Student Spotlight: Riley Finkle

The music production and engineering major discusses her immersive audio and video productions, her collaboration with Harvard's Immersive Media Lab, and her upcoming L.A. internship.

February 27, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, get to know Riley Finkle, a ninth semester student from State College, Pennsylvania, studying music production and engineering (MP&E) with a specialization in post-production and a minor in acoustics and electronics.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music, but I wasn’t exactly sure what my path would be. Later, I found that I was most interested in music technology. I chose Berklee because, to them, music technology involved more than just recording and producing music. I was intrigued by the equipment at the Creative Technology Center and, although it’s not my major, I’ve always been inspired by the experimental projects of the EPD [electronic production and design] kids. 

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

My favorite class has been Introduction to Immersive Audio with John Escobar. I took it last semester and learned everything from how to work with ambisonic microphones to mixing in Dolby Atmos. For one of our projects, a classmate and I recorded ambisonic audio while driving through the city on a motorbike!

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

For my capstone project, I was able to collaborate with Harvard University’s Visualization Lab on an immersive music video. I engineered a friend’s song, and then captured the band performing with a green screen and 3D scanned everyone’s bodies. Then we started editing them into scenes in Unreal Engine—a program used to build video games. Although the semester is over, we’re still releasing different versions of the project and trying to perfect it as new technology is becoming accessible.

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

I try to go to the gym at least once a week. It’s easy to spend a lot of time working in a chair, and staying active has improved my sleep and expelled some of my anxious energy.

What careers are you interested in pursuing in the future?

I’d love to find a career that combines my education in audio engineering and my passion for immersive media. Perhaps I would work in virtual production or video games? I’m nearing graduation and have received an internship at a post-production studio in Los Angeles, so I might be starting on my path to achieving that!

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

It’s kind of cliché for a girl in MP&E to say, but I’m very inspired by Susan Rogers. I’ve felt a push and pull between my interests in audio and extended reality, and I’m comforted by how Susan spent the first half of her career as an extremely successful audio engineer and the second half as an academic. She became a doctor of psychoacoustics and has recently released a book on the subject, This is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You. I like the idea of being able to change your mind, and being able to apply what you know in one field to another field that you’re interested in.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

When I decided to come to Berklee, I thought I knew what the rest of my life would look like. I’d like to tell my high school self: “You might think you know what’s going to happen, but you have no idea.” I never thought I’d be able to work at Harvard or MIT, and I never thought I’d be able to do things at Berklee like mix a short film in Dolby Atmos! And I never in a million years thought I would be moving to California after graduating. It’s been a crazy ride I never would’ve imagined when I was first accepted into Berklee.

Riley's Top Five Songs Right Now

We asked Riley for her current favorite songs, and here's what she told us:

1. "Stamp On It," GOT the beat

Dem Jointz is one of my favorite producers, and I love each of the girls’ voices. The mature, futuristic vibe of this group never disappoints! (I’m a huge fan of K-pop.)

2. "Loose Fitting Bedsheet," Wesley Preis

I was just recently introduced to this artist, and I just love everything about this track. I really like the way the instrumentation is so bare, but it still takes up a lot of space.

3. "Nothing But Trouble," Phantogram

I am a long time fan of Phantogram and just recently got into this song. It randomly came on while I was watching a coworker play with audio-reactive VJ software; the visuals made the song even better!

4. "Yoü And I," Lady Gaga

I have a really good memory of my friend in Pennsylvania performing this song at karaoke; the rest of us were singing the backup vocals from the audience.

5. "Hammond Song," The Roches

A classmate made a soundalike of this song and inadvertently introduced me to it. All I can say is this song goes crazy.

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