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Alumni Spotlight

Matthew McDuffee

Matthew McDuffee (B.A., 2002 – Acoustics Concentration)



Early on in his life, Matthew McDuffee showed a deep passion for science and music. A student of guitar and drums, he played in several original rock/ska/punk/hardcore bands throughout high school. Matthew always wanted to understand how to make a band sound “better,” a desire that fired his growing fascination with audio engineering. After trying out two engineering programs at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois at Chicago, he was referred by a friend to the Audio Design & Production concentration at Columbia College Chicago’s (CCC) Audio Arts & Acoustics (AA&A) Department. Soon after enrolling at CCC, Mr. McDuffee registered for the “Careers in Audio” course, which introduces students to alumni from the various programs of studies at AA&A.  During this course, Matthew realized that the study and career path most in tune with his passion for music and science was the one offered by AA&A’s Acoustics program. Careers in this field also fit to an 8:00-to-5:00 working lifestyle, leaving Matthew time to pursue his music making interests.

On graduation day, Acoustics program director, Prof. Dominique Chéenne, said to Matthew: “Congratulations, you are about to embark on your career path in life. Please always remember that a career is just a job, the most important things in life are family and the arts.”  These words had a strong impact on Matthew. To this day, he lives a double life as an acoustician for a major Los Angeles acoustics firm and a drummer for the progressive rock/ jam band, Quactus

Matthew found his first job in acoustics at Acentech Incorporated, a prestigious and historic acoustic, audio, noise, and vibration consulting firm in Los Angeles, where he honed his skills as an applied acoustician. For seven years, he worked on a wide range of noise testing projects for the California High Speed Rail, the F-22 Raptor fighter plane, film and television studios, performance halls, airports, highways, national park environments, and other industrial/commercial/civic/performance spaces. In a recent discussion, Matthew said: “The hands-on learning approach at Columbia gave me an edge that most undergraduates do not have; real world experience before the career starts; this was invaluable.”

Today, Mr. McDuffee lives in North Hollywood, CA and enjoys his life at LSA Associates Incorporated, an environmental, transportation, and community planning firm, as a Senior Noise Specialist working mostly on environmental acoustics and noise control, which is ironic considering how much he loves making “noise” as a drummer. All the while, he performs regionally, and occasionally nationally, with his band, Quactus, at clubs and festivals, collaborating with a wide range of accomplished musicians. He records Quactus’s albums at the band’s rehearsal studio in Hollywood, and occasionally does recording engineering for outside clients as well as location recording/mixing for independent films. “Columbia College Chicago taught me a great deal about acoustics, recording, and live sound engineering; I find an opportunity almost every day to use something that I learned at CCC,” he said. Recently Matthew has ventured into sound design for a horror film to be released in the Fall of 2011. He is thoroughly enjoying the experience and plans to continue pursuing sound engineering/location recording/post audio/sound design work for the big screen.

As he proceeds with his professional and artistic endeavors, Matthew reflects back on his CCC years fondly: “Dr. Chéenne was more than a professor and practicing acoustician to me; he was a mentor and an inspirational force in my life and, today, he is someone whom I consider a good friend.”