Sennheiser, Fox Sports Team Up To Find Next Great Audio Tech

By Carolyn Braff

Behind the aura of success in the sports-production industry lurks the fear that the next generation of producers may not be up to snuff. To help allay that fear, Sennheiser is teaming up with Fox Sports to ensure the future success of sports broadcasting, one student at a time.

At this weekend’s Coca Cola 600 race in Charlotte, NC, one lucky student from Ball State University’s Department of Telecommunications will step into the truck with Fox Sports Audio Consultant/Senior Mixer Fred Aldous, a talented industry veteran dedicated to training the next generation of talent.

“I don’t see a lot of people coming up behind us,” Aldous says of his generation of professionals. “The kids now in school want the big chair right away; they don’t want to have to put the time in. They’re also more computer-oriented versus physical-mixing–oriented. Sports mixing is a lot different than a music production, and I think it’s important to show them that there is a career outside of the music business in audio, and a good career at that.”

David Missall, Sennheiser director of market development for the Eastern region, came up with the idea for this sponsorship program after multiple discussions at the industry level about the broadcast industry’s shallow talent pool.

“At all the SVG meetings, there’s always the discussion of where is the new talent going to come from,” Missall says. “I visit a lot of schools and universities as well, and there’s the same feeling there, of where are they going to get jobs for the students. With the contacts that we have at Sennheiser, I said why don’t we start connecting the broadcasters with the universities?”

Missall did just that, reaching out to Ball State and Fox Sports, via Aldous, to find Michael Stevens, the first participant in what both sides hope will become an annual — or biannual — partnership program. Sennheiser will reimburse Stevens for travel, lodging, and expendables for the two days he spends with Aldous at the NASCAR race, while Fox Sports is allowing Stevens total access to the truck — and to Aldous.

“My job is to make sure I give him the full tour and experience over the two days,” Aldous says. “I think it’s very important to get him in the room; get him to listen to the producer, director, associate director, the mix; troubleshoot a few things on the fly; and use 10 fingers and 10 toes to get it put on the air.”

Adds Missall, “It’s an experience that the student would not get in any other way. So it’s really going to open up the eyes of the student to see what’s available out there.”

Missall worked directly with professors at Ball State to choose a student who not only will appreciate the experience but has the potential to be the next Fred Aldous. Missall conducted phone interviews with the students chosen by the professors and narrowed it down to Stevens, who will write a trip report to chronicle the experience.

Aldous and Missall will also evaluate this weekend’s dynamic and decide what changes — if any — need to be made before choosing the next student to go on the next production adventure.

“We want to keep it to one or two students,” Aldous says. “I don’t want it to get too big, because then we start losing focus on the student.”

How will the two pioneers define success?

“Part of my job is to introduce them to live sports,” Aldous says. “There are other aspects of audio versus just the music and recording industry, and I want to show them that.”

Says Missall, “The growing market is the broadcast side of things. A lot of guys want to tour with the next big band, but there are so many other sides of the business of audio that they can get into that are fun, exciting, and challenging. Fred has done everything, and he has the patience to teach. He is one of those special people that you want to work with who will foster this relationship between the schools and the broadcasters.”

At a national level, it is difficult for a network like Fox Sports to create internships, simply because of the reach required to fly students across the country. If this program succeeds, however, Aldous is hopeful that local affiliates will start offering internships at the regional level, so that students have a go-to resource to take advantage of opportunities like the one Sennheiser and Fox are offering this weekend.

No matter what the future holds, Michael Stevens is in for the ride of his life this weekend. Check out next week’s SVG-U College Sports Video Insider to read excerpts from Stevens’ trip log and view photos from the event.

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