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Emerson LA Starts a ‘Mix’ with SoundGirls

The nonprofit organization SoundGirls is sounding off on the lack of representation of women in the audio and music production industry.

In the male-dominated world of music production and sound engineering, women face sexism, lack of apprenticeship, and other challenges. SoundGirls, which recently partnered with Emerson College Los Angeles for a series of workshops and events, hopes to change that.

“In the studio world, live-sound women only make up around 5 percent of the industry. As a live-sound engineer, I have toured all over the world and I never ran into another female sound engineer,” said Ali “A Mac” McGuire, a member of SoundGirls. “I want to encourage more women to go out and do this and I want men to be [more] accepting.”

Founded in 2013 by veteran live-sound engineers Karrie Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato, SoundGirls seeks to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio by creating a supportive community for women in sound, and providing tools and support to further their careers.

On September 27, A Mac moderated a SoundGirls workshop featuring Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who broke down the Adele record he produced, When We Were Young, for a group of alumni, students, and friends. The workshop marked the first of a series of events featuring members of SoundGirls utilizing Emerson LA’s Gersh Studio Audio Post-Production Room.

Producer Ariel Rechtshaid breaks down the Adele record he produced, When We Were Young. Photo/Tommaso Di Blasi

When asked what advice he might have for students hoping to pursue a career in sound, Rechtshaid said, “You have to do what you have to do, but you should do music because you love it.”

Alumna Rachel O’Brien ’16 found those words reassuring.

“I think [Rechtshaid’s advice] applies to any creative person,” said O’Brien, who recently moved to LA and is interviewing for jobs while working on a personal film musical project. “I feel like the fact that most of us are young and starting out, that’s what we need to hear.”

A Mac hopes that the SoundGirls events will help “bridge the gap” between industry professionals and people looking to break into audio and music production. She emphasized how “impossible” it is for people to get this kind of exposure and highlighted the significance of having an ally in the industry.

For Rechtshaid, participating in the SoundGirls event was not only an opportunity to give back, but also a way to support the nonprofit’s mission.

“I find myself working with female artists,” he said. “I’ve seen up close institutional sexism here in our society and all over the world.”

Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer Ariel Rechtshaid answers a question from Ali “A Mac” McGuire. Photo/Tommaso Di Blasi 

A Mac said that more men should speak out against the sexual harassment they witness in the studio. “We need the guys who see that to be like, ‘Hey, she is working here, you don’t get to do that,’” she said.

During the next few events at Emerson LA, A Mac hopes to speak with people from all facets of the sound design industry, from lawyers and business supervisors to engineers at different points in their career.

The message of inclusion is important to A Mac and other members of the SoundGirls community. They believe it should be important to everyone.

“We cannot be the only ones standing up for [ourselves],” she said.

The next event on November 15 will focus on podcasts. For more information on upcoming SoundGirls events, visit

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