Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association

Melanie Chen is winning the hearts of the sound design community on the West Coast! She balances assisting notable TSDCA designers Sten Severson, Cricket Myers, Michael Roth and Joe Huppert with her own design work in theater and dance. Melanie is a 2014 MFA graduate from UC San Diego’s Sound Design program, with an undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts. Upcoming designs include The Cocktail Hour at North Coast Rep Theatre, Seven Guitarsand King Hedley II at Cygnet, and The Cherry Orchard at Pomona College.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am assisting Sten Severson & David Thomas on the Old Globe production of The Scottish Play.

What is the most exciting thing happening this season that you are not working on?

I’m getting married in 2017! We are looking forward to having one day (we promised to not be working that day) to be away from work and spending it with our family and friends.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

I was born in Torrance, California and live in San Diego.

Who or what makes up your support structure?

My parents are the most generous people I know – they just let me dive head first into being in the arts! My fiancée Ben keeps me from going insane and is always so supportive and wonderful. My cat Wendy does get grouchy when I get home too late at night, but she lets me make it up to her by carrying sitting on my shoulders.

What is your favorite piece of music at the moment?

I recently went to a wedding and heard a beautiful cover of Stand by Me. Since then, I’ve been listening to a lot of 60s blues..

What is your favorite meal during or before tech?

Cold pepperoni pizza – before, during, or after.

Do you play an instrument?

I did, occasionally still do. I play the piano and the flute.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?

I was a junior in college. I went to college thinking I wanted to work in a biology lab, but when I took an intro to design class as art elective, I never felt more at home. Joe Huppert took a chance on me by bringing me in as his assistant, and I’ve loved theatrical sound ever since!

Does your family understand what you do? 

They’re starting to. My dad was an engineer by occupation, but always loved the arts so he was happy to know I was involved in something artistic. My mom asks a lot of questions so it seems like it’s sinking in. She likes coming to see shows and seeing the connection between me answering emails and long work hours and an actual production.

Where do you find inspiration?

I like going on hikes by the beach. The sound of waves help clean my aural palette and refreshes my mind after a long week.

What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?

Google Chrome – I am always checking my Google Calendar. I am paranoid I’m going to forget an important meeting or rehearsal!

What do you hope TSDCA can accomplish?

We don’t often get a chance to meet and get to know our fellow sound folks. By bringing sound designers and composers together, TSDCA is a platform for us to create a unified front.

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