Audio Arts (BA)
Audio is an art and a science. We’ll train you in both. In our lab-based courses you’ll create, record, and manipulate sound and learn the general theories and practices of audio. After your initial coursework in audio concepts, you’ll focus your studies in one of five concentrations: Music Recording, Live Sound Reinforcement, Audiovisual Systems Integration, Audio and Sound Design, or General Audio Arts.
If you started at Columbia before Fall 2019 and are currently in the Audio Design and Production or Live and Installed programs, you can find the courses and requirements for those BA programs in the online catalog.
After initial coursework across audio disciplines, you’ll focus your studies in one concentration.
Audio and Sound Design
Create immersive soundscapes and invent new sound worlds as an artform unto itself or for cinema and television, games, and other interactive applications. You’ll learn production and post-production techniques to create and blend sonic textures, and will have the opportunity to design, synthesize, and manufacture new sounds and new instruments for sonic and musical expression.
Audiovisual Systems Integration (AVSI)
Develop the skills for a successful career in the booming and lucrative business of designing, installing, and integrating networked AV media systems. You’ll configure, install, and operate sound systems, and learn how to integrate those systems with video and other networked technologies.
Live Sound Reinforcement
Master the art of listening and shape live events. You’ll learn how to mic and mix just about every genre and instrument, work with acoustics in different spaces, and deliver a performer’s sound in an authentic, effective way. Most of all, you’ll learn how to trust your ear and how to improvise with your technical skills. After graduation, you’ll engineer sound at music and sports venues, places of worship, hotels, and convention centers.
This is the concentration for you if you’re interested in the recording process. From multitrack studio recording to mixing, you’ll learn how to apply critical listening skills to sound sources, recording technologies, and projects. And you’ll practice in our state-of-the-art studio facilities. After graduation, you’ll be ready for careers in recording, mixing, and mastering music as well as audio preservation.
General Audio Arts
This concentration is about versatility and adaptability. Customize your degree and broaden your studies by drawing from the different concentrations.
In the Classroom
Your classroom experience will mirror professional practices, and you’ll work on real projects that you can show to prospective employers.
- Courses like Introduction to Audio and Fundamentals of Audio Production will introduce you to how we perceive sound and to the essential principles of audio systems.
- You’ll learn the essential principles of audio systems in theory- and lab-based courses where you’ll practice the basic techniques of recording, editing, and mixing.
- Depending on your concentration, you might sharpen your skills in advanced classes on digital consoles, monitor mixing, or design an audiovisual system. Or you can work on a capstone project, which may include recording and producing songs for musicians, designing sound for visual media or other applications, or creating portfolio works in the areas of sound art, software/hardware design, or data sonification.
Outside the Classroom
- Our students often collaborate with other majors. You’ll always have opportunities to work on student films, design sound for video games, or produce audio for television or radio.
- We’ll connect you with our network. Our students often work at music venues, outdoor events, and other job sites all over the city.
- We also have a number of student organizations that host events—like the Chicago chapter of the Audio and Engineering Society (AES), Women in Audio, and the Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago (EARS). You’ll also have opportunities to present at national conferences and even squeeze in a little fun.
Chicago is a vibrant city, rich with culture and commerce, and ripe for student internships at companies across the professional audio spectrum, including recording studios, live venues, post-production houses, and acoustics and a/v integration firms. Our student internship and job opportunities include Audio Recording Unlimited (ARU), AVI-SPL, Classick Studios, Earhole Studios, Electrical Audio, Gravity Studios, House of Blues, Lincoln Hall, Mystery Street Recording, Rax Trax Recording, Schubas, Sweetwater Sound, Threshold Acoustics, and VSOP Studios, among many others.
From recording engineers and recording studio owners to sound designers and live sound engineers, our alums work for major artists, music venues, and sound companies throughout the country.
- Jayme Mattler ’05 is a Grammy-nominated and Audies Award-winning recording engineer, director, and narrator. Mattler has produced audio books for authors ranging from Michelle Obama to Margaret Atwood, and worked with narrators such as Claire Danes, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kate Winslet.
- Matt McQuaid ’12 was recently profiled in Live Design and has worked as an audio engineer for Prophets of Rage, Maroon 5, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour. McQuaid also was a live audio head for Super Bowl LII.
- Yasmine Mifdal ’18 is a live sound engineer for NASCAR and formerly engineered live sound for the House of Blues Chicago.
- Nelson Robinson ’07 has worked as front-of-house and monitor engineer for artists like Brian McKnight, Keith Sweat, LL Cool J, and Jennifer Hudson. In 2008, Robinson received a Grammy for his work on the Clark Sisters’ album Live—One Last Time.
- Joe Tessone ’07 is owner and lead audio engineer at Mystery Street Recording Company in Chicago. Tessone has also served as an audio archive consultant and mastering engineer for Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, where he helped preserve more than 30,000 songs that date as far back as 1956.
Creative Spaces and Facilities
Our faculty members are sound professionals with decades of experience in recording studios, live sound, sound design, and cutting-edge software and hardware design. They’ll be invaluable resources as you begin your career in a challenging, competitive field.