In 2019, Marcelo Hidalgo took part in the Sound Production program at AYO National Music Camp. Each year there are two spots available in this course, however due to unforeseen circumstances, Marcelo ended up being sole participant. For two weeks he dove into the highly technical field of audio engineering with tutor Jim Aitkins- and three years on, Marcelo is busy working as a freelance audio engineer in Sydney!

Marcelo sat down with us to reflect on his time at National Music Camp, and why he would recommend it for all budding sound engineers.

A group of AYO participants pose for a photo outside. They are all smiling at the camera.
Top and bottom left: Sound Production tutor Jim Atkins and Marcelo. Pictured with Orchestral Management tutor Angela Chilcott (top right) and Orchestral Management participants at AYO National Music Camp 2019

How would you describe AYO National Music Camp 2019 in a few sentences?

National Music Camp was such a great experience for me. The whole atmosphere, from my peers, the staff and the activities, was incredibly fun and eye-opening. I met some of my best friends there. Before going to the camp, I was oblivious to the charms of classical orchestral music, and I’m so glad I discovered this genre thanks to the course.

How did a ‘typical’ day in the Sound Production course run? What were some challenges and highlights?

I remember the days started very early and ended quite late, however there was time to relax and socialise in between. If I’m not mistaken the day would begin around 7-7:30am and end around 9pm. This was honestly difficult since I wasn’t used to the early mornings, but it may have been why I had such a great time, since I was fully immersed in the camp. I have a lot of personal highlights, but my favourite was going into the ABC headquarters in Adelaide and getting a private tour of the day-to-day operations within. It was so insightful!

What were some of the most valuable things you learned over the course of National Music Camp? Did the camp prepare you for working as a freelance audio engineer and producer?

When I first started the camp, I had next to no knowledge on audio engineering. I had performed before but all I really had was the desire to learn and the camp provided me with that. The course taught me from the ground up. Everything from the different types of microphones, amps and speakers and their practical applications, gain structure, proper mic placement, and signal flow (which was mind-boggling at first).

There was so much theory involved in the classes, but it was great. I had one on one class time with my tutor Jim Atkins, so I got to soak in so much knowledge and tricks and techniques that I use to this day. I think the most important thing I learnt was the typical day of an audio engineer; that it is a very technical and physical job but so rewarding.

The knowledge I gained has been indispensable to my short career so far, and I still refer to my camp notes today! It didn’t go through every single aspect of audio engineering (i.e. studio work) but it was such an important first step into this professional world. I definitely recommend the experience for any aspiring audio engineer.

Marcelo Hidalgo poses for a photo with sound production equipment. He is giving a thumbs up and wearing a black outfit with red headphones around his neck.
Marcelo pictured recently at the Bellevue venue in Sydney, mixing a 10-piece Arabic band.

National Music Camp featured public concerts on two consecutive weekends, some which were broadcast on ABC radio. Can you tell us a bit about what was involved on those concert days?

Prior to the concert days, I took a tour around the ABC headquarters and was given a debrief on the mechanics of live broadcasting. On the concert days we would confirm that our mic placement was appropriate, signal flow was correct and that we were getting a healthy level into our desk and out to the broadcast.

We would have to also clean up our cabling so that it was as concealed as possible (that’s where I learnt the absolute brilliance and versatility of duct tape!) From there, it was mixing and maintaining the sound. There was only a little compression and equalising used, because the orchestra sounded brilliant in the auditorium.

Do you have any tips for emerging technicians considering applying for the 2023 Sound Production course?

If you have even an ounce of curiosity about live or post sound production, I highly suggest you apply! I had next to no experience in this field and learnt so much from the course.

My only suggestion is to just soak up the knowledge you’ll get from your tutor and enjoy the environment. The camp is so immersive so I’m certain you’ll have a great time, academically and socially.

AYO Sound Production alumni Marcelo Hidalgo working in a sound production studio. He is surrounded by equipment and several screens.

And lastly, what are you up to these days?

I’m currently a freelance audio engineer, whilst finishing my double bachelor’s degree in Music & Sound Design and International Studies at the University of Technology in Sydney. I predominantly work in the live music scene in Sydney, while also working as ​​an audio-visual technician in corporate and wedding functions. I’ve thankfully amassed a number of connections to the point where now I can do this full time!

I plan on continuing this and eventually transitioning into post-production.

Feel free to follow my progress on Instagram; marcelo_hidalgo__ and come watch me make my way through the entertainment industry!

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