F.I.R.S.T. Institute Blog
Audio Graduate Spotlight: Will Risteen — From Radio to Freelance
Audio graduate Will Risteen grew up dreaming of being on the radio, and he made it happen shortly after leaving F.I.R.S.T. Institute! Get his take on the excitement and unpredictability of the Recording Arts and Show Production industry and find out where his career has taken him in this Audio Graduate Spotlight!
When did you first start getting interested in audio?
Since I was really young, my father worked for a media company in Boston that owned a radio station and radio has been some that I always wanted to be in since I was a kid listening to radio interviews with cassette tapes and all that. I’ve had a passion for it since I can remember.
When did you decide to pursue this as a career?
That’s a good question. I’d say I realized I really wanted to this when my brother lived in Florida and that’s how I found out about F.I.R.S.T. Institute. I had realized since a young age that I wanted to do it. I can even remember for Christmas one year I got a radio DJ set from my parents and I thought it was so cool. Then I got a Mac when I was like 15 and discovered GarageBand. I remember recording my brother singing songs and that’s what helped me get a scholarship to F.I.R.S.T. Institute. I sent Alan and Donney a quick demo and they offered me a really cool scholarship.
What made you want to go to a school versus trying to learn on your own?
Going to a school, I definitely had access to the best teachers when I went there. They were awesome. Going to a school really teaches you the fine details and more about the industry itself than you could ever learn just downloading Pro Tools and Logic and doing it on your own. That’s really, really important. Any Joe Shmoe can download software or get a board, but they don’t know those fundamentals about the industry or about sound.
Here’s a good example of how we learned in hands-on ways: in one of the classes, we had an old Nokia phone with a crappy ringtone and we mixed it and that’s how we learned how to EQ. We turned that crappy ringtone into an awesome sound. School was 100% beneficial. I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own.
What were your goals when you were just starting out?
Before going to F.I.R.S.T. Institute, I actually wanted to be a radio DJ/morning show host. Once I went to F.I.R.S.T. Institute, I realized that maybe there is more to what I wanted to do in the audio perspective rather than be a DJ. I wanted to get more into production of the shows. I actually ended up producing a show for a top radio station in Boston for a while which was awesome. I do more freelance now. I kind of lived my dream in radio but it’s such a finicky industry but I love being my own boss.
So I wanted to be a radio DJ but I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. I found that out by doing production and producing a show. I got to live my dream of being on the radio in Boston and voicing over commercials, and editing and mixing the commercials and spots as well which is really really cool especially for a big corporate company. I now know that I can go out there and do that and that’s really cool.
Can you tell me about your job or company now?
Right now, I’m doing freelance. I’ve come to find out that I love doing live sound that it’s one of my favorite things. I just did a gig with about 3,000 people; I was doing live sound on the beach up in Maine and there was a huge bonfire. I got to take and show my niece live sound, it was a really great experience.
WIll Risteen with his niece at a live sound gig.
Since graduation, can you tell me about some of the interesting work you have done in this industry?
I’d say doing the live sound with huge gigs and 3,000 or more people has been the most exciting for me. You have to make sure that it sounds perfect to really pull it off.
I’ve also loved doing radio, it’s a crazy industry and something you have to work so hard for. I still hear my voice on the radio from things I did years ago and that’s really cool for me. I hear my voice and I’m like, “Oh wow, that’s me.” I hear my voice on things like insurance company commercials. It’s really, really bizarre but awesome. I left radio because I wanted to be my own boss, but I still love it.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Just loving what I do. Doing audio engineering, I went in thinking I wanted a morning show and came to realize I just love the production side. But now, being the boss of myself while doing freelance is really rewarding and cool.
Is there anything we can look forward to seeing come from you in the future?
Not anything that I can really promote, but it’s one of those things where you just keep pushing and even doing small gigs is awesome because you still get paid for it.
3-5 years from now, what do your career goals look like?
I actually have changed my mind so many times and I think that’s the beauty of the whole thing. There’s endless possibilities in this industry. If I wanted to go to Nashville and work with Warner Brothers I could, or work radio in Los Angeles. I have no idea what will happen. That’s the beauty of it, it’s unpredictable in the best way.
How did attending F.I.R.S.T. Institute impact your life/career?
I couldn’t have done anything I’m doing now without them. The first commercial I did was at F.I.R.S.T. Institute for this horror museum in Salem, Massachusetts. That was early on in the basic audio class. That commercial actually got airplay on a a few stations in the Boston area. It was that first commercial I voiced and produced that really put my foot forward for getting my first internship in Boston. They were very impressed with where I was even after just those 2-3 months of basic audio.
Before F.I.R.S.T. Institute, I didn’t know what equalization was or anything about the boards. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get started in the audio industry?
I would say it’s tough; it’s a really tough industry. You have to pour blood, sweat, and tears into it but if you’re motivated and it’s what you really want to do, then keep pushing. My dream since childhood was to be on the radio and I’ve lived my dream and that’s really cool.
With the help of Alan and Donney and all the teachers I had, really I think anyone who wants to get into the audio industry should just do it. It’s an awesome industry to get into and I have no regrets.
Would You Like to Be Our Next Audio Engineering School Success Story?
There are a wide variety of careers in the audio engineering industry available, and you can start on the road to yours by enrolling at F.I.R.S.T. Institute's Recording Arts and Show Production program. At our Orlando campus, you'll learn hands on, in real studio settings, with small class sizes that can prepare you from careers in radio, music production, live sound, and everything in between. Faculty at F.I.R.S.T. Institute are working audio industry professionals who have a passion for mentoring the next generation of audio engineers.
Contact us today for more information on how you can launch a career in the audio industry and even take a video tour of the campus. Start on your path to a career in the audio industry at one of the best sound engineering schools in Florida today!