As far back as I can remember I’ve loved music: listening to it; playing it; talking about it. My family’s quite musical – my brother and brother in law play the guitar and bass, my sister and mum both sing and my sister is a songwriter too.
I started playing guitar in high school and writing my own songs, doing small gigs around North Lanarkshire and Glasgow. A career in the music industry should have seemed like a logical choice to me at the time but it wasn’t for a couple of reasons.
First reason. As a teenage girl, I only contemplated doing music performance. Even then, whenever anyone expressed any interest in me joining a band, I’d be asked to sing as the male musicians had all of the instrumentation covered! I’d never heard of sound production, let alone considered doing it as a career. When I heard friends at school talking about how hard it was to get into a music performance course at university and auditioning for music schools, it seemed really daunting to me as I was pretty shy at that time and I thought I just wasn’t that good a musician (male peers were often given more encouragement during music lessons or given better, rockier pieces to learn). Had I known something like sound production existed, I definitely would have been interested in studying it as it would have been the perfect route for me to get involved in something I love, without necessarily having to possess the confidence of a performer at that young age.
Second reason. I remember speaking to my careers adviser at school about my career options. I recall feeling quite lost at the time about what I wanted to do versus what I should do. I told her about my passion and interest for music. We also talked about my academic ability and my good grades. Pretty much straight off the bat, my adviser suggested I apply for an academic course and go to a few university open days for that course. There was no mention at all about pursuing a career in either music performance or sound production (the latter of which wasn’t even on my radar at the time – and certainly wasn’t on the adviser’s). So, this discussion pretty much confirmed to me that my interest in music was nothing more than a pipe dream that I should probably just keep as a hobby and that I should get real and pursue something more academic and intellectual, something with a chance of giving me a viable future career and income. I was pretty misguided and I made too many assumptions. At the same time, there was no one there to correct me or explain to me the possibility of different careers in music, outside of performance, like sound production or live sound which could offer an equally viable career.
Ten years down the road, I’m a student once again studying music and sound production at college. I absolutely love my course. I finally feel like I am realising my true passion for making and recording music. It’s taken me this long to gain not only some confidence in my musical ability but also the confidence in myself, to be able to ask questions about the technical side of things, which I spent years either totally unaware of or avoiding for fear of making mistakes and seeming like just another ‘daft lassie’. It’s these fears and misconceptions that discourage women from pursuing a career in audio engineering, as well as a lack of education and awareness from teachers and advisers at school level.
This has to change. I think it’s great that a project like That’s Sound is out there. Had I known about it as a teenager, there’s a reasonable chance I’d already be working as a producer or an engineer. It’s really important we raise awareness at schools about sound production as an option for further study and fund projects like That’s Sound which reach out to young women and encourage them to gain the skills and confidence to pursue a career in this industry, which they might never otherwise do.
Listen to Erin’s music at: https://soundcloud.com/erinateleven
Read her blog at: https://erinateleven.wordpress.com/