The Making of a Super Bowl Halftime Sound Engineer

Pablo Munguía ’98 discusses the training and technology he’s bringing to the year’s biggest stage—and how he’s passing that knowledge on to current students.

February 11, 2022

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Pablo Munguía ’98 is the director of the Master of Music in music production, technology, and innovation program at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. He’s also a renowned music producer and audio engineer who’s been nominated for 24 Emmy Awards and has won seven. He has worked sound at some of the world’s biggest events including the Oscars, Grammys, American Music Awards, BET Awards, and many more.

On Sunday, an estimated 100 million people will be watching, or rather listening, to him work as the audio engineer for the Super Bowl halftime show. He says he’s grateful to be living out his dream and being able to share it with his students—and in case you’re wondering, his all-time favorite Super Bowl halftime show was Prince in 2014.

Berklee’s Media Relations team caught up with Munguía before he headed off to L.A. to work his sixth big game. The interview has been edited for clarity.

What skills did you obtain at Berklee as a student that prepared you for working major events like the Grammys, Oscars, and the Super Bowl halftime show?

Every single class comes into play. I can tell you stories of every class where I used [the skills I learned] in some way or another, from Ear Training 1 to Harmony 1 and Arranging 1 to the last-level class of my music production and engineering course. Every single class was helpful. When you’re a student, you’re like, “Why do I have to do ear training, why do I have to do this, how is this going to be useful?” until you’re working the Super Bowl halftime show or the Oscars and you’re the one to hear what’s the wrong note or you hear this is the wrong key—and that’s gold.

I’m living my dream and I get to share what I’ve learned with my students.

Pablo Munguía

How do you incorporate what you’ve learned on the job doing major events and executing a creative vision into your work at Berklee Valencia, particularly when you have the chance to work with students?

Looking back, what’s been the most fun for me at the Valencia campus is getting the chance to produce large musical events. I get to work with teams of students to produce these multimedia events and showcases of technology and music. These concerts give me the chance to take everything I’ve been learning about how the major events are produced…. I’m living my dream and I get to share what I’ve learned with my students.”

Pablo Munguía ’98

Pablo Munguía ’98

You worked as a research scientist before transitioning to music production. Does your background in science shape the way you approach music sound production?

It totally affects the way I approach music and sound mixing. I’m a material scientist, and what material scientists do is they look at the properties of a material: Is it soft? Is it hard? Is it squishy? Is it malleable? Does it spring back? And then, because we know that the atomic structure of the material determines the different properties, we can predict OK because we know this, we can expect this is going to happen. So, it’s exactly the same thing with music production. Having this scientific approach makes me always look for what it is in the way it’s put together that explains why it’s feeling that way, so it gives you a framework to make things work without getting lost in the magical thinking.

How do you balance technology with human elements to create a memorable musical production?

When you are mixing technical elements and human elements, the most important thing that is going to keep that musical production memorable, is that you allow the story that you’re telling to guide the choice of what technology you use and not the other way around.

How has the evolution of technology affected major events such as the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Super Bowl halftime show?

Technology has helped to make productions more complex and more visually impactful, and at the same time they present tremendous challenges for technicians who are making this happen. It has created the expectation that things are going to be perfect. It means that artists are always pushing to be bigger and better.

Watch a video on Pablo Munguía and Berklee Valencia’s music production, technology, and innovation program:  

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