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Alumni Spotlight: Colton Bork

Colton Bork, IPR graduate, stagehand and session drummer
Colton Bork, IPR graduate, stagehand and session drummer

Colton Bork is a graduate from IPR’s Audio Production and Engineering program and has taken several opportunities in stagehand work and working with venues to help put on shows from local acts to national touring artists. He has worked shows ranging from Taylor Swift to After the Burial, as well as setup and tear down for live events such as WWE. Today we sat down with him to talk more about what he’s been up to, and how his education has helped him further his knowledge in venues.

Small Classes Feel Like Home

For Colton, one of the most special things about IPR was the small class sizes and a community that felt like family. Coming from a small high school in Iowa, Colton says that his experience at IPR made him feel like he was at home. “The small classes are great because you get hands-on experience and you can think about things and ask questions. When you want to learn about something, you actually get to have a voice in your class.”

Although he already had experience in music theory from his training in percussion, Colton says he loved his music theory classes with Steve Alm. Colton says, “I really do like the theory classes. I applied it more with creating music and making music and songwriting, and it helped me to build some really cool stuff.” Another favorite of Colton’s was Kevin Bowe’s production capstone class and Colt Leeb’s advanced editing class.

How Do You Get Started as a Stagehand?

Prior to graduation, Colton chose to pursue jobs in the Minneapolis music scene working as a stagehand. Although there usually isn’t an educational requirement to become a stagehand, he found out quickly that having a background as a musician or in audio production and engineering is beneficial to growing in this field.

“I just celebrated my one-year anniversary with the Armory and the IATSE 13 (local stagehand union), and I’ve been learning so much. My degree has really helped me to understand more about setups and cabling, how signal flow affects the entire process.”, Colton remarks. Not only does Colton say that his degree helps him, but it also helps to answer questions on the job and troubleshoot problems with his team. “It’s nice to help other people out, it’s good to have the answer that might take other people a lot longer to find out. It’s not always a bad thing being an audio nerd!”

Stagehand Gigs are Worth the Sacrifices

Being a stagehand can mean long hours and late nights, but for Colton it has been worth it. He says, “People can complain about needing to get up early, staying up late. At the same time, you’re running around, you wake up early to do something that you want, and that makes it all worthwhile. At the end of the day, I know my job went well if they (the bands and fans) had fun. I had fun, everything worked out. I know I was part of the team that made this happen.”

IPR Connections in the Stagehand World

Being able to work a job with fellow IPR graduates is something that Colton really appreciates in the field. When asked about his interactions with IPR grads he says, “I worked with Mark Straley at Country Fest, and I’ve also run into Austin Spryznatyk during gigs too. Even though they graduated a long time before me, they’re always really cool on gigs.”

In addition to using his knowledge on the job, Colton says that one of the biggest things his education has helped him to understand is the importance of networking in the music industry. “Working as a stagehand kind of forces you to stay active in the community, which is nice. Sometimes I’ll meet people that I’ve graduated with, and that gives me even more connections. That’s how I ended up doing Rock Fest, then Country Fest, and then ended up getting more gigs like one that I did at a casino the other week.”

“You Can’t Have All of the Gigs”

Being a stagehand isn’t always about easy decisions, and Colton says he sometimes has to decide between gigs that are offered to him. Colton says, “I was seeing Slipknot down in Iowa the other weekend, and the union called and said they had work available for me—turns out it was Queen at the Excel. Like some people say, you can’t have all of the gigs. Maybe next time they’re in town I’ll get to work for them.”

On Being Paid Your Worth

In addition to being a stagehand, Colton is also a skilled drummer and has been a session drummer for a handful of bands. While taking these jobs, Colton said one piece of advice from Kevin Bowe has resonated with him. He says, “Kevin always told me that it’s nice to be able to do jobs out of the kindness out of you own heart, but you can’t always do that. You do need to pay the bills, so you have to get paid your worth.”

When asked about where he wants to go professionally, Colton is open to everything the industry has to offer. Although he is most excited about the idea of being on tour with a band and the idea of becoming a drum tech, he’d love to work for his favorite band, Blink-182.

Want to Learn More?

Colton’s adventure in audio production and engineering as a stagehand is just one of the many opportunities for our graduates. Want to more about where a career in audio production and engineering can take you? Contact us for more information.