When students from American University’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society met to discuss their audio production heroes, a common theme emerged. It was not as much about a certain technology or a ground-breaking technique. The students gathered expressed their appreciation for certain engineers who have managed to infuse their unique talents and personalities into every work they have helped create.
From the perspective of audio technology students, here are seven sound engineers and industry influencers you should know:
1. Bob Katz
When an engineering stalwart like Bob Katz writes a textbook, students pay close attention. That’s not only because he’s won multiple Grammys and worked with many exceptional musicians, but also because he cares enough to pay it forward. In his book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science, Katz breaks down an extremely complex topic into concepts that can be understood, appreciated, and implemented. As far as the students are concerned, the music industry should be thanking him for decades to come.
2. Geoffrey Emerick
For audio technology students, long-time Beatles engineer Geoffrey Emerick is an obvious role model, as he’s done so many things they aspire to do. From boldly trying inventive production techniques and working with ground-breaking artists—Supertramp, Jeff Beck, and Elvis Costello, to name a few—to advancing quickly in the profession at an uncommonly young age, Emerick represents everything that’s possible.
Today student audio engineers are able to pursue fulfilling careers that focus on the art and science of audio engineering, for which we should be thankful to all the sound professionals such as Emerick.
3. Kendrick Lamar
It’s hard to put one overarching label on Kendrick Lamar. He’s a rapper, producer, activist, and visionary, to name a few. He has proved he can grab the spotlight with highly engineered album such as “To Pimp a Butterfly” or raw efforts such as the recently released Either way, audio technology students are always left anxiously awaiting his next move.
4. Leslie Ann Jones
Usually the rock stars reside in front of the mic, but our audio technology students think recording and mixing engineer Leslie Ann Jones rocks pretty hard from behind the glass. Of course, the fact that she works at legendary Skywalker Sound makes here the envy of many. But more than that, students have been envying her more than 30 years of diverse opportunities to record scores, mix film and video elements, and produce albums. With her experience, talent, and lineage (her father, Spike Jones, is a music icon), Jones is a quintessential bridge from audio engineering’s past to its future.
DJ and record producer Zaytoven is part of a long line of audio professionals who weave a particular style into the fabric of music history as a whole. Fifty years from now, Zaytoven’s contributions to the industry through his award-winning trap music and mixtapes will serve as vital connective tissue in the constantly evolving story of sound production.
6. Tony Visconti
If part of the fun of audio production is shaping art across a wide spectrum of genres, then Tony Visconti had an absolute blast. Working with artists such as David Bowie and T. Rex, Visconti built a decades-long career atop creativity and experimentation. The result was some of the most memorable music ever created.
7. Nigel Godrich
Producer Nigel Godrich’s, who is best known for his critically acclaimed work with Radiohead, rose to the top of the music industry by following a formula that appeals to many audio technology students:
• Receive hands-on training from experienced professionals in a university setting.
• Begin working at the industry’s entry level, if necessary—working extremely hard.
• Stay true to one’s convictions and passions.
• Discover opportunities to work with talented artists to combine the art and science of audio production.