Ellie Dorman, Sound Engineer
Ellie is a Sound Engineer and works as both an in-house Venue Technician and a Front of House Engineer. She spoke to Creative Choices about how she originally wanted to be a classical French horn player, but instead chose to take her music career down a different path.
What job do you do?
I mix bands. Sometimes I’m working for a specific band on tour, for example with King Krule or Julia Holter. And when I’m not on tour I work for venues (we call this working in-house) where I either look after touring engineers or mix bands which don’t have their own engineer.
How did you get into sound engineering?
I went to Trinity Music College to study classical French horn and piano. Here I realised that I did not want to be a classical French horn player but I definitely wanted to work within the music industry. So, I transferred to City University of London where I studied a broader music degree, including modules in sound and recording.
When I finished my studies, my friend Caroline Adcock from City University was already working as a live sound engineer and she needed cover. So I took it! I had a lot to learn. It was not a great gig!
One thing led to another and before I knew it I was working most nights in Camden in small venues
Simultaneously I had moved back to London and I had luckily moved in with a studio engineer. He realised I’d been working in live sound and gave me work with some of the bands that he’d been engineering in the studio. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was working most nights in Camden in small venues such as The Camden Barfly (Now the Camden Assembly), The Purple Turtle and The Enterprise.
I kept taking opportunities presented to me and eventually I was asked to go on tour with a Brasilian artist called Cibelle. This was not just as a front of house engineer, I was also asked to tour manage and drive.
It was full on, quite stressful at points and a lot of work. But I learnt a lot from it and there were also some fun aspects to it like getting to tour France and Poland.
What qualifications do you have?
On paper, I have a BMus (Hons) degree in music, some teaching qualifications, grade 8 piano/French horn, grade 6 orchestral percussion. I also have some Pro Tools qualifications from a SSR course in post-production.
I feel that my qualifying aspects are a willingness to learn, to apply myself
However, more importantly, I feel that my qualifying aspects are a willingness to learn, to apply myself, a confidence to accept new challenges and from that a tonne of experience. I honestly believe that you can learn a lot from the situations that you put yourself in.
Although courses are definitely beneficial that nothing beats practical experience and personal reading/research. Especially when you are running a practical job.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I love travelling and I love variety. I love being put in unusual and sometimes challenging situations that mean that you have to alter your thinking and solve different problems on a day to day basis.
I love listening to, and getting to work with, different music styles and learning how to approach mixing a band dependant on their needs. It is a job with some exceptionally fun aspects to it!
We have started the London Union of Venue Technicians which is a branch of the trade union BECTU.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
The worst thing about this job are the hours. Being a live sound engineer requires a lot of commitment from you. If you are on tour you don’t obviously get to go home to your own bed every night like you would at home and you are away from family and friends.
In London, whilst working in venues the hours can also be long. A 12-hour day is not an unusual standard. Smaller venues do not always schedule breaks for engineers, so there are problems with regulations.
However we have started the London Union of Venue Technicians which is a branch of the trade union BECTU. We hope to fully address some of these issues within venues in the near future. For those interested in this please visit our Facebook page.