Real Super Heroes of the Screen Unite

By Charles McKenzie, April 12, 2019
Interdisciplinary Music and Sound for Picture Conference brings industry professionals, alumni and faculty together with students.

Their resumes read like an eclectic costume party. Mrs. Maisel, The Rolling Stones, Black Panther, Katy Perry, Lewis and Clark. Some of the country’s top professionals in music and sound for the film and television industries converged on the Ithaca College campus on April 6 for a day of learning and networking.

The interdisciplinary Music and Sound for Picture Conference allowed students, aspiring professionals, alumni and faculty to get tips and advice and learn about new ideas and technological advances.

“There were so many people from all different parts of the industry. It was a really cool opportunity,” said speaker and panelist Michael Fowler ’08, who opened New York’s first mobile ADR studio and has worked on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Gotham” and “Blindspot.” “Most of the time, we can be very isolated in our own little groups, so it's nice to come together with a group of professionals I wouldn’t normally get to see or meet.”

“The conference enabled me to see what my life could look like after Ithaca College.”

Kyra Skye, writing major

Students like junior Kyra Skye in the Film Music Mixing and Sound Editing session caught a glimpse behind the scenes of how the Beach Boys biopic “Love & Mercy” was made.

“We saw how all the tracks were put together and how they were set up with the visuals. It was so cool!” said the writing major with an audio minor. She also enjoyed the panel discussion on music composition for film and TV.

A man and a woman

Conference organizer and assistant professor in the School of Business Phil Blackman with keynote speaker and Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman. (Photo by Sheryl Sinkow/Ithaca College)

“I got to hear from people who are already doing what I want to continue to do in my life. I got to ask them questions and hear different perspectives since each of the composers focus on different things.”

In her keynote address, the Oscar-winning producer of “Crash,” Cathy Schulman, spoke about her two decades of instrumental advocacy, which predated both the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. She said we care more and more about who makes our food and how, but we rarely focus on our media diet. Who is — and more importantly, who isn’t — creating what we consume?

“When decision-makers and creators are in fact, diverse, the content becomes diverse,” she said. “The idea is to allow different kinds of voices to affect creative content so that what audiences are digesting doesn't increase the ongoing bias problems.”

Sound Advice

Many of the sessions offered career advice for young people. Some panelists even offered to help attendees get internships, said first-year student Siddique Ahmed.

“The panelists all had so much experience and helped us understand many of the challenges that they faced in their careers and how they overcame them,” said the business administration major. “It was a great opportunity just learning about these diverse career paths that I don’t hear about often.”

First-year Martin Luther King Scholar Shevori Gene went into the conference wondering about the balance between commercial and creative success, especially for young independent artists. How do you make art and make money?

“Several individuals told me that you have to put your passion for what you do before anything else,” said the television-radio major. “Only then will you reap the financial benefits.”

Will VanDyke ’05, who manages digital video accounts like YouTube for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, encouraged young professionals to give consideration to every new opportunity or experience, even if it isn’t the exact right fit. “Each job is a chance to learn, and it will help you grow into the next opportunity, which might be something that you’re more passionate about.”

In the early days, jobs can be sporadic, so young people should save their money and be ready to eat ramen, said director Aya Tanimura ’03, who was once broke and accepted a two-week gig as a home organizer for Russell Brand and Katy Perry. “Be proactive,” she said, “and make your own opportunities because they won’t be handed to you. You have to hustle.”

That ethic changed her job from unpacking boxes to directing music videos for Perry, and later Charlie Puth, Miguel and Disney, where she did videos for the “Moana” and “Coco” film soundtracks.

“Try to surround yourself with the right people so you can become the best person that you were meant to be,” said Emmy- and Academy Award-nominated Foley artist Shelley Roden ’96. “I once took a dream job, but it was with the wrong people. They didn’t have the encouraging, upbeat mindset I was looking for.”

Roden eventually began working at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, where she created and performed sound effects for films like “Incredibles 2,” “Black Panther” and this year’s “Toy Story 4” and “Avengers: End Game.”

Embracing interdisciplinary learning

The conference was part of a larger collaboration at IC, which led to its newly launched, innovative MBA in entertainment and media management. The conference was organized by the MBA program director Phil Blackman.

"The Music and Sound for Picture Conference was a great example of how Ithaca College is embracing interdisciplinary learning. The School of Business, School of Music, and Roy H. Park School of Communications all worked closely together to put on this event, which served students from all three schools,” Blackman said. “It was a tremendous success.”

Blackman said the panelists “had a blast presenting to students and being able to interact with the next generation of industry professionals,” and students said those interactions will help shape their future.

“The conference enabled me to see what my life could look like after Ithaca College. Before the conference, it was a big question mark. Now, I have more context of what that can look like and how exciting it will be,” said junior Kyra Skye. “This is only the beginning!”

Learn more

For more information about the conference, visit

To learn more about the MBA program, or apply, visit