Student Q&A: Naveen Bhatia

Naveen Bhatia at console

The University of Southern California offers unparalleled opportunities for students to expand and deepen their studies at whatever point their passions intersect. Though an economics and math major, this graduating BS ’22 student found ways to participate as a sound designer at SDA. Here, he discusses why he decided to work in SDA’s sound program, his favorite theatre projects at USC and more in our 10 Questions series with current students.

Why did you choose your program?

Bhatia: I chose to work in the sound design program for a few reasons. First and foremost, Phil Allen is a great teacher, and learning from him has been a ton of fun. Also, I really wanted a way to build my portfolio even though I was an Econ/Math major.

What are you working on that excites you the most?

Even though I am not in SDA, everybody has been so welcoming and it’s always so exciting to meet people who want to talk about theatre.

Since you’re in your last year at USC, what is the biggest takeaway from college?

My biggest takeaway is to just try things. Don’t let being too busy stop you from trying anything. It’s been great to have all the chances that I have had.

How has your outlook as a designer changed since you’ve been at USC?

As an artist, I have grown way more interested in musicals in my time at USC. I initially came to the program geared much more towards plays and composition, as I felt that was where the true “storytelling” was. I was so wrong! Working in musical theatre allows me to both flex my engineering mind while still working on seriously awesome storytelling.

How does being in Los Angeles affect your training and the opportunities you’ve had?

Backyard standup. There are so many up-and-coming talented artists, especially recent graduates from USC, and working with them is so much fun! I’ve met so many hilarious people and made great connections while showcasing my own sound design skills.

What have you learned about yourself while you’ve been a student?

I learned that I love conservatory-style learning. I love to eat, sleep, and breathe theatre and design, and it’s given me a newfound respect for the rehearsal process because I realize if I want to go to rehearsals, I need to prioritize time.

What was the most fulfilling project you have worked on and why?

Sound designing Spring Awakening last semester was incredibly rewarding. I was telling a beautiful story about trauma and youth, and had a ton of faculty support to make my ideas come to fruition. Even though it was the first musical back since the pandemic, we tested limits heavily, doing object-oriented sound design and trying complicated system techniques, which showed me just how exciting musical theatre can be.

As we are celebrating the School’s 75-year anniversary, could you share your favorite SDA memory?

A favorite SDA memory is hard. Working in the sound shop building the shows is a ton of fun, and I’ve learned a lot working for Stephen Jensen, our sound supervisor. It’s always fun to go to work with four of my close friends and do what I love to do.

What is the best advice you’ve received at USC?

When you make a mistake, don’t stress about it, but don’t do it again!

How about advice you would give to new students?

Try anything! It’s such a blast to be in SDA, and we have access to great facilities. Never be conservative with a design for fear of it not working. In economics, we run tests and regressions, and we have to remind ourselves that results that contradict our hypothesis are okay – it’s still good science! In the same vein, a design can fail, and that’s okay! It’s important to learn and try crazy ideas here, while we have the chance.