Every year when we interview potential MFA students for our Sound Design program, Mike and I always lament how hard it is to choose just two students from a qualified pool. There are generally three or four students that are strong candidates, and it can be an excruciating decision to select which students to invite to join us for three years. Part of selecting two students means necessarily saying 'no' to many more, including the few top-ranked alternates.
This year was much harder, due mostly to COVID-19. Because our industry is basically at a standstill, many folks are deciding that now is a good time to get their degree. The number of qualified interested students shot up 500% this year. Instead of a pool of three or four top candidates, we had nine. And, while in a normal year, we'd invite those three or four applicants to campus to sit in on classes, meet with faculty/staff/students, tour the facilities, and generally get to know us, this year UCI's campus is virtually shut down to outsiders. So, we pivoted, scheduling Zoom sessions so that all nine top applicants could sit in on classes, meet with faculty, staff, students, get a portfolio review, etc. It was a bit of a logistical nightmare and something I hope we don't have to repeat next year, but it gave us a chance to meet so many students that we'd never have gotten the chance to meet before.
It also made our decisions harder, because while the number of excellent applicants increased, the number of people we could accept didn't. We still had to choose two. So while we're thrilled with the two women who are joining us this fall, we also want to publicly say that we wish we could have taken more of you! Those applicants who are reading this - we wish you all the best and look forward to seeing your careers grow!
This year, Mike and I are thrilled to welcome to the UCI Sound Design MFA program two extraordinary designers. I've asked them to write their own bios. Here they are:
Natalie Margaret Houle
Nat is an audio engineer and sound designer born and raised in the Hudson Valley in New York. She is thrilled to be joining the community at UCI after graduating from SUNY New Paltz in May 2021 with a BA in Theatre Arts: Design and Technology with a minor in Music. She designed and composed for Lauren Bone Noble's one-woman show FURY! at the Denizen Theatre as well as productions like She Kills Monsters, Cadillac Crew, and The Killing Fields at New Paltz. As an assistant designer, she had the opportunity to work at Hartford Stage and Long Wharf Theatre. In the world of broadcast, she has been a NABET-CWA union member for five years primarily working on Good Morning America. In 2020, she was elated to become a Pat MacKay Scholarship recipient. Outside of sound, she enjoys a Chinese tea practice, yoga, transcendental meditation, and hiking.
Theresa RamosI’m Theresa Ramos. I'm going to be graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelor's degree in Theater tech and design. I was born and raised in Las Vegas. A few reasons why Sound design is my passion are it can make or break a show, you get to be in the audience and watch them fall into the story and having power over a sound system. My most memorable production which I was the assistant sound designer for is Bowell because I was able to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This production also gave a quote I live by which is "Preserve any openness of the heart." Some of my hobbies include watching stand-up comedy, cooking, and watching cheesy tv shows.
We're delighted that Theresa and Nat are joining us in the fall. They come from wildly different backgrounds and have different interests, but they're united in their passion and dedication for all things sound. They've each taken full advantage of the opportunities they've had and have grown exponentially because of it. Mike and I are looking forward to working with them for the next three years.
As we're ending our recruitment season, we want to thank Jeff Polunas, our Sound Supervisor, and all of our grad students who spent time getting to know the applicants (and letting them get to know us). Mike and I take the rest of our team's thoughts very seriously, and the continued success of our program is due in part to the investment of the current students in the future students.
Onward and upwards!