College Considerations

Hey everyone. Wow, it's been a while since I've been here. Right now i'm considering colleges for lighting design. I have a few in mind here in Kansas, but i've also been looking out of state. I've looked at Purchase College SUNY and North Carolina School of the Arts. I would welcome anyone's opinion on these schools, or any other suggested ones.

I'm in the exact same search and looking at those two schools, also, plus Emerson College, Ithaca College, DePaul University, and Carnegie Mellon University. CMU is supposed to have the highest level of lighting technology out of any of the schools, which is why I'm applying. It was recommended to me by a friend who's looking at lighting design grad school.

I just visited Emerson yesterday. I loved everything they had except the weather, but I was hoping that they'd show us more of their theatrical facilities in the same way as they show all of their communications and film facilities, which I am told, are incredible. But they are getting two new theaters soon, and their building a new residence hall to open next year so that all the on campus students are in the same area. They do have a wonderful program, of course. They said that last year they accepted 19 out of 87 design/tech applicants, which is a much better percentage than the 70 out of 1400 performance based applicants. And another nice thing is that there are no design/tech grad students, so the undergrads get to work on everything, and you also get to branch out and assist with the film and television productions. So yeah, its cool.

what about University of Montana in Missoula? I have been told this is a good school. Im applying and think I will probably go there.
im looking into university of wisconsin: milwaukee. anyone have anything thign to say about there?
how about depaul... they seem kinda stodgy... I'm looking for progressive.

Ross, if UWM doesn't offer design as a BFA, check out Stevens Point. Really, they have a great reputation, great staff, and really nice facilities. I'm talkin source fours, emphasis, all the nice things.
I have a friend who goes to Emerson and is doing specifically what your thinking about there. He is an amazingly brilliant kid and says that he loves it there and it is so awesome. Lol. Based on what he has told me I would deff make it a consideration.

i know this isnt soemthing to care about but im more inclinde with strand system. what colleges have them?
If you're more inclined to use Strand systems, may I ask why? If it's because that's what you're used to, I suggest learning others.
Most colleges will have Strand or ETC boards, and of course there are exceptions to that.
Our school, Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario, has a variety of control/fixtures by: Strand, ETC, Altman, ElectroControls, FE Lighting, Colortran and others.
Have you thought about calarts?

Ill Leave it at that.


ps. Our mascot is mickey mouse!! and we have no foot ball team what more could a candian want.

pss. but seriously we have some great designers coming out of here check it out.
What colleges have a wide variety of settings for productions?
yes im very fimilar with strand. i have used etc a few time sand just dont like it but yes i am more than willign to learn it. if i had to work in a theatre for 4 years i want to stick to what ive found to be good.

anyone have the specs on uw milwaukee, ive looked but cant seem to find anything
Anybody know anything about NYU Tisch? I know that it's mainly known as performing arts, but there seem to be some other great programs (i.e. photography, theatrical design, audio production, etc.) I know that I'm interested. But, then again, I'm just a junior... Thoughts?
I've heard that U of Utah has one of the best theatre in the country...

In the Chicago area... Northern or DePaul, And then in Bloomington there is IWU....
I remember being in that position a few years ago, and it was frustrating. Most of those schools were on my list as well, but i ended up going to Northern Illinois.

A few things that you want to keep in mind is check out who is the head of the lighting department, who will be teaching you for the next four years of your life. Are they just a drop out from the real world, or do they still work in it? This is important because most of the time they will take you with them to work on their shows, in return they pay for most of your expenses.

How well known are they? This can get you jobs both while in school and after, as well as where you are going to go to grad school.

The professor at NIU, Benny Gomes, is not only still working and awarded for his designs, but i have worked many shows for him and they all have been a great experience. But one of the most important things about your professors is that you should be able to get along with them. unlike in highschool where your teachers were just people who taught you things, your professors become your friends, and even your contemporaries- a professor who looks at you as a threat is probably the worst thing you can do for yourself, they will make your life a living hell. Fortunatey, Benny is one of the best teachers and friends i've ever had.

Another thing that i saw in the thread is equipment. As this is a very inportant part of any school, you want to go to one that has crappy equipment.

Yes, crappy equipment. The better you can design and work on the bad stuff, all the better and easier your life will be when you can get the nicer stuff. As far as CMU with their equipment . . . they have a decent selection, but they dont have the newest and best stuff out there. Most stuff that comes out always has some bugs, and always becomes more of a pain. At NIU while we do have our heaping pile of crap instruments, we do have S4's and a really good attachment with UPSTAGING . . . a lot of the time we can get intel lights from them for next to and even sometimes nothing for shows. We get trained on new consoles, high end consoles that we would probably never get to see in a school setting. When they taught us the MAXXYZ, it was about the same time that they were programming the Sting world tour, and we actually got to go in and program a little of the show on the MAXXYZ. They also offer a great opportunity for work and getting yuor hands dirty on the equipment that they send out on tour.

