Browse Category

Other Interests

Briefly Unretired

Programming Sound Board while the kids rehearse

I’ve briefly mentioned before my previous career doing Sound for professional theatrical productions.  I’m retired from that business now, for a multitude of reasons.  But, in a nutshell, my time in the business had passed.  And it took me awhile to accept that.  And it wasn’t an easy process either.  I don’t think I really got passed it until I finally threw myself fully into writing New L.A.  Now, I look at it as a part of my life that is passed. It’s kind of like when you graduate from school.  When you were in school, it dominated your life.  But when you graduated or left school, your life drastically changed.  You have moved on to a new phase of your life.  And that is what happened to me.  I moved on to a new phase of my life.

Wireless Mic rental package set up in front of the booth while Michelle programs lights.

For the past week and a half, I have briefly revisited my old life.  A friend of my wife and I ran a two week theatre day camp for kids.  It built up to this last weekend where the kids did four performances of The Little Mermaid Jr. in our church space.  My wife and I were asked to run tech for these performances and we agreed.  Now, for the sound end, this wasn’t a simple little tech job.  It was almost a full blown musical for me.  They rented seventeen wireless mics to put on the kids and I ended up spending a good day programming a show into the sound board.  The only thing that kept it from being a full blown musical is I didn’t have to deal with an orchestra or band as the show was tracked.

Little Mermaid Jr. Finale…photo by Heather Polk

Initially, I expected I would be writing that this experience has proven to me that I had moved on from my previous life.  Part of me was viewing doing this show as taking me away from writing my next book.  I expected I would be writing that my theatre flame had died and my heart wasn’t in it anymore.  And that was the kind of things I was feeling going through the tech process, particularly after my wife put in an all-nighter programming lights for the show.  But then, during the second performance, something happened.  I started playing with the mix, trying to make it better, and having fun with it.  I was having fun doing the show.  And I realized that the fire is not fully out.

So does this mean I’m coming out of retirement?  Nope!  I think both my wife and I have moved on from that life and are enjoying laying down some roots where we are.  We also both have new passions.  She, her work with our church; me, my writing.  But there is enough of a flame that I am looking forward to the opportunity to do more shows like this.  In fact, there is talk of possibly remounting this show in a couple of months to raise some funds.  I look forward to it.

Show done by Bay Area Performing Arts and Casting

Ariel and Triton…photo by Heather Polk
Ursula…photo by Heather Polk
My wife Michelle before a performance.


A Word about Sound

Old analog sound board

If you look at the small bio piece on this page, you will see it says that I am a former Sound Designer/ Engineer.  For about fifteen years, I worked at various theatres around the country either designing sound or running sound for various professional theatrical productions.  It was something I enjoyed doing a lot and something I wish I appreciated more while I was doing it.  And I do miss doing it.  These days, I get my sound “fix” by running sound at the church my wife and I attend.  It’s not as complicated as mixing a musical, but it has its own challenges.

Recently, our church underwent an auditorium renovation, where the back half of the room was completely redone and risers were installed with very comfortable theatre seating.  As I write this, we had our first service in there last night for Good Friday.  And while the theatre person in me is excited by the renovation itself, as a part of the renovation were a couple of upgrades to the sound system.

One of the two new line array speakers

The first upgrade was to the main speakers.  We had two speakers hanging in the center of the room that tried to cover the whole space.  Don’t get me wrong, these speakers were pretty good, just not for this space.  I ended up adding two powered Mackie speakers that sat on top of the subs and using them as fill speakers to cover the main speakers’ blind spots.    Those speakers were pulled down this week and replaced by two line arrays that give much better coverage of the room.  They’re not perfect, as I have heard some minor blind spots while walking the room, but those blind spots are barely noticeable and it has been a huge improvement to the room.  Plus, the guys who installed it are coming back in a few weeks to tweak things based on what we hear after a couple of weeks of use.  But, overall, I’m quite happy with the new speakers.

New digital sound board right out of the box

Now the second upgrade came as a surprise to me.   When this renovation project started, new speakers were always part of the plan.  What wasn’t originally a part of the plan was a new sound board.  When I first heard the rumor we were getting a new board, I didn’t believe it.  Then, I started getting excited as we were converting from an analog sound board to a digital one.  When the new board came in and I opened it, I was like a kid on Christmas morning.  But I also needed to shift my mind set.  It had been a year and half since I last used a digital board, and the mindset is very different.  But, I soon got back into the swing of it as I started figuring out and programing the board for use in our space.  For me, it was a lot of fun.

I now have one service down using the board, and looking for to later today, when I get to use it for the first time with a whole band (instead of the keyboard, acoustic guitar, and vocals I had last night for Good Friday).  I’m also looking forward to the long weekends I have coming up, where I have to get everybody else who runs sound at church up to speed with a digital console.  In the meantime, I have a new toy to play with.

New digital sound board ready for it’s first service.