The Live Sound Apprentice Program brought student techs together with professionals to learn the science and the behind-the-scenes work of putting on a show.

  • Teen apprenticeship program for aspiring live event technicians
  • 16 students completed the program in 2021, with the opportunity to earn industry-level certification
  • Offers unique job training and helps students grow their personal strengths

By Faith Schantz, Contributing Writer for A+Schools

When the 25 Carrick Ave Project ran a summer camp in 2019, says Executive Director Pete Spynda, the goal was to train young people to work as technicians for professional events. Located in a former church in Carrick’s South Hilltop community, the organization provides training and job placement in the event technology industry.

At the end of camp that year, some participants were hired by Hearcorp, a production company also located in the church that serves as the Project’s corporate partner. Spynda remembers what happened after he sent a student out to work a full day: “It was a little more than they anticipated,” he says.

Though students were trained to use the equipment, they lacked experience at events.

PPS Summer B.O.O.S.T workshops. Two Attack Theatre teaching artists will be at PPS King from 7/6/21 to 7/16/21, Monday through Thursday (except 7/5) for afternoon classes with 2nd & 3rd graders.

Taking that to heart, Spynda and his staff created a new kind of camp called the “Live Sound Apprentice Program,” which debuted this summer. The camp paired education with experience in the Music on the Mon concert series at Southside Works. Participants could earn “Live Sound 1” certificates, a recognized industry credential, as well as $500 stipends that were covered by a Welcome Back! grant. The apprenticeship format, Spynda believes, will help “usher the next generation of techs into place without overwhelming them by throwing them to the wolves.”

The program served a total of 16 apprentices, aged 16 and up, in two four-week sessions. According to Director of Education Jordan Gilliam, they started with coursework that included learning terms and dipping into the science of sound: “What are the voltage stages? What is the mic line?...What’s going to happen when it goes to a speaker, what are all the things that you can do in between?”


Apprenticeship “will help usher the next generation of techs into place without overwhelming them by throwing them to the wolves.”

– Pete Spynda, executive director

At the concert site, they set up PA systems and saw “the load-in of the show, what happens when the truck comes in, when the tents are going up, when the speakers are getting moved, when the instruments are getting placed, when the microphones are getting placed,” jumping in to help when they could. For the final performance, they worked the whole concert and saw the load-out of the show.

Back at 25 Carrick Avenue, where apprentices had a classroom on the third floor, they were exposed to the day-to-day operations of an event production company. When they came into the building, someone might be mixing the surround sound for a movie, an artist might be recording in the studio, or a nonprofit might be using the stained-glass-lit performance space for a streaming backdrop.

One day, Gilliam went looking for a drumstick for students’ first full band set-up. He ran into Dave Bjornson, founder of both Hearcorp and the 25 Carrick Ave Project. “Dave’s like, ‘Oh, you need a drummer?’” Gilliam recalls. “He came upstairs and next thing you know he’s playing, and now the students are yelling at the big boss, ‘Hey, calm down. Just give me a kick.’” Moments like that, he says, are unique to the collaboration and the space.

Spynda, Gilliam, and the part-time instructors who worked with the apprentices have years of industry experience students can tap. Spynda runs several concert series and festivals in the city, and Gilliam has toured with artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, and the Dixie Chicks. They hope apprentices learned that “there are people making a decent living,” Spynda says, in a range of jobs at an array of events. One of 25 Carrick Ave’s missions is to diversify the field of tech, which requires thinking through what kinds of support candidates need and how to sequence training; for example, to provide certification opportunities that will help them market themselves. Spynda is currently seeking to hire a career counselor for students and hoping to develop after-school programming for all ages. He also plans to continue the apprenticeship program, which drew more than 50 applicants for the 16 spots.

Their goals go beyond job training and placement to students’ personal growth. Though the industry is known for its wolves, Gilliam stresses that working in tech can help young people develop key strengths. For example, techs need to know how to speak clearly in high pressure situations, do their jobs under an audience’s gaze, and talk to performers when they might also be fans.


25 Carrick Ave Project wants to hire a career counselor for students, to offer more connections to industry insiders and jobs.


They hope to expand their summer apprenticeship model into after-school programming for students of all ages.

Gilliam was moved to tears at the story of two brothers who attended the program together, one of whom struggled to relate to others. At the conclusion of the program, his brother said, “I feel like this got him out of his shell and got him used to talking to people.”

But it was a young woman, new to tech, who validated the apprenticeship model for him. Over the four weeks, Gilliam watched her belief in herself grow along with her communication skills. Her parents matched her excitement when they came to a concert and saw her “down in a professional setting…crushing a show.” She was an example of what working in the tech side of production “can do for a person and their spirit, their personality, and their confidence,” he says. For Gilliam and Spynda, that’s what the program is all about.


What if we invested more public and private funds in high-powered summer learning, like work readiness programs? They help prepare students to succeed in a rapidly changing world and recover from the social, emotional, and academic impacts of Covid-19.