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Chance Meeting Leads to Internship Opportunity for Music Tech Graduate Nick Soto

In the midst of the fall 2020 semester, 2022 Music Technology graduate Nick Soto started the process of finding ways into the music tech industry by doing research on companies in the field. One of the companies he researched and had a great deal of interest in was Black Lion Audio, a boutique audio company based in Chicago, that is at the forefront of gear modification. In November 2021, a friend of his was going to visit Black Lion Audio to have some tech adjustments to an audio interface, and asked Nick if he would like to join him on the excursion. Knowing a bit about the company and their work, he quickly agreed to accompany his friend in dropping off the equipment. What happened next, proved that his trip to Black Lion Audio would pay off handsomely. As Nick relates, “Black Lion Audio appealed to me because I had a concentration in Hardware and Physical Design, meaning audio electronics is my passion. I obtained the email address of Preston Whiting, the VP of Operations at Black Lion, and I followed up with him about internship opportunities. What stuck out to me the most about Black Lion was the focus on hardware and hand soldering. I wanted to intern for a company that I could see myself working at, and a company that has a name for quality.”

Shortly after connecting with Preston, Nick applied to and secured an internship for the spring 2022 semester. Nick was able to utilize key elements in his search for an internship that can assist other students currently looking for industry experience: research the company, connect with them, follow up and follow through in a professional manner, and believe in one’s own skill set from classes taken through your time at Columbia. This last element is crucial to career development. As Nick explains, “Columbia’s audio courses gave me all the background knowledge for this internship. From learning to solder in Audio Electronics to even thinking about the way modular synthesis works, I found myself connecting dots between what I had learned in classes and what I was doing at the internship.”

Learning through his courses with professionals in the industry was one of the appealing factors for Nick in attending Columbia College Chicago. Hailing from Hometown, IL, he attended Oak Lawn Community High School, and was introduced to music through a class that sparked his impetus for pursuing music tech as a career. “I first became interested in audio and music technology my freshman year of high school. I had been making terrible beats using FL Studio, and when I saw that I could sign up for a class called Music Technology I signed up immediately. It originally was a production class that taught the basics on DAW and recording techniques, but it still helped me find that music tech was my passion.”

That course led him to set his sights on Columbia. “What really made me go with Columbia was the atmosphere of the college and the staff that had so much passion for what they taught. Some of my highlights were the projects that I was able to work on. I feel that my work in pure data has been very challenging but very rewarding. My independent project was using pure data to create a generative drum machine, which was a lot of fun for me." Nick also cited the fact that Columbia is diverse. "Columbia is a space where you can meet people from all over the globe who have different backgrounds and different cultures. Probably my favorite aspect of the college was meeting so many people and gaining new friends. The sense of camaraderie with the Music Tech majors is great.”

He also found that the philosophy at Black Lion Audio was similar to his classroom experiences. With an emphasis on teaching the intern the ins and outs of the industry, the company prides itself on giving students more than a glimpse into the world of music tech. “The culture at Black Lion is very welcoming. From the day I started I felt like I was able to talk with anyone and be able to ask questions about anything. It was a very open space that allowed for learning. I think the best part at Black Lion is that making mistakes is a part of the job, and when you do make a mistake, it becomes a chance to learn.”

With an outstanding internship added to his professional arsenal, Nick feels prepared as he navigates through his industry to reach his goal of employment in his field. “I feel that my skills from Columbia and my experience from my internship have given me a great foundation for my future endeavors.”

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