An Interview With Madeline Brumback
Stories Through Sound is a blog featuring interviews by industry professionals across the audio and post production fields. This week, we're interviewing Madeline Brumback.
Madeline Brumback is an audio engineer for the U.S. Army Field Band. She has a total of four different college degrees, including a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from St. Olaf College, a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from St. Olaf College, a Master of Engineering in Applied Operations Research from Cornell University, and a Master of Arts in Audio Sciences from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. Before heading to the U.S. Army, Madeline was an audio engineer for Marketplace by APM in NYC, where she was responsible for running live and recorded radio interviews, as well as in the field. She also served as an audio engineer for live performance recitals and concerts at each of the colleges she attended.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in audio?
Looking back, I think I knew a few weeks into my work-study recording music recitals as an undergrad that audio engineering was something I was really passionate about. It took me another 4 or 5 years to realize I wanted to make it a career.
You have 4 degrees! That’s amazing. How would you say each degree has influenced your career?
I've always had a lot of interests. For undergrad I did a double degree program in violin performance and math, and really enjoyed that balance of creative and technical.
When I graduated I was interested in a career in audio engineering, but I was scared of what I thought that life would look like in terms of career opportunities and stability. So I chose to pursue a one year graduate degree in Operations Research (my focus being on how to make items flow efficiently through multistep systems). I really enjoyed what I was studying, but realized that I had filled any and all free moments with music and audio side projects. It was really at that point that I finally accepted that audio was what I wanted to do all the time and pursue as a career. Without this "detour" I don't know that I would have had the confidence to really give my all to audio engineering.
I loved my time at Peabody. I finally felt like I fit somewhere. That time really helped me pull together all the pieces of knowledge that I had collected from music school, recording recitals, volunteering to run sound for college theater etc., and fill in any gaps to have a solid foundation as an audio engineer.
What led you to joining the U.S. Army Field Band? What would you say the highlight of your time there has been thus far?
When I started looking for jobs, I hoped to find something that would allow me to work in music, have a level of stability, and to feel like I was giving back. Military bands seemed like the perfect fit! The audio engineer positions in the military are auditioned, just like the musicians. It took me about a year and half of taking auditions with the different military service bands to get the job and enlist in the Army!
The highlight of my job is by far the people. Everyone I work with is not only fantastic at their job, but overall wonderful humans. I really think of them as my family. Additionally, our concerts tend to have a large number of veterans in attendance. Getting to meet them after a performance, often hear stories of their time in service, and see how the music moved them is a privilege.
Can you talk a bit about your responsibilities as an audio engineer for the U.S. Army Field Band?
I do a little bit of everything! I am assigned primarily to work with our 65 piece Concert Band and 20 person Soldiers' Chorus. Pre-Covid I would support any rehearsal needs, special recording projects, and when out touring I assisted with all audio setup, RF coordination for ~28 channels of wireless, and mixed the broadcast audio if we were live streaming. In the current environment the unit has moved to producing daily streamed concerts and music education materials. I'm still mixing livestreams (of smaller groups) as well as catching up on gear repair/maintenance, and helping coach members of the band and chorus through how to record from home, all in addition to keeping up with the physical and informational training required as an active duty soldier.
What are some of your favorite pieces of audio gear to use while recording?
For recording chamber music, my personal go to is a stereo pair of Sennheiser MKH8040s. There is a naturalness to their sound that I just love.
Keep up with Madeline!
Army Field Band social media links:
Army Bands Career info:
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