Theatre and Dance student discovers interest in sound design through job at Texas Performing Arts

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Through their student employment program, Texas Performing Arts provides the opportunity for students to learn alongside industry professionals and to gain valuable resume-building experience that serves as a unique complement to the university curriculum. Malyssa Quiles, a junior in Theatre and Dance, works as a student audio assistant at Texas Performing Arts.

Malyssa Quiles stands next to an audio boardTell us about your role at Texas Performing Arts.

I’m an assistant in the Audio Department. I get to work alongside my supervisors, Michael Malak and Kenny Kuykendall, as well as the rest of the audio crew whenever there’s a show or event happening. I help with setting up speakers, running cable, testing mics or whatever else needs to be done when setting up the sound system. If the opportunity presents itself, sometimes I shadow one of my coworkers.

What’s the best part of your job?

I’d have to say that my favorite part has been whenever I’m on crew for touring shows. For instance, I got to help with the National Theatre of Scotland’s Let The Right One In when it came to the McCullough Theatre and with The Phantom of the Opera and Something Rotten when they came to Bass Concert Hall. I really enjoy seeing what it takes to make these productions happen and witnessing how it all comes together. It gives me a better appreciation for what I see happening onstage once it’s all finished and the curtain comes up. Then, realizing that I got to be a part of it—there’s really nothing like it.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part would be remembering everything I’ve learned. We use a lot of different equipment, each kind serving its own purpose, so it can be easy to become a little confused sometimes. Thankfully everyone I work with is understanding and can help me whenever I ask for it. I came in knowing little to nothing about audio, and while I certainly know more than I did in the beginning, I still have a lot to learn.

How has your work with TPA complemented your studies in the Department of Theatre and Dance?

My main focus in the department is in performer’s process, but I’ve also started exploring sound design. Because of what my schedule can be like, I don’t really have the time to be able to study audio the way I’d like to. Working at TPA allows me to work around professionals, but still be in an educational setting. My schedule there can be flexible, which allows me to work on assignments or other things when I need to. Even though it’s not exactly a classroom, I’ve learned quite a lot.

Due to our work environment, being attentive is crucial, and every little thing counts. This has led me to be more detail-oriented in the workplace and in my studies. Seeing the details has helped me in working on character development for an assignment or performance to studying for exams or putting together projects. I’ve developed a better awareness of my surroundings and whatever tasks I’m doing, whether it be reading, writing, rehearsing, etc.

Has your work with TPA changed how you think about possible career options after graduation?

Last fall I started delving a little more into sound design. Most of what I did in the beginning was a mixture of luck, a love for a challenge and Google. It still is, but not as much because now I know more about how it all works together. I knew how to operate a (very) basic system, but that was it. Due to my lack of knowledge, I didn’t really see myself pursuing sound design once I’d graduated. Working with TPA has not only helped me learn what I need to know, but I’ve also started to expand my skills and gain more confidence in the work I do. I’ve now seriously begun to consider working as both a performer and sound designer. Two very different things, but both something that I can’t imagine not being a part of my future.

Photo by Lawrence Peart