Work Life as a Female Sound Engineer

Cynthia Acebo
5 min readFeb 4, 2022

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I might be the only female sound engineer in Fort Worth. Surely there are more but as of today I don’t know anyone else and I’ve worked and lived here for 7 years. I’ve met two female sound engineers in Dallas and heard of one other. I’m sure there has to be more out there but you get my point. We are basically as rare as a unicorn. Periodically I look up the percentage of female sound engineers on the internet. Some sites say that the numbers are so low that its incalculable and inaccurate. Other sites give me hope that the numbers are increasing but nevertheless it is always in the single digits.

After graduating from college with a Bachelor’s in Audio Engineering, I had no idea I would be representing my entire gender. I assumed women would be sparse since I was one of two in my graduating class but I didn’t realize how almost completely absent we were from this field until time after time, musicians would tell me they’ve never met another engineer like me. At first, I wasn’t affected but after a while, I started to feel incredibly alone.

Continue reading if you’d like some tea…

One time I was hired by a fellow engineer to work at this country place in Dallas. I arrive at the venue and start settling into the sound booth. Next thing I know I’m being bombarded by two aggressive strangers. Turns out one of them was the bar owner and the other a door man. They get in my face, ask me what I’m doing and when I say, “I’m running the sound!” they keep arguing with me saying “no you’re not!” I thought this person was about to rip me out of the sound booth. Frantically, I try to explain that I’m a sound engineer and I was hired to run the sound here but its not until I name drop my fellow male engineer that they calm down and trust me. If I were a bearded white man with cargo shorts and converse would they have come at me like that? I doubt it. But I’m a small, Latina woman who doesn’t look like she belongs behind a sound booth.

I’ve had men take my picture with and without my consent because of how remarkably rare it is that I, a woman, can “operate all these buttons”.

Another time I was hired to run sound at this church and as I was getting my bearings with a new soundboard that I’d never operated on before, one of the band members on stage yells to me, “Do we need to get a man back there?” He literally said that. Later on, I earned his trust as a competent engineer but what the hell!

Another time at a different venue, I was bending down micing the kick drum and the small of my back was apparently showing. A band member told me I should get a tramp stamp tattoo so naturally I quickly covered my back and got the hell out of there as fast as I could. Thanks for making me feel weird. At that same venue, I had a boss that “took a chance and hired a woman” according to my male teammates.

I’ve had men come into my booth a number of times, putting their arm on my chair behind me and leaning way into my personal space and asking me nonsense about the soundboard. They clearly just saw a solo female and decided to swoop in. I’ve had to physically push people out of my booth.

Once, this incoherently drunk white man comes up to me and puts his hand on my back and pushes me forward onto the booth like “go ahead, run sound. Dance monkey!” It was really gross. He did it a couple times to my complete confusion. Thankfully I have many male allies that are always keeping an eye on me and with a small gesture with my hand, the drunkard was taken away and a security guard stationed next to me.

I’m usually very selective with whom I give my number but if a person asks me for it because they genuinely need a sound engineer, I’ll give it to them. Only once has some young buck tried to holler. I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

I could go on and on about how sometimes men shake my hand too hard or they don’t look at me when I’m speaking or they are genuinely fascinated that I exist but the truth is that there are ton of great men out there who respect me, treat me well, pay me fairly, make me feel protected, honored, valued and safe.

After 7 years working in Fort Worth, I feel very accepted and respected in the music community and I hope that the next generation of women in the field enjoy the same treasured community.

Here is me then vs. now…

When I was first starting out, I was so afraid that musicians would think I’m an idiot that I would NEVER ask for help. Even when I needed it! My pride was toxic.

Now that I’ve learned a thing or two, I am happy to ask questions about all kinds of things. I ask musicians all the time about their gear, or if I find out that someone I know is a producer or engineer themselves, I openly admit areas that I need improvement on my mix and I let trusted people show me a thing or two without my pride getting hurt at all.

Honesty has helped build my reputation, questions have helped build my relations, and valuing others has increased my value. I like to think I carry myself as confident and curious now. This open honesty and mutual respect is a how I’ve gotten so many word-of-mouth gigs which are the best kind!

Stereotypes of a Sound Guy

Sound guys have a reputation for being a little rough around the edges. Almost all of them are white males and often share a mutual trait of arrogance and disrespect. I’ve worked with many who openly make fun of musician’s playing, gear, and monitor requests.

I’ve never really vibed with sound guys for that reason. I come from a service industry background and I try to create a pleasant experience for musicans. One of my mottos is happy musicians make better music, which is less work for me! More than a few times band members have told me that I’m the nicest sound engineer they’ve ever met. I’m surprised by this every time! Musicians are there to make music, to tell a story, to showcase their talents and to create a memorable experience. Our jobs are to support them, value them and treat them with the same respect you’d treat anyone else in the world. Sound engineers and musicians need eachother. We are a team so we must listen and respect eachother.

A simple way of setting yourself apart from the stereotypes and brutish reputations of the average sound guy is this: Be authentically kind. It’s that simple.

Support local music and art. Thank you for reading until the end.

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Cynthia Acebo

Latina Sound Engineer with a love of all things Natural. Making my ancestors and inner child proud is what drives my work, hobbies, interests and goals.