Sound design student Joy Cheever BFA ’21 shares about why she chose the sound design program, how her perspective on her role as the designer has changed and more in the fall in this 10 Questions series with current students.
SDA: Where are you from?
Cheever: I’m from Keller, Texas!
What program are you studying at SDA? Why did you choose this program?
I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sound Design. I chose this program for a few reasons. I really liked that USC had a sound design specific program, and with that specific program came the knowledge that I’d have the professors, equipment, and other resources to thrive! I was also really impressed with the number of shows I would get to design in my time here, and that’s been really helpful for my resume and portfolio.
What else are you involved in outside of SDA? (ISPs, TSA, student films, etc…), and how does it fit into your university experience? Is there anything you hope to get involved in later in your time at SDA?
I have designed independent student productions (ISPs) with different companies, and I currently serve as a board member for MTR (Musical Theatre Repertory). I’m their MTArtist, which is a fun name for the Graphic Designer. I’ve had so much fun with them over the past few years while putting up shows entirely produced by students.
What is your favorite thing about the faculty at SDA? Has anyone professor had a profound impact on you?
My favorite thing about the faculty is that since they are professional designers themselves — any time you come across a challenge, they’ve been there and they know how to help. They truly want to see us succeed and I’m really grateful for that. If I had to pick one professor, I’d pick Phil Allen, of course. He’s been my go-to mentor and I can’t even begin to describe how much I’ve learned from him.
What is the most important advice you’ve received from SDA faculty, fellow students, alumni, or guest artists?
After one of my design classes freshman year, Takeshi Kata asked me what I was up to and if there were any shows I was working on. I said something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m just the sound designer for this student production.” And he replied with, “Just? No. You ARE the sound designer. Not just.” And that has really stuck with me. I had felt like my role wasn’t that important in this specific production, and though it was a simple exchange, he really made an impact on how I view myself and my role as a designer.
Which show has been the biggest learning experience at SDA?
I learn so much on each show I do, so it’s hard to pick. I’d say The Minotaur taught me a lot about working in a space that I was not familiar with (LATC in Downtown LA). It also taught me about working under a lot of pressure with only one night of tech to execute a pretty abstract design. Both the lighting and sound were essential to the world-building, and though it was definitely a race against time during tech I was really happy with how the final design turned out.
Tell us about what production experience you worked on this semester. How is this different from working on production on stage?
I [worked] on the sound for an immersive design of the White Plague by Karel Capek. Since we [couldn’t] fully realize the immersive experience due to COVID-19, we [created] videos to walk the viewer through what the experience would be like. This has been different than working for the stage because usually in theatre there are speakers all around you. With this, you have a lot of different sources to play sound through to create an effect or environment. What’s different for this project is that in our final videos that show the design, the viewer [listens] through a set of headphones, which has just two sources, left and right. I’m finding ways to convey the spatial audio of the immersive experience in that stereo format.
Since COVID-19 has required all of us to stay at home, what’s the most positive thing you’ve experienced in your classes or projects?
The most positive thing I’ve seen is the resilience of my peers and professors. I won’t lie — it’s been really difficult adjusting to this online theatre education, and I’m really encouraged every time my professors or peers acknowledges that challenge and reminds us that although it is hard, we will get through this and theatre will one day be back and better than ever.
What is the greatest thing you’ve learned about yourself as an SDA student?
I’ve learned that I’m a lot more capable than I think. Each show I’ve done at SDA has proven that to me. Sometimes working in new spaces or with new equipment is daunting but this education has laid a really good foundation for me to tackle those challenges.
If you had more time to do one thing while you are a student here, what would it be?
If I knew what was going to happen this year, I’d appreciate those random hallway conversations more. I’d give my friends great big hugs. In March, I didn’t know that the show I was working on might be my last on campus, or that the lab spaces I really love might not be available to me anymore. So, of course, there’s more I would have done if I had known how this year would play out. That being said, I’m really proud of all that I got to do, and if I had more time I’d probably just be really happy to design another show!