Columbia Sound Professionals Along for the Ride at NASCAR's Chicago Pit Stop
Roaring engines, pulsating music, and the effusive voices of announcers are just some of the sounds that will be heard when NASCAR Chicago Street Race rolls into town on July 1 and 2. And with the festivities occurring in Columbia College Chicago’s own front yard — Grant Park — it’s no surprise that Columbia Audio Arts and Acoustics faculty, students, and alums will play a significant role in bringing those sounds to the masses.
While some will experience the audio extravaganza in person, many around the world will enjoy it courtesy of televisions, smart phones, and computers. Behind it all: The audio consulting firm Point Source and hardworking sound professionals and students from Columbia working for Point Source. This includes adjunct faculty member and alum Yasmine Mifdal ’18 and eight Columbia students and recent graduates serving as paid interns.
Mifdal, an experienced live sound engineer, and her colleagues at Point Source have been planning for the audio needs of NASCAR Chicago Street Race for weeks. They will be setting up everything from scratch because, as Chicagoans know, Grant Park is not an actual racetrack. She and the interns will be responsible for installing approximately 300 speakers on site, setting up audio in private viewing suites, running audio cables to broadcast trucks, and much more.
While’s she extremely happy to work so close to home, Mifdal is even more thrilled that recent Columbia alums and students will get the incredible opportunity to work such a large-scale and highly visible live event.
“I'm really excited to offer an internship that I would have wanted to do when I was a student,” she says. “It’s super hands-on. We’re teaching these students how to prep the speakers; how to map, align, and network a sound system; and how to actually install it.”
For recent graduate Raina Villareal ‘23, who majored in Audio Arts with plans of working in recording studios, the internship offers the opportunity to develop new live sound skills. And she’s excited to add the NASCAR job to her resume.
“This experience is broadening my horizons in the field of audio and sound,” she says. “I never would have imagined working with NASCAR when I was younger.”
Fellow alum Holland Sersen ’23, also an intern, agrees. “It feels great to have the opportunity to work at this event,” he says. “I’m hoping to gain a lot more insight into installed sound systems with this real-world experience.”
And for Columbia AAA student Matthew Mayton, working at NASCAR combines three loves: Cars, engineering, and sound. “It's a ginormous event,” he says. “And I'm happy to be a part of it.
All the interns are learning by doing with Mifdal at their sides. Mifdal, no novice in the world of racing and sound, has worked with Point Source on more than 20 races and a multitude of other events since graduating with a degree in Audio Arts and Acoustics from Columbia in 2018. “It’s a really cool company,” she says. “Two guys decided that they wanted to build the loudest sound systems in the world, the biggest sound systems in the world, so they got into installing sound systems for NASCAR races.” She found the job thanks to the late Jack Alexander, her professor and mentor while at Columbia College Chicago, who introduced her to the company’s founders and helped her land a job right after graduation.
Since then, she has not only provided sound for races, but she has also toured with performing artists, including rappers Smino and Saba, and worked at festivals such as Coachella and Afropunk.
When the Chicago NASCAR festivities officially begin on July 1, Mifdal will work at the side of one of the Point Source owners in race control where she’ll provide him sound mixing back-up for the audio provided in private suites and over the PA system. She and some of the interns will also be at the ready to help wherever needed on race day, whether that be setting up microphones for interviews with race drivers or trouble shooting.
While she first came to Columbia as a saxophone player hoping to study music, Mifdal now finds herself in a world of checkered flags, side-drafting, and pitting. And that’s okay with her.
“It’s really great to work on some of the world's biggest sound systems — and loudest sound systems — as well as to be part of actualizing these systems that have been deployed at this scale,” she says. “To be part of a franchise like NASCAR that is so globally recognized, that’s very cool.”
Columbia Watches NASCAR
Faculty, staff, and alums had the opportunity to view NASCAR Chicago Street Race events from the Columbia College Chicago campus.