In the studio and on the stage, Glenn Lorbecki is a master of sound.
The award-winning audio engineer and producer works with superstars and corporate clients on live performances, music composition, album production and sound-system design.
We recently talked with Lorbecki, owner of Glenn Sound and longtime instructor for the Certificate in Audio Production, about how people looking for a career in audio engineering can tune up their skills and land the hottest jobs in Seattle sound.
You’ve worked with a range of talent, from Dizzy Gillespie to the Violent Femmes. What have been some of the high points?
Dizzy Gillespie and the Violent Femmes are two pretty high points, of course. The Violent Femmes was one of the first album projects I ever worked on, back in Wisconsin. Nobody knew they were going to be the kind of success that they ultimately became. The Dizzy sessions actually happened here in Seattle.
I had a studio in downtown Seattle for 20 years. We worked with a who’s who of rock and alt-rock — everybody from Green Day and Weezer to Coldplay, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. The list goes on and on.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on now?
Half of my work is music production and the other half is commercial postproduction. We also do soundtracks for games, TV shows and movies. And, for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been on the audio-mixing team for the Grammy Awards telecast.
Our instructors are working engineers; students get a state-of-the-art experience from people who do this every day.
What would you say are the biggest benefits of taking the audio production program at the University of Washington?
Our instructors are working engineers; students get a state-of-the-art experience from people who do this every day. We give students, in nine months, more than some programs can give their students in two years.
In the first quarter, students learn the language of audio and the physics of sound. By the second quarter, all of our classes are taught in recording studios. Half of the quarter is lecture and demonstration and half is hands-on, so students can practice skills on their own. We’ll bring in professional musicians and mic up a drum kit and show students how to get a great drum sound in a very short period of time, which makes the rest of the recording process quite a bit easier.
For the third quarter, students coordinate and record everything, as many projects with as many artists as we can get. By the time they finish, whether it’s in audio post-production for film or video or in music production, they’ve got a legitimate portfolio.
What kinds of jobs are certificate grads prepared for?
There’s a huge world out there for people who love audio and have the skills to work with sound.
You can do audio post-production, music recording, live sound. You can become a music supervisor for TV or film. There are programmers who work for the background-music companies and audio designers who work on software, speakers and components. And there’s a never-ending supply of audio that needs to be restored or archived.
What about demand? Are audio engineers in demand locally?
Living in Seattle, you have to be more versatile, willing to take on other audio production roles, rather than just concentrating on, I’m going to be a jazz engineer or I’m going to be a pop producer.
Microsoft, for example, has several dozen engineers on staff for whatever comes up, whether it’s designing UI sounds, game sounds or doing post-production on corporate videos. Amazon also has recording studios and engineers for its varied interests in film and television and for internal audio production.
I predict that virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be pretty big employers for engineers and sound designers for the next few years. The explosion in game audio in this area, I would say, is second to none. All of the important game companies are looking for people who can help create the next generation of audio products.
Any advice for aspiring audio engineers?
There’s a lot of competition. The learning curve is vertical — almost all the time. My suggestion: If you really love doing this, go for it with everything you’ve got.
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