Business, Features

SMASH Boston gathers marginalized creators to share skills, experiences   

SMASH Boston hosts ”A Skillshare for Womxn in Audio” Thursday night at the PRX Podcast Garage in Allston. PHOTO COURTESY MARIA MURRIEL

Like with many STEM fields, women are vastly underrepresented in music production and sound engineering, as reported by The Atlantic this summer. Only seven percent of the Audio Engineering Society’s members are women, according to a 2016 survey.

Last Thursday, “Womxn in Audio,” SMASH Boston’s first-ever skillshare, gave female audio creators space to share skills gained from their experiences working in audio and the opportunity to learn from their peers.

Alex Braunstein, Isis Madrid and Maria Murriel co-created SMASH, which is “Boston’s bimonthly gathering for audio and media creators smashing the patriarchy,” according to their Facebook event page.

SMASH regularly organizes events for women to gather and talk about their experiences as women in male-dominated industries, with the hope of fostering learning and community building. “Womxn in Audio” specifically brought together women from all experience levels.

Braunstein, community manager at PRX Podcast Garage in Allston, said creating spaces for marginalized creators to share their experiences is important.

“Just giving people space to be themselves is very important, because there’s a lot of pressure, especially on folks who are not male, to keep their emotions in check or keep their personal lives out of their professional lives,” Braunstein said.

She added, “[Here] they can come together and just be real about things happening and talk about ways to face different challenges as women in the work we do.”

During an icebreaker, everyone introduced themselves with their reasons for attending and their favorite podcast. Some had been audio directors for years and others were just out of school, trying to find their footing in the world of audio and podcasts, but all were looking for support from their fellow women.

Tristan Cimini, a radio producer with WGBH, gave a presentation entitled “What’s in Your Kit?” She taught attendees how to assemble necessary gear for recording interviews and techniques for interviewing. Cimini also recommended cheaper equipment that would serve beginners well.

Braunstein’s presentation, “How to Hold a Mic So Your Arm Doesn’t Get Sore,” offered various strategies for holding a microphone while interviewing someone which minimize the risk of hurting your elbow. She also addressed what she called “the biggest confidence zapper” — the patriarchy.

“We are told repeatedly that our voices sound bad, they’re less authoritative, knowledgeable, and pleasant to listen to than men’s voices,” she said. “People are told that women’s issues and stories about women’s bodies and those stories are soft of soft stories and they don’t belong in the typical sort of newsroom or in important sorts of shows.”

Becca Degregorio, producer at WBUR’s Radio Open Source and Boston University College of Communication graduate, gave a presentation titled, “How to Book a Guest with the Nicest Email.” She shared her go-to email template, which she uses to book guests for WBUR.

“One time I got Lin-Manuel Miranda’s assistant to say, ‘He’s busy, but really nice email,’” she said.

Closing out the night, Madrid and Murriel presented “How to Co-Host a Podcast,” and discussed their podcast, “Las Cafecitas.” They discussed the most important aspects of co-hosting, like finding a pre-show ritual to help you relax and always looking for opportunities to improve.

Julian Jarboe, 28, audio director at EarPlay, an audio company specializing in interactive audio experiences, said they felt very fulfilled by the experience.

“[The] thing I was most looking forward to which I found successfully was hearing from and meeting people I had no idea who were working in the industry and in different parts of audio than what I do,” Jarboe said. “It’s so refreshing to have this many bright, amazing people in one room.”

Murriel said young women who want to go into audio should never let criticism stop them.

“There’s a lot of criticism of women’s voices, not only the sort of ideas and stories they tell but also their actual voices and what they sound like,” Murriel said. “I think that can sometimes be people wanting to be heard and we should just ignore that because it’s just the patriarchy keeping us down. It’s not real.”

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