My name is Neal Keller and I am an Audio Engineer and Instructor at Omega Recording Studios and it’s School of Applied Recording Arts & Sciences. I arrived at audio engineering as a result of a lifelong appreciation for music & sound, and from a knack for figuring out technological problems. As a kid I was frequently taking apart tape recorders and other electronic devices to see how they worked. At the age of eleven, I inherited my older brother’s Heathkit 32-in-1 project lab and realized that I’d found my calling. My early interest in electronics, electronics theory, and project building led me to study electronics in high school. I later enrolled in the Microelectronics Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. While at RIT, I got involved in the college radio station, WITR, where I served as a DJ, on air personality, and compiled statistics on airplay. WITR taught me about tape editing, broadcast mixers, cart machines, and DJ techniques. I furthered my education in electronics at Northern Virginia Community College, and then enrolled at The Omega Studios‘ School of Applied Recording Arts and Sciences in order to learn professional recording techniques. I had options available for studying recording at the other schools I had attended, but I saw Omega’s program as a unique opportunity to study at an actual recording studio. The recording programs being offered at the other colleges and universities around me were teaching on the kind of semi-pro home studio equipment that I already possessed. What I saw at Omega was the opportunity to get hands-on learning with the kind of professional recording studio gear that I would otherwise never have had access to. After completing the classes, I was able to secure an internship at Omega, which I did during the summer of 1993.
While still at NOVA, I started to participate in the local Washington, DC music scene. I got involved with playing in bands, as well as putting on shows & DJ events throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s, concurrent to my pursuits at Omega. My first regular work after finishing at Omega was doing sound for events as a freelance engineer. In 1994, Omega contacted me about coming on board as an instructor for the school’s SRLP Program (“Live Sound”). I juggled the freelance work with teaching at Omega up until 2008, when I joined the full time staff at Omega. I have gained experienced with both analog and digital reinforcement consoles, monitor boards, amplification systems, live multitracking, signal processing, as well as lighting, video, and visual presentation systems.
Live sound work was the first opportunity that was open to me when I finished school, which is a common experience for many of the graduates of Omega. Live sound engineering has provided the majority of my financial success and professional recognition as well. But as I tell my students, it’s always good to have a couple of irons in the fire. Meaning that expertise in several different aspects of audio engineering is crucial to continued success in the industry. Long before I was setting up microphones on a stage, I was tinkering with synthesizers and electronic music devices. This has led to experience with synthesis and sound design, sampling, MIDI, digital editing, and work with DAW’s. Consequently, I am also involved in the MIDI and APT Programs at Omega. Systems that I both teach, and use in production work, include Ableton Live, Logic, Reason, Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Cubase, Waves, Native Instruments, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere.
Being involved with live events allowed me to learn about stage and event lighting systems, an area of interest that I have also integrated into the SRLP Program at Omega. And in fact, being experienced in both DMX controlled lighting technology and MIDI systems has allowed me to integrate the two in the form of a custom configured lighting controller that uses MIDI to control lighting. Finally, I’ve become proficient in the use of graphic design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Keynote, all of which help me to create materials for teaching, as well as for the Omega Studios‘ website. Looking forward, I see a lot of convergence between network-based communication technologies and presentation technologies in the future. I think successful engineers will want to know more and more about networking and IT, as well as the integration of audio, video and interactive elements in presentation. I hope to sharpen my skills in these areas, in order to be better prepared to teach these skills to students who enroll at The Omega Studios‘ School.