Wired for Sound
To many high school students, sound is what emanates from their iPod. To a young Maggie Burke (A'15), it meant the world of theatrical sound design. Now a Carnegie Mellon University junior, Burke recently had the opportunity to attend the Broadway Sound Master Classes in New York City after winning the 2013 Helen and John Meyer Sound Scholarship.
"My goal is to one day work as a sound designer on Broadway," explained Burke. "This scholarship gave me the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by those who have created and shaped the field I intend to pursue."
Burke was one of only six recipients of the scholarship awarded to undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates who show the most dedication and interest in their field. It funded her attendance at the annual workshop — three days held each summer by prominent sound designers and audio professionals.
Her interest in sound design was piqued as a sophomore member of her high school's theatrical tech crew.
"I was asked to mix 'Cats' with twenty wireless microphones," she recalled. "It was quite a challenge at the time, but since then I have been fascinated by the mixture of technology, design and theatre art that a career in theatrical sound encompasses."
When it came time for college, Carnegie Mellon was clearly the top choice for the Seattle native.
"Very few drama schools across the country offer an emphasis in sound design like CMU," Burke noted of the School of Drama, which is currently celebrating its centennial anniversary.
"Moreover," she added, "sound design incorporates a varied set of skills from musical composition to the science of acoustics and speaker placement and CMU's wide selection of classes and emphasis on interdisciplinary interests is perfectly suited to such a specific field of study."
Happily, Burke has found her CMU experience to be as valuable — if not more so — than she anticipated.
"The classes I've taken have pushed me to study a wide array of subjects that I never imagined would be relevant to my major, but ended up giving me tools to create work I never thought myself capable of," said Burke. "And our professors are incredibly knowledgeable resources."
Her experience with the CMU network has been just as beneficial. In fact, the summer after her freshman year she was able to intern with an alumnus who serves as the sound engineer for Pittsburgh's Benedum Center.
"He has since become a mentor," said Burke, "teaching me a great deal about audio engineering and helping me forge connections in New York City, where I worked this past summer."
"Attending CMU," added the junior, who is excitedly anticipating her work in the university's spring musical, "has undoubtedly been the best possible decision I could have made to help me achieve my goals."