Audio Engineering Student Kimberly Liwanag on Living the Journey
For Kim Liwanag, there was a tension between what she loved, growing up, and how she envisioned her career. Liwanag’s first love was always music. She reveled in music, grew up playing multiple instruments, and yet, when she considered a career, performing didn’t feel like an authentic representation of her goals or desires. Always a strong researcher, by mid-high school Liwanag decided to dive in and research how she might be able to continue to work in the world of music even though her aspirations did not include performing. “During my junior year of high school when it came about time to choose my college major, I wondered what it would be like to be a part of the music industry. I researched other careers and thought being an engineer and helping artists create their music was the best option for me,” Liwanag remembers.
Career pathway in hand, Liwanag now had to choose a school. She wanted to attend an institution with top-notch faculty and one which would allow her to remain close to her family in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs but also hoped to be far enough away that she could explore her independence. The Audio Arts and Acoustics Department at Columbia College Chicago seemed to fit the bill. “The AAA Dept. is a tight knit department that welcomed me with open arms through the professors, current students and alums. Everyone wants to be there for one another and I’m grateful to be a part of it,” Liwanag says.
For a driven, independent artist who had done significant research before attending Columbia, life was still full of surprises. First, Liwanag learned that there were many more option than just working in a recording studio for people studying Audio Arts and Acoustics. Second, she learned that with the support of her newfound community, she could embark on a career while learning from experts in her field. Soon, Liwanag found her niche in designing sound for short films. “I work with local filmmakers to help in the post-production sound process of their films,” Liwanag says. “Currently, I’m working with an NYU student on her short film. It’s a full cast and crew of women and non-binary creators all around Chicago.”
Still, even with the world of audio engineering at her fingertips, Liwanag has experienced significant challenges. For example, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her hopes for earning an internship with a top studio had to be put on hold. “I lost a couple of [opportunities for which I had already been accepted], and I was very frustrated with losing that experience I could’ve had,” Liwanag says. “Staying connected to my fellow classmates, alumni and professors in the Columbia community is what helps me believe in myself and the career I aspire to have.”
Liwanag has good people in her corner. From her internship advisor, Tom Joyce, to Adjunct Audio Arts and Acoustics instructor Scott Lee, Liwanag has built a sustainable support system within her Audio Design & Production program, one defined by individuals committed to supporting her evolution as an artist. After a brief hiatus, Liwanag returns to Columbia in Fall 2021. “I plan to continue working in the department, [and as a] freelance[r] as well to learn more about sound art, live sound engineering and music business,” Liwanag says. And, after she graduates in Spring 2022, she will be ready for even more professional growth.