At IPR, audio production is a serious passion for us. We try hard to cultivate an educational culture that values both the technical and the creative while working hard to instill in our students a realistic music industry perspective and a strong work ethic. Not everyone is going to win a Grammy award for their work, and not everyone is going produce a record that sells in the gold and platinum range. However, those who work hard at their craft will find themselves making a living doing what they love.
Take Christopher Lee for example. His passion for audio started young, and, from an early age, he learned to take every opportunity to grow in his craft. From the time he entered high school until the time he graduated IPR, he also took the opportunity to build key relationships which he considers just as important to his success as his audio knowledge and his work ethic. He takes none of this for granted.
Mid-April 2011, IPR visited Chris at Treasure Island Casino near Redwing, MN on the evening of his third tour date with Kellie Pickler (read the article). So far Chris is having a blast and learning a lot from some very talented people. His attitude is one of hard work and humility; he doesn’t allow himself to take too much credit for his success so far and he’s quick to credit others for what they’ve taught him. During our visit, IPR met Chris’ Grandfather who told us, “I’m really proud of that kid’s work ethic.” We are too: congratulations Chris!
With great pleasure, IPR presents Christopher Lee’s graduate success story.
For Chris Lee, audio is a passion; it has been since he was young. By 9th grade, the local church let him practice mixing during services which lead to doing musicals and other events. This early experience made him realize he wanted to be a live sound mixer for a living.
Immediately following high school, he began to study communications at Bethany Lutheran College where he worked mixing numerous division one college hockey games for “BLC Studios”. Though working for “BLC Studios” offered Chris new experience in broadcast mixing, the classes at Bethany Lutheran weren’t really what he was looking for and he began researching other colleges.
Chris’ eventually landed at The Institute of Production and Recording; the IPR curriculum in audio production and engineering is specifically designed to train audio professionals, and this was a good fit for him. Even in general education courses like history and math, instructors are able to offer students ways to connect the dots between how the general knowledge of the everyday is important to the music industry.
As if it weren’t enough that even IPR’s general education curriculum applies to the industry, Chris discovered his IPR Instructors to be deeply invested in his success. “The instructors were always, and I mean ALWAYS, willing to help me even after graduation. Jay Fleming is a great example of this.”, Lee explains. “I was helping setup the stage monitor system for Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn a couple months ago. I had a software question for a Venue Profile mixing surface. Out of the blue I called Jay with the question and he was willing to stay on the phone till we both knew the answer.” Graduates like Chris can be confident they’ll succeed in tough situations because lifelines like Jay are often only a phone call away.
Upon graduating from IPR, Chris discovered a unique advantage that he believes helped him get hired quickly: at IPR, students are always working on industry standard equipment. He completed his media arts AAS in Audio Production and Engineering in October 2011; by late November 2011 he relocated to Nashville, TN where by December 1st he started work for Sound Image Nashville as a general shop technician. Chris’ extensive IPR training on the Profile mixing surface eventually landed him on tour with National Recording Artist Kellie Pickler; it turns out Kellie’s live monitor system is fronted by a Profile mixing surface.
As a young industry professional, Chris believes his success is rooted in a willingness to work long hours and set himself apart by demonstrating a voracious work ethic. He’d be the first to tell you that knowledge is important, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. This is a fast moving industry that can chew you up and spit you out quickly if you’re unwilling to work hard: “Work ethic in this industry is the number one thing people look at”, says Lee.
Chris also gives networking its due diligence: “Nashville may be the music city capital, but the industry is so small that you will know everyone in the blink of an eye.” He recommends taking the time to get to know everyone you can with the understanding that word gets around quick, and if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to make a bad name for yourself.
“If I were to give advice to current students today, it would be to never give up, work hard, and always be willing to learn.”
What would IPR students and instructors say they remember most about you?
I would have to say they would remember me being very outgoing and always willing to help. I also was never too big to ask a question if I didn’t know the answer.
Were there any big projects you undertook in your production or engineering capstone that laid the ground work for some of the things you’re doing now?
One of the projects I worked on was in my sound design class. I did the sound design for a 6 minute clip of the movie “RED” with Bruce Willis. That project really taught me how to gain a creative edge in live mixing. I use what I learned and apply it in a way that really helps me give an artist what they want in a live setting.
Out of all your instructors who would you say worked most closely with you and had a special interest in your success?
I would have to say Jay Fleming. There was a time a couple months ago when I was prepping a monitor system and we had some questions about the software on a profile mixing system. I called Jay and he was willing to answer any questions I had.
How do you feel your IPR education prepared you for the industry?
The education I got at IPR helped me get hired to my current position, because IPR strives to have up to date and industry leading equipment that audio professionals use every day.
What types of things did you have to wait for industry experience to learn?
Coming out of IPR and starting at Sound Image I was put on the ground floor to work my way up. To some people this may be a blow to your ego. But let me tell you… I learned so much in the first month about how one company uses gear versus how another company runs the same gear. There’s more than one right way to do the same thing; so far, that’s been my biggest lesson. Math and science will never change but the way you apply them can change from job to job.
What do you think it means to be successful in this industry? What advice would you offer to students who are either just getting ready to graduate or who are wondering how to find their place in this industry?
Success in this industry could be taken many different ways. Success to me in this industry means if you can do anything in audio and get paid for it you are successful. My advice to you, the up and comers, is to get your name out there and work hard every day.
What types of engineering work have you done?
I have worked at my local church for 8 years up until the day I left for my job offer in Nashville, TN.
Do you have experience with audio and video editing?
I did take the post production capstone at IPR, but, in terms of professional editing, I have none.
How important do you think attitude is when it comes to success in the audio world?
Attitude is everything! Getting into this industry is 20% what you know and 80% who you know. But once you’re in the industry, at least the touring side of things, you have to be able to get along with the people you are with. When you are touring, you could be on the same bus with the same people for upwards of 2 months at one time. SO if you can’t get along with them, that’s the easiest way to get pulled off the gig.
What one trait/ability/skill do you feel has helped you more than any other to be successful in this industry so far?
By far it would have to be the willingness to work for little or no pay until you can prove yourself.