Emmy Award-Winning Sound Designer Shares His Craft With RHS Music Students

Sean Garnhart shares 'sound' secrets with students Credits: Joseph Mudrak

Rahway, NJ - To many students, a career in music generally implies some aspect of performance. However, the music teachers at Rahway High School are taking every opportunity to present their classes with the numerous creative options available for channeling a musical passion.

Thanks to the efforts of Instrumental Music Teacher Meagan Spatz, the classes of AP Music Theory and Music Theory along with Orchestra and Choir, enjoyed a unique presentation by freelance sound designer Sean Garnhart.  “My goal in bringing Mr. Garnhart to RHS,” explains Ms. Spatz, “is to bring awareness to this vast and continually progressive field and to give the students information about what kind of education, skills, and training are needed for success in this particular field.” Mr. Garnhart was last year’s recipient of a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing for Non fiction Programming for the A&E documentary Cartel Land.  In addition, he has been the Sound Designer/Re-recording Mixer for such movies as 20th Century Fox’s Ice Age and Robots.

As many of her students have expressed an interest in the recording industry, Ms. Spatz along with her colleagues would like to see instruction in music technology/sound design included in the high school’s performance arts offerings. Choir Director Robert VanWyk found Mr. Garnhart’s presentation “an awesome opportunity for our students to learn and experience from a professional sound engineer.”  He adds, “It’s one thing for them to hear about career opportunities, another to experience it hands on.”

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Mr. Garnhart’s program enabled students to view an animated “short” minus all sounds except the main character’s voice and then to learn the importance of the sounds usually taken for granted such as those which make a winter scene cold and barren or those which add warmth and brightness to a spring scene! Students were then given the opportunity to BE sound designers by using some of Mr. Garnhart’s “tools of the trade” to effect such sounds as a time machine, a rock being thrown on the ground, and falling snow.  After viewing the “short” once again as it had actually been scored by Mr. Garnhart, students participated in an enthusiastic question and answer period discovering the value of collaboration, patience, and perseverance as keys which can open the door to success.

It was evident that the day’s special presentation had positive impact on the music department’s many students.DeSean Carter felt that Mr. Garnhart “presented sound design in an entertaining way.” He offered, “It’s amazing how the sounds we hear in movies and TV come from regular things you wouldn’t normally hear in that way. His presentation made me look at sound design as an area I would definitely be interested to work in.” Nyiah Tucker’s favorite part of the program “was how he involved us by letting us do some hands on sound recording.” Michael Smith, in total agreement, “was so into everything he was saying and was so excited to participate and learn more about his job.”

Rahway High School’s music teachers and students greatly appreciate Mr. Garnhart’s sharing his time and talents with them and are especially thankful for the insights received and the lessons learned!  His visit was made possible through the courtesy of a grant from the Rahway Foundation for Excellence in Education.

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