Spotlight on Sound: an interview with Jared O’Brien

By Amy Reader

Summer is the time for relaxation, laying by the pool, and living an easy-breezy lifestyle… unless you’re Jacobs School of Music student Jared O’Brien. Then you’re Sound Mixing Dames at Sea, amplifying Baroque instruments for Bloomington Early Music, and digitizing old audio reels in what spare time that’s left. Oh, and not to mention preparing to be Sound Operator for IU Summer Theatre’s repertory shows in July. We sat down with Jared to discuss his ambitious audio endeavors on and off campus.

Sound engineer and IU Jacobs School of Music student Jared O’Brien

Q: So what else do you do since you’re a Jacobs student? You must do work with the Musical Arts Center, can you talk to me a little bit about that?

Jared: “Each semester we have to do 80 hours of recording or amplification work. Just anything to do with the Jacobs performances, basically. Like last spring I worked with Music Man. I ended up only just working on the PA crew so my job was really simple. I just set up mics and gave them to actors, helped get them on and then take them off. And then I got to work under [alumnus] Aaron Beck. They bring in alumni from the audio program every year to amplify the musicals. I just meet a lot of people and get to make all kinds of different connections. Like [Aaron], he’s in Vegas, he works for Cirque du Soleil, and he’s the head engineer there.”


Q: Are you doing any work throughout Bloomington this summer or are you just working with IUST?

Jared: “Last Thursday, I was doing sound for HPI Goes Pop. HPI is the Historical Performance Institute. I was approached by them and a member asked if we could amplify an orchestration of early music instruments with some singers doing pop songs. And it was at Serendipity Martini Bar, so it was interesting. I got a lot of positive feedback from that. People said, compared to past years, that it was really phenomenal, because no one else had ever brought in an external PA system. So me and another audio student loaded up a PA system from the Jacobs collective PA stuff [and] brought it over to the bar. Mostly the reason I’ve been staying here is, well I really wanted to do the Theatre gig so I’m doing Dames and I’m doing the two rep shows, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Persuasion. So far, working with Dames has been really great.”

Q: How did you get into sound work?

Jared: “So I started sound doing theatre. I started at my high school doing musicals. It was a little bit more laid back, as high school musicals are. That gave me the opportunity to start mixing, start learning the ins and outs of sound, and I fell in love with it and started building up a small, very, very small, home studio. Eventually the dream grew… I wanted to work in a recording studio. So that was about 7 years ago [that] I started doing sound, and then I just started recording local artists around my area and built up a portfolio and then eventually got to Jacobs.”

Q: So with working on Dames, was it just sort of a “I do stuff over at Jacobs, let me do stuff over here”?

Jared: “All it was was an email that was sent out en mass to all audio students and it was like ‘hey, this guy needs someone to mix during the summer. If anyone’s interested, email him your portfolio.’ So I did and he, Andrew Hopson, asked if I could meet over at Soma for an interview, of all places, and he hired me on the spot. I impressed him somehow. That being said, I think it is just helpful already just being at Jacobs. [It] has opened up all of these doors for me.”


Q: I have a feeling there’s more…

Jared: “I’m doing another job over at Memnon digitizing —”

Q: Memnon?

Jared: “Memnon… what they do is they digitize audio reels, or all kinds of audio media actually. I’m doing audio reel digitization but there’s LPs, there’s cassettes… they’re starting on film soon. The big reason that we’re doing audio reels is… it’s getting to the point where a lot of them are starting to deteriorate so we’re trying to get them preserved as quickly as possible. And then I’m also going to be helping out with the… new Recording Studio at Jacobs. It’s huge, the budget was 2 million dollars. It’s going to be world-class, and… me and a few other students, are going to be working under one of my professors to help… do the audio wiring. Basically, my goal in staying for the summer was —”

Q: To never sleep?

Jared: “Yes, there’s been some days like I work from 7am to 11pm.”

Q: Going into this field, I can assume that there are a lot of different professional paths that you can take. What’s your dream career?

Jared: “My dream is to work in a recording studio and just make records. I kinda want to do a little more of a producer aspect, which that involves more of being freelance, approaching bands or artists, and taking what they have and pushing them in different directions. Basically taking their sound and saying ‘okay, this is how it will translate to an audience.’

That being said, I did start in theatre and I’ve always loved musicals. (Dames) has been the first opportunity that I’ve done theatre professionally, which is a lot of responsibility and pressure. But this has been really fun to see how a professional theater actually works. I’m going to continue working with theatre as long as I can. I may end up making that – I don’t necessarily want to make that my career – but I absolutely would love to continue working and even if I’m working in a recording studio and I’m doing a musical every once in a while, like once or twice a year, that would be great.”

To hear Jared’s work, check out his website

Amy Reader is a junior majoring in Theatre & Drama and Media Advertising. She is Director of Communications for University Players, where she portrayed Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile. She also is the current president of Midnight Snack Comedy, an improv comedy troupe that features a variety of short-form improv, sketches, stand-up sets, and long-form improv.  Amy is from Lebanon, IN.

About IU Theatre Department

Welcome to the 7th & Jordan blog. This blog is a peek behind the curtain at the productions and people at Indiana University's Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
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