Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association

UMKC Theatre
Submitted: Tom Mardikes Position: Professor of Theatre Sound Design, Head of Program Date: May 29, 2019



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School Location:

Kansas City, MO

Brief Description of Degrees offered (Sound Design, Composition)

MFA in Design & Technology: Sound Design

Type of Degree conferred?

  • MFA

Number of years of study, typically?


Approximately how many students graduate from the Sound program each year?

Two to Three

Number of Full Time Sound Faculty?


Number of Part-time Sound Faculty?

Two Part-time adjuncts

Contact information for the faculty members / /

Number of Sound Support Staff?


Adjunct Faculty or Guest Lecturers

Two part-time adjuncts, listed above

Provide a brief description of your program.

Our Sound Design program is a three-year MFA program, and is part of the UMKC theatre department. As such, you will receive an ample amount of hands-on activity in theatre productions. This includes sound engineering (recording studio experience and installing systems in the venues), sound design (incorporating both the creation of the all sound heard in a production, as well as speaker plot), sound operating (running the show during performances), and if you are musically inclined, composition (and occasionally performing if appropriate). 1st year students begin on a small scale, but even so receive assignments in all of the above categories. The productions you will work on over the course of three years will occur in a wide number of venues. First we have a University season, all of which occur in one of three campus locations: Room 116 of the Performing Arts Center (a black box theatre), a small auditorium-style theatre in Grant Hall, or the full-size Spencer Theatre, a LORT theatre venue we share the Kansas City Repertory Theatre (also in the Performing Arts Center). Then there are co-productions, shows we produce with professional theatres in the Kansas City area. These include The Coterie (a nationally top-ranked children’s theatre), Unicorn (new works, cutting edge), and the Kansas City Actors Theatre (modern classics). In addition, you’ll likely work in a number of other venues and productions, like the KC Fringe Festival, the Fishtank, Metropolitan, and more. The sound systems for the above vary greatly in size and complexity, and you will learn the ins and outs (literally!) of all of them. Professor Tom Mardikes is the head of the sound department and has a lengthy resumé of professional productions around the country. He teaches Sound Seminar, where you learn many of the theories and philosophies of Sound Design. I teach the software necessary for the creation of sound design and composition. Pro Tools is a main staple for all of our work, but a great deal of other software comes into play as well. In the theatre, we use Qlab for running shows. I also teach Sound Scoring, four semesters of working with sound and music for visual media. I offer instruction in other DAWs and many virtual instruments and plugins as well (Kontakt, Omnisphere, Absynth, Ableton Live incl. Max for Live, Reaktor, Waves, Wavelab, Battery, Altiverb, the Arturia V collection, Mainstage, Izotope) and how to be creative with them. Whatever your level of musicality is, you will be encouraged to develop it further in our program. Many of our theatre productions have need of composition, and the film work we do in Sound Scoring calls for it as well. We also feel that a well-rounded sound designer must feel at home in the recording studio, so to that end we have a complete professional studio for you to develop these skills, with an A-list microphone closet that includes Neumann, AKG, Beyer, and Royer, and an SSL Duality console as its centerpiece.

Provide a brief description of the venues and facilities the Students have access to in your program.

Three recording/production studios. All ProTools HDX with hefty analog tape machine access. Control Room 505 has SSL Duality. Control 520 is MIDI and Audio/Video. Studio 522 is an electronic music room with a wide array of synths and samplers. There are two other EM studios operated nearby by the Conservatory of Music composition/electronic music department

Provide a brief description of the production and design opportunities a typical student can expect in your program.

From black box to main stage LORT set up in Spencer Theatre, students do it all. They also design at several small professional theatres will in the program, Kansas City Actors Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Coterie Children’s Theatre. Sound MFAs can also design for the KC Rep New Works program and assist on KC Rep musicals with professional designers. Students typically graduate with 5 or more professional credits.

What skills and characteristics do you look for in admitting students to your program?

Musicianship. Composition. We’ve had many successful students who came to us with little music experience but strong undergrad Theatre degrees–so they get a lot of music production and creation training. We have had an equal number of students with no Theatre background but strong music and composition chops. We teach them Theatre. We now have over 50 alumni from our MFA Sound Design program

What skills and characteristics will a successful graduate from your program possess?

Strong music production skills. Deep knowledge of ProTools. Work on many platforms. Strong historical understand of music and sound starting 8000 years ago and covering design styles and periods to the modern day. Students are able to create design concepts for their production work. They are collaborators. They are skilled to be able to work in many areas besides theatre production.

Briefly describe what makes your program unique.

Students are trained to work in multiple areas: theatre sound design, audio recording, music production, audio-for-video and film, field sound effects recording, concert recording

Program Website

Where can an interested prospective student find application materials?

Check out our Sound Department activities on

FaceBook: – Sound Design and Composition at UMKC –