Rob Summers – Head of Sound – Priscilla

Rob Summers | Sound Engineer | Sound Designer

Rob Summers started his career on the musical CATS at the New London Theatre back in 1986. Since then he has worked on numerous shows including Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia, Les Misérables, Beautiful and Damned, My Fair Lady and The King and I.

Rob Summers has been a production engineer on Buddy, Summer Holiday, Scrooge the Musical, Re-Arranged and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour), West Side Story and Annie the Musical.

Rob Summers was also Sound Designer on Richard O’Brien’s The Stripper, Tommy Steele, In Concert (UK Tour), Michael Barrymore’s Laid Back Tour (UK Tour) and the world tour on Spirit of the Dance.

Someone once said, my job is 95% PR and 5% PA

rob summers
Rob Summers

Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Rob Summers – What do you do?

I’m currently the Head of Sound on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre, London.

How long have you been at it?

Priscilla, 17 months. Working in theatre sound, 25 years.

What was your very first role in theatre?

After my Dad passed away I stopped wanting to become a forensic scientist and started working on the stage crew on CATS at the New London Theatre.

What else have you done?

I was Sound Designer on Richard O’Brien’s The Stripper, Tommy Steele, In Concert (UK Tour), Michael Barrymore’s Laid Back Tour (UK Tour) and the world tour on Spirit of the Dance.

I have been in charge of fit-ups and get-outs for shows such as Buddy, Summer Holiday, Scrooge the Musical, Re-Arranged and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour), West Side Story and Annie the Musical.

I am no longer Head of Sound on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Have you got qualifications?

When I started doing this there wasn’t many schools that did exams in sound. I was more of a learn on the job type of guy. I was very lucky to learn from many great people like Graham Simpson, Alan Stretch and Ken Hampton.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A policeman or a forensic scientist.

What do you do all day?

It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m a designing a show, I could be doing meetings with producers, directors or sound companies discussing budgets or systems. As a PE, I could be sorting paper work and booking crews. As head of sound on Priscilla, it’s my job to make sure every bit of the sound system works. That includes all comms and the pit as well.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I still get excited about opening a new show. I have always said I would give up when that dies.

And the worst?

Working at the weekend and certain requests like “can you turn me up cause my Mum is in”

What’s your dream job in theatre?

I fancy being a Diva in Priscilla, I like all the flying they do…..

Rob Summers, Have you got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?

I can’t teach you how to mix but I show you how to mix. It doesn’t matter how many years you have been at college, everyday is a school day. List all the things you are good and bad at. Now work on all your bad things till they are good. I was never good at EQ. So I would sit with headphones on and EQ a SM58 until I became better.

My position now is more of a teaching position. It’s my job to teach my No.2 and No.3 what to do and what NOT to do. Someone once said, my job is 95% PR and 5% PA. It’s true. Learn how to talk and deal with people and you will do well.

Lastly, if you are going to send your CV to me or any other head of sound, please make sure to find out who you are sending it to. Because if you can’t be bothered, nor can I.

Rob Summers would like to thank his family.

Rob Summers can be found at the back of the stalls at the Palace theatre till 2012.

Rob Summers

Audio Engineer – What is a Sound Engineer

Sound Engineer – What are they?

Anyone who knows a sound engineer would say they do sweet FA. They swan around making themselves look busy. But in realitly they are the guys and gals that work backstage making sure all the sound equipment work for bands, theatre, TV corporate gigs and the like so people like you can hear.

A Sound Engineer is responsible for what the audience hears.

Depending on where they work, they may:

  • plan recording sessions with producers and artists.plan recording sessions with producers and artists
  • operate equipment for recording, mixing and sequencing.mixing and sequencing
  • balancing and adding effects.balancing and adding effects
  • position microphones.position microphones

They record onto a multi-track tape machine or a hard disk drive, before mixing and mastering for final production. The master can then be made into various formats, including CD, minidisc, DVD-A (Digital Versatile Disc-Audio), SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc), MP3 or digital audio files in different formats.

Hours can be long and unpredictable, and night and weekend work is common. They also need to be flexible as their hours may depend on the availability of artists and producers and the needs of the production project.

Most of the work of a sound engineer is carried out in recording or post-production studios which can be air conditioned, spacious and well equipped, but smaller studios may be more uncomfortable.

A sound engineer may earn range from around £15,000 up to £75,000 a year.sound engineer

A Sound Engineer should have:

  • excellent hearing. hearing
  • the ability to listen and to differentiate between sounds. l
  • a good sense of pitch, timing and rhythm. timing and rhythm
  • a knowledge of sound recording and post-production. post-production
  • a good knowledge of and interest in different types of music.  sound engineer

A sound engineer may be employed by commercial recording and audio post-production studios. Most of the major employers are based in London, but there are many smaller independent studios around the country. Many are freelance. Competition for jobs is fierce. Networking, the ability to make personal contacts and experience in the industry are vital for a sound engineer.

It may be possible to enter the industry as a sound engineer without formal qualifications. Some commercial studios and audio post-production facilities houses take on runners or assistants who perform routine tasks. If they show promise they may eventually work their way up the ladder. Larger studios may require applicants to have a related qualification. There is a wide range of relevant courses for a sound engineer at various levels.

A good sound engineer who has built up a reputation may become producers. Others may specialise in a particular area or go on to set up their own recording studios.

Rob Summers is a sound engineer on the West End hit, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I hope you have enjoyed my article on what is a sound engineer and how they do it.

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