Woodinville, WA—August 2019… For more than 15 years, Women’s Audio Mission (WAM; www.womensaudiomission.org) has provided young women and girls in the San Francisco Bay Area with audio recording training, STEM-related job placement, lots of encouragement, and a sense of community. “At Women’s Audio Mission, we use music and media to attract young women and girls to technology,” declares executive director and founder Terri Winston. Founded in San Francisco, California, the award-winning nonprofit organization has given more than 2,000 classes to 14,000 women and girls and has placed more than 700 women in paid positions. WAM continues to grow, and in 2018 it added a facility across the bay in Oakland.
From the beginning, Mackie has been a valued partner. “Mackie supported us and helped us equip our very first studio, which was a tiny 800 square foot space in a warehouse,” recalls Winston. “Every time we’ve grown, they’ve supported us, helped us get each room up to snuff, and made it fabulous. We have Mackie consoles here that we’ve had for 20 years—and they never break. In 20 years, I haven’t had to recap a Mackie console. Think of how many versions of software you’ve gone through and how many computers you’ve had that won’t even boot up anymore. But you plug in a Mackie console, and it works.”
Women’s Audio Mission’s name is entirely appropriate, as the organization is indeed on a mission. “We reframe STEM concepts in a way that is interesting and accessible to women and young girls,” observes WAM Youth Instructor/Program Coordinator Jamie Brown. “There’s a misconception that science and technology are for boys. We use the music we listen to and the movies and TV shows we watch, and we look at them through a different lens that girls are able to identify with. We catch the girls at an age that’s a vulnerable time, and we let them have a voice and let them know that what they have to say and what they care about are great things. This is a positive space to express themselves creatively, through what they’re learning and doing, and to also uplift the voices of the students around them. There’s a lot of camaraderie. Even if the recording arts isn’t what they end up pursuing, it opens their minds to the fact that girls can do the same things boys can.”
The tools that Mackie and other industry partners provide are crucial to this effort. “We’re grateful for those partnerships,” Brown attests. “Mackie has supplied us with invaluable resources so we can teach with equipment that is used in the working world. Students can put their hands on it, use it, listen to the Mackie difference, and get to know the tools of the trade.”
“My first real home studio had a Mackie eight-bus console,” recalls Winston. “I learned signal flow on a Mackie, and I still have that console. It’s the iconic console to learn on. At WAM, we probably have five or six different models of Mackie consoles for people to learn on.”
Having learned basic signal flow on a Mackie analog console, WAM students learn to apply those lessons to digital systems. “I think DAWs often get misused because people haven’t learned signal flow on an analog console first, like how you’re supposed to use inserts versus auxes,” muses Winston. “It makes more sense when you see it on an analog console; it’s more visual and tactile. Multiple generations learned on a Mackie.”
Recently, Mackie also equipped WAM with 150 pairs of the company’s MC-250 high-performance studio headphones. “Being able to trust what you hear is key,” Winston points out, “and the Mackie headphones will help many future generations of our graduates discover the best of their abilities.”
Although Women’s Audio Mission’s instructors teach proven methods and workflows, they also encourage each student to find creative methods that work for them. “When we bring people into this environment, I want to be very careful to say ‘this is not the only way you can do this,’” emphasizes Winston. “It’s more, ‘This is fun, check this out. This will attract you; it’s a giant carrot. But let’s try it other ways and have fun with that too.’ For us, success is them finding, through their exposure to technology, a way to amplify their voice in whatever way that might be. Something they created is out there in the world. We give them training so they can have that feeling, and Mackie’s support throughout the years has been important in helping us do that. Every day we look at a Mackie piece of gear and go ‘yay.’”