It all started with a Black Friday deal on a microphone.
“That was the pivot on whether or not the podcast was going to happen,” explained Roisin Miland, a second-year Don Wright Faculty of Music student. “I wanted another creative outlet and thought a podcast featuring our students and faculty would be a good thing to try.”
With first-year Music student Orko Oyon as sound engineer, Miland recruited photographer Lara Plokhaar, a second-year Arts and Humanities student with a Music specialization, and researcher Chris O’Neill, a first-year Music student, and the Take Note podcast was born.
As host, Miland’s instincts were pitch perfect.
“The faculty really does feel like a ‘school within a school,’ especially in first year. We’re a tight group in music. Having ‘music’ conversations was comfortable,” Miland said. “After O-Week in first year, I wore a path back and forth from Delaware (Hall) to the music school and back again. I don’t think I even stepped up UC Hill once.”
Music is a demanding course of study, with students learning theory and new instruments, honing areas of specialization, as well as auditioning and performing.
“Take Note is a fun place to step outside the competitive ‘performance persona’ and just have interesting conversations with each other,” Oyon said.
Even though each episode has a music framework, featuring Music students and faculty members, the podcast team has generated content relevant to many listeners – whether interested in music or not. For example, a recent episode, Ro Rants, brought attention to the idea that peer relationships actually get worse the more you use your phone, as well as common bottlenecks to getting help for mental illness on campus.
Roisin points out, “Music students aren’t unique in being stressed, worried and overwhelmed by daily life. But as performers, we’re often dealing with the drive to be the best.”
Nearing the end of their inaugural year with 11 podcasts to date, Roisin and Oyon reminisce about lessons learned, not just by listeners, but also by the participants and producers. Their “guerilla podcast” doesn’t have a permanent space to record, so the team practices the fine art of flexibility.
“We can’t use any of the practice rooms in the Music Building as they are in high demand at all hours. But the faculty has been very supportive, both as guests and offering suggestions for out-of-the-way classrooms/meeting spaces in Talbot College,” Oyon said.
Roisin added, “After the first few, we were more confident and could squeeze in a podcast in an hour between running to class, lessons and practice time – even if it was as challenging as recording the podcast in a space as small as a closet with the lowest ceiling you can imagine.”
The whole production has been an incredible learning experience. Learning how to network, how to be an authentic listener and encourage interesting conversations are skills that will be useful no matter where future opportunities leads them. Even guest-booking has offered places to grow.
“That was scary at first,” Oyon said. “It can be intimidating to talk to profs and persuade them to take time from their schedules to come and talk to us.”
A report by The Canadian Podcast Listener lists that nearly 10 Canadian adults have listened to a podcast in the last year and the number is growing. More than 70 per cent of listeners started listening in the last three years, with 41 per cent starting the past year alone. With new technology like Amazon Alexa and Google Home becoming more popular, it seems reasonable for everyone – including parents – to expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future.
“My mom wasn’t too sure about my decision to study Music at Western, since I was also admitted to some STEM programs,” Oyon said wryly. “She’s coming around though – being the sound engineer for the podcast has definitely helped with that.”
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