Throughout his life music has been a constant for junior Audio Design and Production major Jon O’Brien. Growing up in a small rural town in northern Illinois called Spring Grove, Jon pointed out a fun fact. “It’s home of the world’s largest corn maze.” He attended Richmond Burton Community High School, where he participated in marching band, jazz musicals, and Guitar Club.
As a junior in high school, he joined his first rock band and began playing shows at bars and clubs and local festivals. This experience proved to be pivotal in leading him to attend Columbia College Chicago. “I stayed busy playing music but didn't really think of how my passion could become a career until my senior year of high school. One of the members in my band at the time was talking about going to this art school in Chicago for music performance, and told me to look at the different types of majors that Columbia offered. At this time, I had already recorded a couple of EP’s in recording studios and really enjoyed the experience. After doing some research on the audio department at Columbia, I knew that I was going to come to Columbia and learn as much as I possibly could.”
With a musical background prior to attending Columbia, Jon has found the transition to audio courses has been seamless. Excelling in those courses has led to opportunities outside of class. This semester he is interning with Sonic Palace Studios which is owned and operated by Columbia alum Matt Mercado. Like Jon, Matt is a musician who has fronted several rock bands over the years, including Mind Bomb, which was signed to Polygram/Mercury Records. According to Jon, “We both came from rock backgrounds, so I feel like a lot of the time we are on similar pages on aesthetics, and it has been fun getting more chances to get the hands-on studio experience that I was so excited about going into this internship.
On top of engineering, I have gained a lot of insight on what it takes to run a studio, from organization and customer service, to construction and studio design. Matt has an extremely efficient and smart set up. I think that there's a lot that I am going to take away to make me a better engineer.”
Jon has also diversified his skill set by taking part in endeavors outside of the classroom and his internship. One of those endeavors has been with his close friend and fellow Audio major Ralphie Serpico. In addition to both volunteering to assist in live sound for the “After, After, After Party” in December of last year, where they got a chance to work with fellow students and musicians on a live event, they also have been collaborating by writing music together and recording bands. According to Jon, being well-versed in these areas will help with his career growth. “I think that the more you know of your industry and how every different part works can only help you. I feel like sometimes it really helps when you’re working with clients from all sorts of different backgrounds. I think that you also learn about the politics of the whole thing, when to say things, and when to keep things to yourself.”
As Jon wraps up his junior year, he can look back at all of the important areas of career development, and offer this advice to fellow students. “Get involved. Get to know your Internship and Career Advisor and the faculty and staff in your department. They are all talented individuals and are here to help you succeed. You really get out what you put into this school, and if you want to get your money's worth, make those connections. Another thing I’d say is try and absorb as much information as you can from your internship but don’t get in the way. At Sonic Palace, it took me a little bit to get adjusted to how Matt works, but I strived to be like a Sous Chef. A lot of engineering can be compared to cooking. I feel like the engineer is the chef and as an intern, or assistant, your job is to be out of the way but be able to fill in wherever you're asked and keep the session rolling smoothly.”