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Audio Visual Systems Specialist Programs Debut at Montgomery College

Keeping the audiences’ attention is vital in today’s technology-driven society whether it’s a Hannah Montana Concert, the Jersey Boys traveling Broadway musical or a mega church like Fellowship of The Woodlands. And the best way to capture anyone’s interest is through two of the most important senses--sight and hearing, which serve as the foundation for the audio visual productions on the rise.

Montgomery College’s new--and unique--audio visual systems specialist (AVSS) training program will deliver state-of-the-art instruction for entry into this hot job market, said associate professor of theatre Chase Waites.

“Specialists trained in the audio visual field can work in just about any industry they want to because this market is growing beyond the traditional borders of the theater and concert halls,” said Waites. “More and more corporations and churches have production needs, as well as colleges and universities, hotels, and sporting venues. Technicians can also work for manufacturers, production companies, rental houses, design agencies, and as consultants – the possibilities are endless.”

Beginning in Spring 2008, the Montgomery College AVSS program will offer three levels of training--a Level I Certificate, which can be completed in one year; a Level II Certificate, which can be completed in a year-and-a-half; and an associate of applied science degree, which can be completed in two years. Courses for the certificates apply to the AAS degree, and many courses will transfer to other colleges as a springboard for a degree in other fields including technical theatre and computer systems management, said Waites.

According to the America’s Career InfoNet Occupation Report, there will be an 18 percent increase in this field over the next seven years, and in Texas, technicians average $13.51 an hour and can earn more than $24.48 an hour.

Waites said success of elaborate stage and office productions hinge upon an ability to work with the audio visual equipment that provides sound and lighting.

“It’s more than just plugging in some lights and having a player for music,” he said. “We are talking about some very intricate and highly technical computerized systems that work together to provide the best sound and lighting experience. Most people have seen a huge production at some time, but most probably don’t think about the work that goes on behind the scenes with the lighting and sound.”

Audio visual systems specialists set up and operate specialty lighting equipment and audio and video equipment including microphones, sound speakers, video screens, projectors, video monitors, recording equipment, wires and cables, sound and mixing boards and related electronic equipment, he said.

“Our training will have an audio video lighting lab with the latest and greatest state-of-the-art equipment, as well as information and guidance from top industry professionals,” said Waites.

Christopher Dunn, vice president of StageLight, Inc., a large lighting system design and sales company, said they will provide guidance for the Montgomery College AVSS program which he said “can’t get here quick enough.”

“Over the last 15 years our company has grown from a small operation in a house to a large corporation operating out of four different cities,” said Dunn. “The technology of our industry continues to grow but what hasn’t grown along with it is qualified personnel. The need in our industry is substantial. There is a great shortfall of qualified technicians in this industry and we're pleased to be part of a program that will equip people to meet that need.”

Students will work with companies like StageLight, The Woodlands Waterway Marriott and Fellowship of The Woodlands during internships offered for both the Level II Certificate and the AAS degree, said Waites.

“It will be a very well-rounded experience for them from the training to the internship and then hopefully right on into employment, which shouldn’t be a difficult transition given today’s needs,” said Waites. “I was just at the Fellowship of The Woodlands yesterday and they said they could hire 10 AV technicians right now.”

For more information on the audio visual systems specialist program, contact Chase Waites by phone at 936.271.6127 or email chase@lonestar.edu.

Montgomery College is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call (936) 273-7000 or visit montgomery.lonestar.edu.

North Harris Montgomery Community College District, among the largest and fastest-growing community colleges in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, Cy-Fair College, six satellite centers and The University Center.