The History of Mix Messiah Productions: It began with a mondegreen
In the late 1980s, I was taking a television production class at Indiana University. During some down time, a classmate thought he overheard me say the words "mix messiah". That's not what I said, but I thought it sounded cool.
Soon thereafter, I developed my own concept for a business called "Mix Messiah Productions". My first gig was composing a short piece of music for the radio show "Sports Talk" broadcast by WFIU-FM. Later, I did music for a video about puppetry by NPR colleague Barry Gordemer.
Other early projects I did included musical notation for a medley of Earth, Wind and Fire songs arranged by Joe Herbert for an a cappella choir, and music for Nathie, a series of short stories by the late Dr. Nathie Marbury performed in American Sign Language.
I took a hiatus for a few years, but in 2002 began restoring audio for classic film titles at Post Modern as part of subcontract they had with Sony/Columbia pictures. With that experience, I restarted Mix Messiah Productions in 2005 and began doing freelance sound for film and television.
Today, Mix Messiah Productions is proud to have worked on award-winning films and documentaries including Enough White Teacups, Klocked, Doc of the Dead, Infinity Chamber, A Feral World, Leap of Faith, and Rent-a-Pal, among others.
Leslie (AMPS, MPSE) is a Dante Level-3 Certified audio engineer specializing in 5.1 re-recording mixing (dubbing) and sound editing. She is a former Governor-at-Large for the Audio Engineering Society, and author of the book Women in Audio. She is a member of the Recording Academy (The Grammys®), a member and councilperson of the Association of Motion Picture Sound (AMPS), and member of Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE). She has worked for National Public Radio (Washington, D.C.), Colorado Public Radio, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Post Modern Company, and was a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver.
Leslie Gaston-Bird (AMPS, MPSE) is author of the book "Women in Audio", part of the AES Presents series and published by Focal Press (Routledge). She is a voting member of the Recording Academy (The Grammys®) and its P&E (Producers and Engineers) Wing. Currently, she is a freelance re-recording (dubbing) mixer and sound editor, and owner of Mix Messiah Productions which specializes in 5.1 surround mixing. Prior to that, she was a tenured Associate Professor of Recording Arts at the University of Colorado Denver (2005-2018) where she also served as Chair of the Department of Music and Entertainment Industry Studies. She led groups of Recording Arts students in study abroad courses in England, Germany, and Italy which included participation in AES Conventions. Leslie has done research on audio for planetariums, multichannel audio on Blu-Ray, and a comparison of multichannel codecs that was published in the AES Journal (Gaston, L. and Sanders, R. (2008), "Evaluation of HE-AAC, AC-3, and E-AC-3 Codecs", Journal of the Audio Engineering Society of America, 56(3)).
The following biography was written by me for the book, "Women in Audio" published by Focal Press, a division of Routlege. If you wish to use it, please cite as follows:
(Harvard) Gaston-Bird, L. 2020, Women in audio, Routledge, New York.
(MLA) Gaston-Bird, Leslie. Women in Audio. Routledge, New York, 2020.
(Oxford) Gaston-Bird, Leslie. , 'Women in Audio', New York, Routledge, (2020)
"Leslie Gaston-Bird was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1969 to Frances and Berdell Gaston. Her father had an Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorder, and she remembers singing into it as a small child and eventually learning how to thread tape around its path with her tiny fingers. She played piano throughout her childhood, studying first with “Mrs. Wadsworth” at age six and then at age eight with Phyllis Katz who taught her classical piano. At age 11 she was the solo accompanist for a seventh-grade musical, The Game. At Chaminade Julienne High School, she played in Jazz Lab Band. Steve Weingart, himself a prodigal jazz pianist and high school senior at the time, taught her basic jazz voicings during her freshman year. She also accompanied the school chorus and played percussion in the marching band (xylophone and snare) and double bass in the string ensemble. She earned high scores in several regional competitions on piano."
"In 1987 Leslie enrolled in the Audio Technology program at Indiana University Bloom- ington. Her professors were Wayne Jackson and David A. Pickett. At the time, the school had no digital editing tools; everything was done to analog tape, and she learned how to do razor- blade editing. She recorded operas, such as The Tales of Hoffman, and did live sound for the IU vocal ensemble The Singing Hoosiers for their tour. She recorded a number of bands including the Joyce Brothers, Planet Ranch, the I.U. African-American Choral Ensemble, and Mojo Hand. She also worked as a radio board operator for WFIU-FM, an NPR affiliate station, where she saw weekly job announcements for “broadcast/recording technicians” at National Public Radio. Inspired by these opportunities, she decided to take a chance and apply.
