The Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory > Sound Design

Sound Design

Sound Design
Student in sound booth with their back to viewer

The Theatre School’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in sound design trains students to be successful sound designers and engineers in all levels of the theatre and entertainment industries. Students learn techniques for sound editing, recording, and composition using the hardware and software that are the industry standard. Students get practical experience designing and rigging sound through their collaborations with directors, other designers, and our professional production staff.

Students learn from a distinguished and award-winning faculty of professional designers, artists and technicians both in the classroom and through individual guidance and advising during production work. Students receive formal and informal feedback from faculty through portfolio presentations and exhibits of their work each year.

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BFA Sound Design Curriculum

The first year curriculum is taken in collaboration with other design and technical students and is an immersion into the culture of production and design. Students explore thinking metaphorically and abstractly with an appreciation of design and technology as an aesthetic distinct from other art forms and begin a drawing and technical drawing progression. Students complete three production crew assignments in our public production season.

In the second year, students begin to focus on the specifics of sound design and technology for the theatre through an introduction to the history of sound design, sound acoustics, and the science of sound. Students learn to work with software including Pro-Tools, Logic, Peak, and QLab to begin creating, editing, sequencing, and arranging sound cues. Coursework in sound technology exposes students to a range of audio components and specifications to prepare students to design and construct complete sound systems. Students work throughout the year on productions in our production season as sound designers and technicians.

Third-year students receive an introduction to music theory and history to begin a greater focus on sound composition. Students learn to create compositions using Midi, hardware and software samplers, and keyboards to allow them to create several pieces of composed music, score a theatrical script, and score part of a film. Students learn to integrate design and composition skills to create larger and more complex designs. Students hone their skills with practical experience in our production program while exploring period style elements through a survey of art, architecture, fashion, and furniture. Students work closely with our entire production team and professional staff to design in our production season.

In the final year, students complete a thorough study of studio practices for recording instruments, orchestras, and live events. Coursework covers mixing music tracks, mastering, and other methods of recording musicians. Students learn the complexities involved in creating and controlling sound design for musical theatre using wireless mics, mixing actors and orchestra mics, and monitors. The final year is also a transition year, further developing students’ abilities and preparing students to enter the profession. Students prepare their professional portfolio and develop professional networks. Students design in our production season and have the option to complete a professional internship of their choosing.

At the end of each year, The Theatre School hosts a Graduate Showcase event to showcase the work of our graduating design students. Under the guidance of the faculty, graduating designers prepare a showcase exhibit of their portfolio–which is presented in Chicago for artistic directors, alumni, and other members of the theatre, film, and television industries.

Liberal Studies

In addition to the major's requirements, students complete 52 quarterly credit hours (13 courses) in the university’s Liberal Studies Program. Courses are taken in theatre history, writing, quantitative reasoning and technological literacy, philosophical inquiry, religious dimensions, scientific inquiry, understanding the past, multiculturalism in the United States, and electives. These liberal studies courses are scheduled during the first three years of the program.

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