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Career in Concert Lighting

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by NCS, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. NCS

    NCS New Member

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    I am a junior in HS and have been involved in tech theatre. I am the lighting director for the drama club and I am also a musician. I would love to combine my love of lighting and music and eventually become a lighting designer for concerts. I am currently looking at colleges and am wondering what schools or programs would be best to pursue this type of career? Thanks!
     
  2. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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  3. NCS

    NCS New Member

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  4. Les

    Les Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I would personally not go to college with the expectation that obtaining a degree would assist in getting in to concert lighting. I would go work freelance/part-time at a rental house and go to school for something else you might be interested in – but could still be a fallback if the concert thing doesn't work out. Sure, take some tech/fine arts classes here and there, but I wouldn't put all my concert eggs in to the college basket. I'd put them in the rental house basket since you're likely going to get more relevant experience and meet more people there who can help you in that niche of the industry.

    That's just my opinion though. The industry, especially in the concert/touring subset, is all about connections and experience; and I just think you're going to get that faster if you're out there doing things. I still wouldn't neglect the idea of going to school since a safety net is of the utmost importance.
     
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  5. TuckerD

    TuckerD Active Member Premium Member

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    I love/hate agreeing with Les on that point. I think college is a great investment, but I have to remind myself that I'm not a concert LD and there is almost no way to get the types of jobs I am interested in with out a degree. Since Les works professionally closer to concert lighting than I do I would defer to his judgement.

    He did bring up the idea of going to school as a saftey net. If you still really want to go to school I would consider double majoring or major/minor in some combination of technical theatre and engineering. The two skill sets pair well if you work in the concert industry you would never have to know how the registers on an ARM processor work, but if you had a minor in computer science you will likely have some mastery over trouble shooting techniques that will help you resolve those issues quickly.

    Les might also be able to speak to the connection between theater and engineering with his experience as a pyrotechnician and safty technician.

    Mods, can we get this thread moved to the education and career dev. forum?
     
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  6. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Concert LD assignment tends to be word-of-mouth and usually draws (initially) from rental house staff. Once you have a reputation, things change, but getting to that point is not a direct path. You may want to pursue training in entertainment electrical work as well as obtain certification in that field, while pursuing stage lighting courses. This would make you a valuable asset to a lighting rental house. From there, it's a matter of getting assigned to a show in a support position where you can demonstrate your skill and hopefully end up on a smaller tour as a LD. The model is far closer to the "apprenticeship" structure then it is to simply getting a degree and scoring a job. Expect lots of long hours, bad food, and the fact that there is a totem pole that will need to be climbed. Also, realize that there are some physical limitations to how long that career will last (regarding age), so it is good to have the electrical education to fall back on.
     
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  7. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    From the thread https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/i-want-to-be-a-lighting-designer.6384/ (one can also click on the "up arrow" symbol after "xx said:" in any quote to be taken to the containing thread) :
     
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  8. Les

    Les Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I actually gained my pyrotechnician experience on the job – a job that I landed via a contact on this site. As for things to tie in to help become an asset, I agree with electrical engineering, electronics engineering, software engineering, entertainment electrics, etc as viable paths. My job has branched out heavily in creating special effects and I am self-teaching in electronics as a result. Having formal training in that would help tremendously. Better yet, these vocations can translate to many other "safety net" industries that will put food on the table and then some.

    My education is in Occupational Safety and it helps me a lot on my job; creating Emergency Action Plans, Job Safety Analysis, hazard analysis, laser safety, etc. If I ever do leave the industry, it'll be for something related to that field. Luckily, literally every industry I can think of has some use for a safety person, or a team of them. In fact, I'd recommend it to anyone as a reliable loosely-related safety net type career. The money isn't bad and neither is the schooling. Just be prepared to be that 'voice of reason' when someone is doing something stupid. People may grumble when you approach. I kind of don't have a problem with being that guy, though ;)

    A lot of these "fall back" suggestions can be trained for in the community college/trade school type environment, so it won't break the bank or even be that much of a time commitment.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
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  9. krslighting

    krslighting New Member

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    A lot of good things said here.

    I do strongly agree with those that said not to depend on your education to make it in the industry. I got my AA in Technical Theatre and my BA in Drama, but I got a job at a rental house days after graduation. I worked in the warehouse, fixing lights, prepping for shows, loading and unloading trucks, driving box and flatbed trucks. Then went out on shows as a stagehand and worked my way up to Assistant Production Manager within a year because of my knowledge of Vectorworks and I learned our rental program fast.

    The best advice someone told me was yes get as much school as you can or want to, but no matter how educated you get, no work is ever beneath you. This industry is all about who you know and how well you show what you know. Also if you're trying for the rock and roll thing, there are some amazing and knowledgeable technicians who don't have anything higher than a high school diploma. So do not think that because you have an MFA in Lighting that you are just going to get a tour handed to you.
     

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