Recording Arts Canada Student Review: RAC Montreal Grad Alexis L. Lemay

"I was fortunate to be hired by RDS through an internship offered by Recording Arts Canada for RDS. Since November 2014, I’ve worked in television for the Sports Network RDS, as an assistant audio technician".

What is your background (education, music, recording, personal)?

My academic journey spanned from 2007 to 2009. I did a DEC in Arts and Humanities, with a profile in film and television at Cégep André-Laurendeau. I became familiar with the world of media while studying there. Also, I was able to develop my artistic creativity and analytical perspectives of the world.

Thereafter, I began a degree in film studies at the University of Montreal, where I deepened my analytical skills in regards to films and society. Also, I was interested in human psychology and the impact of media on society.

As a music lover since childhood and a musician (drums and guitar, mostly) I started to record my own musical compositions, which drew me more and more interested in the field of audio & music production. My father, who is director-producer at RDS, told me that if I studied at Recording Arts Canada I could possibly be hired as an audio assistant at RDS. I jumped at the opportunity and enrolled at RAC. I was able to deepen my learning in the field of sound and music, in addition to being able to potentially work in television.

What kind of music projects did you start out with at the beginning of your career?

Before studying in the field, I started working on my own musical compositions. I was recording at home, with very basic equipment and prayed that the results would turn out well. My compositions improved over a period of time. My first professional experience was achieved with the help of one of my school friend who was director for the community television Montérégie (TVSO). He produced a cooking show and, since he liked my musical compositions, agreed to sync my music with his show.

Describe your current position / project and how it came about? 

Since November 2014, I’ve worked in television for the Sports Network RDS, as an assistant audio technician (A2). I was fortunate to be hired by RDS through an internship offered by Recording Arts Canada for RDS. In addition, my notes and attitude in school and during the internship, allowed me to be chosen.

How did you get started? 

I began working at my current position by applying the same working methods learned during my internship. I asked a lot of questions to the technicians with whom I was paired. Even tough I started working at the bottom level, I was interested in learning about tasks performed by technicians working in higher levels (A1, Postproduction technicians) to deepen my understanding of my place in the company and see how I could evolve in the medium and long term. I also focused on the small technical details that require attention when starting a new job. It’s a line of work where you have to be alert at all times and be able to learn from your mistakes. You must also learn to manage stress (especially at first) when you’re in live broadcast situations; you need to keep calm when problems arise.

Why did they choose to work with you?

I believe that Marc Viger (Chief of Technical Directors at RDS) chose me because I showed him my strong interest in working for the company. Before hiring me, he was made ​​aware of my good grades in school and my good attitude. During my internship, he saw that I was motivated and punctual. He mentioned that when he was my age he also knew what he wanted to do in life.

What is your role within your company?

My role at RDS is to ensure the audio relay between talents and the primary audio technician during a broadcast. I test the audio signals in the TV studios before broadcasting shows with the audio technician (A1) that mixes them. I test the microphones that are plugged into the sets, wireless microphones and IFB (intercom system), which serve as means of communication between the talent and the production team. I place microphones and headsets on the talents before and during programs. Finally, I make sure to resolve any technical issue related to the audio in the studio (connection problem, microphone problem, unexpected issues... etc.)

How have things changed in the last few years?

I have not yet acquired a lot of experience in my field, but I have definitely observed that the digital age takes full precedence over the analog world. In the case of RDS, almost everything was converted to digital. Consoles in the audio boards are digital controllers connected to a central server, which distributes access to preamplifiers and inputs in the studios. In the industry of music production, almost everything has been converted to digital as well. The costs are much lower and equipment reliability has increased.

What are your personal goals and ambitions?

For now, my goal is to be as comfortable as possible in my job. In the near future, I would like to start an audio company or own a studio in the Laurentians. I would perhaps even consider buying the studio of Morin Heights that has been in ruins, to renovate it and continue what Andre Perry began in the 70’s-80’s and 90’. Despite what you often hear about the music industry, I think it will improve with time.

Do you have any suggestions for people interested in starting a career in audio or music?

The first thing I would recommend to someone who wants a career in audio, is to develop their listening skills by analyzing quality productions, produced with quality equipment. Then it would be to pay attention to the sounds around them: where they come from, what notes they produce and their relationship with the environment. Then, it would be to have confidence in one’s abilities and never listen to negative people who seek to discourage. When you want to work on a project that thrills you, take action and don’t be discouraged by the competition. You must focus on the goal and not the obstacles. Finally, it would be to study in a school like RAC, where you can gain a very strong knowledge base and experience in order to launch yourself in the field.

How was your experience as a student at RAC?  Did anything particularly influential happen during your time at RAC?

My experience at RAC has been very beneficial. I loved my experience and I'm proud of what I accomplished thanks to the teachers and my hard work. The fact that the program is condensed ensures that students are always stimulated by the education received and projects. However, one must be prepared to stand out and be receptive to learning, in order to progress in the field and benefit from the training.

What opinion of the recording biz would you share with our readers?

From my little experience, I think that with the exponential development of technology, the music industry will overflow with opportunities. Personally, I think it is absolutely necessary to be open to any opportunity that awaits us when we work in this field. There is a lot of competition, so some markets are saturated with engineers and technicians (music production for example). I also think it is possible to be successful in the field by being creative and trying to exploit areas that aren’t being covered by professional or that will open up as newer technology emerges.

 Any recording session experience that was particularly memorable during your time at RAC?

My music recording project at RAC was memorable. I was able to apply all the methods and tools learned in school, starting from the preparation before recording to mixing the song. It was very emotional and I had the privilege of working with an enthusiastic group.

Any other experiences that were major moments in your work life?

My first days at work at RDS were striking. They allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and face great stress that I had to manage. To be able to handle working under a lot of pressure is a key asset in the field of audio. It has helped me grow and gain confidence in myself. I always try to improve.

Any person or group that has really impacted you or your work?

A band that influenced me a lot in my life is Rush. The band, which has existed for over 40 years now, faced many obstacles. Members have always been honest with each other, always trying to improve their technical skills and music. Despite being off the radar of music critics a few times, the band has managed to create intelligent, quality music. The band has always been on the fringes of the popular industry and still managed to reach a large fan base while composing music that the band members themselves liked.