M.F.A. in Sound Design

*The MFA Sound Design program recruits new classes every other year.  We will accept applications beginning October 2024 for admittance to the 2025-26 academic year.*

Sound is one of the fastest growing and progressive design areas in theatre and the entertainment industries, and UC Irvine is well-poised to educate, guide, and prepare students for a successful career after graduation. The program centers on finding the critical balance of theatrical aesthetic/process, audio engineering, music, and professional practice that is unique to each student. Combined with comprehensive training in and exposure to the latest in sound technology, the UC Irvine sound design major will be ready for traditional theatre and the digital future.

The UC Irvine sound design program does not attempt to create sound designers of similar style, taste, or abilities. Rather, the program strives to develop the individual strengths of the student, shore up weaknesses, and create an environment suited to individual creative growth and discovery. Variation among the tastes of the students and faculty is valuable, for it creates a perpetual environment of discovery and artistic growth.

Generally, two graduate students are accepted at each year level, with a maximum of six students in the program at any one point in time. The UC Irvine sound graduate student will design four to six fully-supported productions during their tenure and may also engage in a number of smaller workshops, experimental productions, and designs for other areas within the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and campus-wide. Those majors who desire to specialize in musical theatre sound will work through a series of three steps from Production Sound Engineer, to Assistant Designer, and then on to Sound Designer. Those majors who are also interested in composing will have opportunities to pursue both coursework and production work in composition.

Compared to other training programs, the Sound Design curriculum at UC Irvine is quite unique. The core curriculum is complemented by a 3-year series of rotating studio courses (255 Graduate Design). The 255 series is always being updated and evolves with advances in technology and artistic practice in the industry. The 255 series is geared to provide real-world skills and vision, helping to prepare the graduate student for a successful career after UC Irvine. Coursework can include studies in Digital Audio Systems, Creating Sounds from Scratch, Sound Reinforcement, Critical Listening, Trends in Modern Sound Design, Sound for Themed Entertainment, Survival and Professional Practice in Sound, Recording Engineering and Production, Show Control and Automation, Sound for other Media, and Composing for Theatre.

UC Irvine is equipped with modern equipment for all facets of the sound design process. From modern digital mixing consoles such as the Digidesign Venue, Icon, and LCS/VRAS, to a large complement of loudspeakers from Meyer, EAW, d&b, JBL, and Apogee, we are well-prepared and have installed leading edge technology in our digital recording studio, editing suites, and sound delivery systems. However, this program is not about the technology: the equipment serves only as a tool, which the sound designer may (or may not) use in their process. Nonetheless, understanding technology will continue to play an important role in the future success of the sound designer.

Every sound design a Drama Department production is critiqued by the faculty and students. These critiques provide insight into the creative process, allow the designer to assess successes and failures, and encourage all parties to think critically about design. For the third-year student, one production is designated as a thesis production, and the critique for that production will be a larger and more public event, involving the entire design program and featuring a critique by a professional sound designer.

Professor Mike Hooker heads the sound design program, and he is joined in instruction and mentorship by Assistant Professor Vincent Olivieri. Both Professors Hooker and Olivieri regard their work at UC Irvine as a primary responsibility, and they welcome emails of inquiry from prospective students and other curious parties.

For more information about the program in Sound Design, please click here.