On May 26, 1967, 50 years ago at the time of this post, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Thanks to a dated sticker system at the local record store in the town I grew up in, September 14, 1994, was the day I discovered this album for the first time and it changed how I listened to music forever and sent me on a journey far beyond the world of music.
I was fifteen years old and a freshman in high school the fall of 1994. I had a pretty limited collection of music, mostly grunge Seattle sounds. That September, going on nothing but the thought that everyone says the Beatles are amazing, maybe I should buy an album, I set out to do just that. Looking at the albums available, the one with the long strange title and crazy looking cover seemed like a good start and I was suddenly awoken to the sounds of the 1960s.
I spent the next two years buying albums by other artist from that era and zeroed in on two groups, obviously the Beatles and the other Led Zeppelin. The summer of 1996 rolled around and as a sixteen-year-old, I needed to get a summer job. My older sister had met a group of musically likeminded guys at an auditorium in the North Carolina mountains. So she got me a job there, thinking I’d fit in with them. All the guys working there were media production majors in college and I was a wide-eyed kid with a fresh driver’s license. We would spend our spare time watching and laughing at video projects they created, going to Waffle House and listening to music.
Now my love of video production began long before I was sixteen. I made many videos with my friends and if cameras weren’t readily available, we’d do audio productions. Little did we know we were making podcasts before podcasts were invented. It wasn’t until that summer job rolled around that I began to think seriously about perusing a career in media. For the next three summers, I worked alongside the same group of guys. I would liken it to an apprenticeship. During the school year, my co-workers were busy learning the theories and techniques to video and audio production and each summer they would pass that new knowledge on to me. So by the time I was ready to head to college, I had a deep understanding of multimedia production.
I hit the ground running in college and without hesitation, majored in communications. Oddly enough, I thought marketing and management was a better fit but it didn’t take long for my love of video to come around. The marketing classes were interesting but I almost couldn’t wait to take a class with Professor Kevin Balling, an award winning documentarian. After that I was hooked.
While my school was somewhat large in size, my fellow communication majors and I quickly formed a tight network and I was the guy that knew how all the equipment ran. It just came naturally to me. So I found myself in the labs often helping my classmates trouble shoot a problem or make the production software do a particular task. I found great joy in teaching and passing on my knowledge.
After college, I was thrusted into the working world and set my sites on Charlotte, finding my way onto the staff at the NBC News Channel. While the news business was exciting at times, it was a revolving door of employees in their early twenties, working awful hours. The ones fortunate enough to be nine-to-five were in their thirties and forties and weren’t going anywhere. I kept my sanity by creating documentaries on my own time and going to hear my best friend’s Beatles influenced band play. It was here that I met a student about to start college, with a passion for video. I saw myself in them and we quickly became friends. I began critiquing their work and helping them with their projects as they began the same journey I had begun six years earlier. It was very rewarding. They were learning flash and HTML, wanting to practice, we worked out a deal where they would create a website home for my work. Little did I know that this would be two major keys to the next chapter of my life.
Armed with my own webpage (www.waterrockproductions.com) and a now defunct blog where I complained and moaned about life on the second shift in the news world, I began looking for work. A family friend, sensing my distaste for my work while reading my blog, decided to find me a new job outside of the news world. It was a “Videographer” position at Davidson College. Oddly enough, it had never occurred to me to look in higher education despite all the signs pointing towards it. The job talked about facilitating the growing need for video on campus. Supporting faculty and students in video curriculum. Traveling to conferences and growing professionally in the land of higher education. It all sounded great and exciting. I leaped at the chance and I got the job.
Ten years later, I’m still here, still find it fulfilling to help others with technology. It has been interesting to witness the evolution of higher education over the last ten years. When you’re a student, you don’t really notice it. When you’re a staff member, it becomes amazingly apparent. When I arrived I was called the “Campus Videographer”. Today I’m the “Instructional Designer for Digital Media”. Vastly different jobs with new and exciting challenges. At the end of the day, it is the technology that gets me up in the morning. I rise looking forward to what I can learn today in order to pass it along to someone new tomorrow.