"Determined to succeed, after graduating in August 1991, Gaston-Bird moved to Washington, D.C., and by December she was hired at NPR as a broadcast/recording technician. As one of 40 technicians, she rotated shifts as the “drive engineer” for All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, and Performance Today and also worked in “record central” taking in phone and satellite feeds from reporters around the globe. When the digital audio workstation Sonic Solutions debuted, she was one of five engineers introduced to the technology and worked on a piece for National Geographic Radio Expeditions. She also played briefly with an all-female reggae/metal band, Medusa Complex.
"Having to work weekends and overnight shifts was exhausting. Gaston-Bird sought to work consistent hours and accepted a job at Colorado Public Radio in Denver, Colorado, in 1995. As the only recording engineer on staff she did location recording, mixing, and editing. Digital Audio Tape (DAT) recorders were the norm at the time, although some reporters still used Marantz cassette recorders. She started with an obscure digital audio workstation called Arrakis but made the case to switch to Pro Tools in 1998.
"In 1998 she met the all-female rock band Ezmeralda and joined them as their bass player. She engineered two albums for them, Half Gramme Holiday (2000) and Immortal, the latter also available as a surround-sound audio-only Blu-Ray disc (2014). (It remains perhaps the first and only, all-female performed and engineered work of its kind.)
"Also in 1998 she accepted an invitation to help the Colorado Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop. The CSO sought to get their performances broadcast on Performance Today, and Gaston-Bird’s expertise from working at NPR came into play. She worked with NPR to recommend and implement better microphone techniques and a recording setup, and for the next few years, she would record the CSO for broadcasts on CPR and NPR. Gaston-Bird’s work as a recording engineer was featured on the CD release, The Colorado Symphony on Colorado Public Radio. In 2000, along with Kelley Griffin and Dan Drayer, Gaston-Bird won a Radio and Television News Directors Association Edward R. Murrow Award (Large Market Documentary) for A Columbine Diary.
"As the technology continued the transition to digital, radio automation systems were being implemented. Gaston-Bird completed training for the NexGen Prophet system as a master user. During this transition, reporters began to record and edit their own pieces. She trained the journalists on Cool Edit Pro (which became Adobe Audition). The move also enabled the entire library of classical music to be digitized, and conversations about data compression and normalization led her to realize there was more to learn about this new digital audio world.
"She left CPR in 2002 to pursue a master’s degree in recording arts at the University of Colorado Denver. Her mentors there were Roy Pritts and Richard Sanders. Both of them encouraged Leslie to become active in the Audio Engineering Society.
"That same year, she started working at Post Modern Company in Denver doing sound restoration for old film soundtracks in the Sony/Columbia Pictures archives. She did thousands of hours of editing and noise restoration using Pro Tools and CEDAR software.
"Meanwhile, for her thesis, she assembled a crew with director donnie l. betts and Future Jazz Project to create a style of production called “Music Video Vérité” in 2003. Having been a fan of music videos since the 1980s, her goal was to combine the immediacy of live performance by recording the audio alongside the video – even as locations changed within the video. She successfully defended her thesis and entered the video into an AES student competition in 2004, winning in the category “sound for picture.”
"Her academic successes led her to apply for an opening for an assistant professor job at CU Denver, and she joined the faculty in 2005. Her research interests focused on multichannel sound. In 2006 she was the principal investigator for the article, “Comparison of 3 Multichannel Codecs,” which she presented at the Verband Deutscher Tonmeister conference in Leipzig, Germany, and published in the AES Journal.
"In 2018 she moved with her family to Brighton, England, and resigned from her tenured position at CU Denver. That year, she also became a Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) member as well as a member of the Association of Motion Picture Sound (AMPS). In 2019 she was welcomed to the Recording Academy. She now freelances and has works as sound supervisor for documentaries and feature films, including Enough White Teacups (directed by Michelle Caprenter, which was nominated for a Heartland Emmy Award; Three Worlds, One Stage directed by Jessica McGaugh and Roma Sur); Leap of Faith (a documentary of The Exorcist directed by Alexandre O. Philippe) and A Feral World (directed by David Liban). "