Two men standing in front of a sign for a music production program called pymind.

Seasonal Sound Source Student Competition | Pinecones | Ophylia Wispling

At the beginning of October, I decided to try something new for our students: a sound design contest. As Autumn had just begun to show up around the Bay Area, I searched for a common item that may be overlooked by some, but could have a wide range of auditory creativity. Lo and behold, the pinecone, with its unique structure and natural locations, became the centerpiece of this seasonal sound adventure. 

Students were provided with a few cinnamon-scented pinecones to start with, which began popping up around the premises unexpectedly. The goal was to create either a handful of SFX one-shots or patches, or a full track using nothing but pinecone sounds (which could be manipulated any way the composer saw fit). Students were also asked to share screenshots of the plugins they used, and a short write-up about the goals they had and the challenges that were met with creating art from a common object. The deadline was the end of the month, when we would have a small Halloween-themed gathering in Studio A, and listen to what everyone came up with. I received about 10 emails from interested parties, but at the end of the month, there were only 6 dedicated contestants who presented their work to me and Steve Scheppers, our Studio Manager. 


I critiqued students on ability to follow directions, making the deadline, and quality of work. Every single submission I received was innovative, unique, and excellent. It was very difficult to pick winners from all of the great work we were given! Here are some honorable mentions:

Connor Mooldyk, Jake Gendusa, and Austin Baxter were my three SFX contestants. Each one of them showed a deep understanding of sound design and manipulation, and provided sounds which were both transformative and reminiscent of the original item. 

Brandon Roos, Cole Smithers, and Ryan Claus took the initiative to create beautiful and unique songs using samples they’d gathered from pinecones. I was amazed at how different each song was, despite the fact that they had sampled the same item!

After all was said and done, based upon my criteria of following directions, meeting the deadline, and the quality of work, I have selected Cole Smithers as the winner of the Composition contest, and Austin Baxter as the winner of the SFX contest. In my opinion, however, every single one of these talented students is a winner in the dedication and mastery of what they set out to create! Our little gathering in Studio A was so much fun, and at the end of the day, that was my biggest goal, to inspire our student body to come together and enjoy each other’s creativity. 

The winners of this contest will get to meet with me one on one to discuss what their career goals are, what they feel their strengths and weaknesses might be, and ways that they could potentially become part of the creative force here at Pyramind Studios.

This adventure was super fun, a great success, and just the beginning! I will be holding another similar contest in the wintertime, where the common item for sampling will be a bit trickier to manipulate… Stay tuned to find out more!

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