CURRENTLY PURSUING MFA IN SOUND DESIGN AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Meet Gage Baker
Interview with Michelle Huertas, VoyageHouston Magazine
June 16, 2020
Gage, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was in high school, my mom took my sister and me to New York for a week. I got up early on a Tuesday morning, told my mom and sister that “I’m going to try to see if I can convince someone to invite me backstage,” and sat on the steps outside the Belasco Theatre on West 44th. The theatre was holding a full technical rehearsal for the new star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a rock musical that happened to be my favorite piece of theatre. The production’s kindly mustachioed lead sound engineer, Bob Etter, took a liking to me, and was kind enough to bring me backstage and invite me into his world, where I immediately realized that I could actually make live sound into a career.
Immediately after, I started shadowing and learning from several of the great sound mixers of the rock world, including multiple shows with Tony Bennett, Frankie Valli, and Hans Zimmer. That exposure cannot be overstated, as I learned firsthand that a pleasant personality and quiet confidence is what separates the good from the great.
During my first two years of my undergrad, I worked at a concert hall where I mixed and lit several hundred performances and events, gaining loads of experience quickly. In 2017, I transferred to the University of Houston, where I studied and began working freelance in the Houston area.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Hilariously, a few years ago, I began to get a lot of work designing rock concert lighting for Colbie Caillat, WAR, and several tours, despite being *very* color-blind. I quickly began to realize the artistic limitations of pursuing a career as a color-blind lighting designer, and returned to sound design, an artistic medium that I could actually perceive!
As a Sound Engineer and Designer, what do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
These last 12 months have been the most gratifying for me. One of the productions that I sound designed, The Children at Rec Room, was named one of the ten Best Pieces of Theatre in 2019 by the Houston Chronicle. Additionally, I began working regularly at the Alley Theatre, and mixed my first musical at Stages’ new Gordy theatre complex.
As a sound designer, I get to combine my love of music with storytelling. Every designer brings a different set of experiences to the table, and I’m no different. Restraint is important to me and is a large part of the aesthetic that I tend to lean toward. I’m ultimately one person in a team whose end goal is to create a cohesive world for the audience to experience.
My favorite part of working in theatre is the joy of collective imagination. Every show starts with a room full of people who are all making creative choices that the next person can build upon. My work is truly only as good as my collaborators, and the Houston theatre scene is thriving with new and exciting young talent.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Initially, I created my own luck, by aggressively networking with leaders in my industry, and never turning down work. Unfortunately, the live entertainment industry is shuttered due to the Coronavirus, and many of my friends and co-workers are out of work indefinitely. The arts organizations are almost always operating on a precipice, and in a gig economy, most everyone that I know will be out of work as long as the virus remains a threat. I’m doing my best to read, train, and recharge so that when the theatre is able to open back up again, I’m able to continue to contribute something of value.