Drafting: You want it, and you want it bad. Hand drafting, CAD, sketching. You want it all. a school that can teach you how to do this well, will make your life very easy. Again . . . NIU doesnt really have much in the way of hand drafting, but they teach you enough to get by. But our CAD instructor is on the bard for AUTODESK (the people who make AUTOCAD), which means we get the newest version and beta test it. He also is an award winning CAD designer. A definate bonus.

But just beacuse i have all these great opportunities at this school doesnt mean that its the right one for you. Look at how much experimentation time you get, and make sure that the school lets you use your own tools that your comfertable using, not jst the ones they have because they knw how to teach them. Its always a good idea to know as much as you can, this will make you marketable in the long run. If you go to a school where you pick a color for something, and they tell you no, its probably not a good school. One of the best things a school can offer is to let you fail, rather learn from your mistakes- not someone elses.
SUNY Purchase is THE school to go to for Theater design. Their lighting and TD programs are the strongest.

There are a few reasons why it is one of the best.
First, the proffesors are all NYC working proffesionals. David Grill (the Lighting 1 proffesor) is a well known broadway designer. Our Stagecraft teacher (one of the nicest, most amazing teachers i have ever had the pleasure of working with) was the assistant TD for the MET Opera house for five years. Dan Hannesian, the head of the department and head of the TD section, is also a very high level working TD. Brian McDevitt (who has designed for about 35% of the shows on Broadway now) is an alumni, and also a guest lecturer.

The alumni from Purchase create what is called the "purchase mafia", which basically means that you will get a job right after you graduate due to the amount of alumni working in NY.

We work on around 7 productions/year. 5 of them take place in an 80'x80'x30 black box theater that is configured into many different theater types. The other two are located in the concert hall (the theater that YoYoMah records in exclusivly), and the PepsiCo Theater, which is a HUGE 2000 theater.

Purchase has the largest private collection of Source 4 units in the country. 1000. You dont really know how many that is until you walk into the electrics lockup and see them. Its great:)

We hand draft. Hours and hours of drafting. It is very worth it, and Purchase is one of the only schools in the country who still teaches hand drafting. There is a large difference in the drafting quality of someone who uses CAD drafting and cant hand draft, and those who can hand draft.

Purchase is also one of the only schools in the country with a light lab. It is a small room that has about 15 instruments, where you can preview your designs in scale. It is really cool.

Also, each student receives his own drafting table, which is quite a luxery.

There are a few cons of the program that i have to tell you about though. If you enjoy sleep, this is not the place for you. As a first semester freshman, you will have class from 8:30-3:00pm 4 days a week (with wed off). You have production from either 3:00-6:00pm or 10:00 pm (depending on the progress you have made in the shop). We have load ins on saturdays, and strikes on sundays (not every one obviously, but when a show is ready for it). After production (depending on the time of the semester and your course load at the time), you will be in the studio doing work until the studios close at 2 am(if not later).

The program is very very selective and intensive. My class had 1200 applicants, and 35 students currently attending. However, they kick many people out who they deem not working up to their potential. For example, the senior class now started with 40, they now have 12.

But, like i said before, Purchase on a resume is usually an automatic hire.

I would recomend it throughly. If you have anymore questions, [please feel free to ask.

Im applying there now, any tips for the interview?
Lighting design
Sound intelligent. Be able to talk about and explain your ideas and designs. Also, do not lie about a thing on your resume... they will find it and catch you on it. Dress nicely and professionally. Wear a tie and dress shoes, and stop by the freshman studios and say hi... we like fresh meat

good luck
thanks, I have two questions for you though.

Last year I visited the college, and met up with some of the LDs in the course, I hung out with them for the day, watched a show they worked on (the PepsiCo theatre is really nice, they showed us everything, quite amazing), and showed us a lot of the drafting rooms and such. One thing that kind of scared me I guess was theyre technology compaired to the developments in lighting tech. I understand fully the purpose of such rigerous hand drafting, and truely want to learn that, and I also understand the purpose of having no moving lights, but the way the industry seems to be going, both computer drafting and autmated luminares are becoming much more of a norm. because of this, Im afraid that purchase graduates have no idea about these systems. are there any courses at all, such as in senior year, that cover these topics at least a little bit?

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