of these establishments saw themselves as competitors. “It’s always been mine, and many others’, opinion that we’d all benefit from talking to one another about our different practice and opinions on how we should train people.”
This issue has become even more important as one of the knock-on effects of COVID-19 has been a dramatic reduction in legacy crew, with individuals moving on, leading to a potential shortage of experienced workers to meet the demand of the live events industry.
It was this concern that brought about the new arm of the ASD, creating a united voice for educators to then reach out to both rental houses and manufacturers and to make sure the students are given the best possible start once they leave higher education.
One of the first success stories has been bringing on Shure to openly collaborate with the Educators Working Group. “Jack Drury from Shure has already done a few sessions with us where we’ve got to invite a number of students from various establishments,” enthused Rice.
“Incentives like this are invaluable to us as educators, as specialists like Jack have such a knowledge of certain elements of audio that we simply would not have the time or resources to obtain. Such sessions are great for manufacturers like Shure, who then begin to speak to the student community early on in their careers.”
Another educator who has benefited from the Shure collaboration is Steve Mayo from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). “Working with Jack and Shure has been fantastic during the pandemic and as we moved to re-opening RADA,” he began, praising Shure training both in-person and online such as the course on Wireless Workbench that has enabled RADA students to undertake show roles on multiple productions that were, pre-COVID, limited to musical productions.
“I fully agree with Pete’s thoughts on perceived competition between drama schools, and I must commend the fantastic work he’s done establishing the educators group,” continued Mayo. “Pete and I share a similar philosophy and understanding that once our students graduate, they will all be working together in industry and so its beneficial for our students to get to know each other to help strengthen the industry.”
Along with this new relationship with the Association of Sound Designers, Shure has recently announced several other incentives, all aimed at improving education within the sector, including the 2021 pro audio road show. The team visited several different locations across the country to offer some hands-on experience with Shure systems and face-to-face time with the Shure experts. The roadshow offered refresher training on RF, answered questions about equipment along with a general overview of the new product launches over the past 18 months, including new additions to the Axient Digital family and Wavetool software.
To close, Rice expressed how he hoped to bring in other like-minded companies to continue the mission he and the Association of Sound Designers are trying to complete, pointing to Yamaha, who have also done numerous training sessions for students.
This article originally appeared in issue #265 of TPi, which you can read here.