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Sennheiser’s Mentorship Program Puts Ohio University Student in Spotlight to Experience Live Sports Broadcasting at NASCAR

Old Lyme, Conn.-- July 6, 2011: Audio specialist Sennheiser continues to bring invaluable broadcast technology experience to audio students through its collaboration with major sports broadcasters and higher education institutions. David Polster, a music production major in the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University in Athens, spent three days last month shadowing Fred Aldous, a veteran audio consultant and senior mixer for FOX Sports during the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, NC.

Polster’s "classroom" was the Coca-Cola 600: the longest race sponsored by NASCAR and one of the largest sporting events in the world with nearly 200,000 spectators and a nationwide television and radio audience. Polster’s onsite education experience began on Friday, May 27, just two days before the main event.

An immersion in broadcast audio

The Sennheiser mentorship program serves a unique purpose in the industry by offering students a rare opportunity to interact with broadcast professionals for what can amount to become a potentially life-changing career opportunity.

“Whenever I mentor students, I intentionally try to overwhelm them since it gives me a good indication of just how serious they are about going into the broadcast audio field,” Aldous said. “The NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 is the perfect event to immerse a student since it’s probably the largest live production setup they would ever get to see.”

As the “host” broadcaster for the event, FOX Sports provides feeds for ESPN, International Sports Broadcasting and all of the other the vendors on site. “We have close to 20 semi-trucks in the compound at any one time, so essentially it's a very complex setup,” Aldous explained. “One of the biggest takeaways for the student is to gain an understanding of not only what I do as a sports mixer, but also how everything interacts and interfaces as a whole.”

Since the production setup at the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 was a layover from the All-Star Weekend that FOX Sports broadcasted the week before, Aldous was able to use Friday (day one) as a dark day to spend one-on-one time with Polster and walk him through all of the facilities. Saturday involved observing the broadcast action taking place around the qualifying and practice shows. “On Saturday I had David sit in with me for part of the day and then observe all of the individual setups--from the announce booth to the microphones installed around the track,” Aldous said. “For the actual race on Sunday, he was with me in the mixing truck. All in all, I think he got a very thorough overview.”

“It was a very exciting experience,” Polster said. “There is no way you can learn about this level of broadcast engineering event from a text book. Sennheiser's mentorship program helped me determine that live sports broadcasting is a very viable career option for me.”

A Collaboration Where Everybody Wins

Mike Rodriguez, director of the student professional development program at the WOUB Public Media, a PBS affiliate that sits on the campus of Ohio University, recommended Polster for the mentorship. “The Sennheiser mentorship program is an extremely valuable opportunity since we do not get a lot of live productions with big trucks like the NASCAR event rolling through Athens," he said. "We really applaud Sennheiser for providing such an experience--and it makes my job easier."

Polster’s interest in sports broadcasting began in high school, where he worked in the AV department often taping his school’s live sports events. Like Aldous, Polster was attracted to the “adrenaline rush” that comes with broadcasting live sports events. “I am extremely thankful to Sennheiser for allowing me to do this," Polster said. "It was one of the best learning experiences in my life thus far, and Fred is among the most patient people I know in such demanding circumstances."

“It is fantastic how Sennheiser is willing to invest in getting more students involved in broadcast audio, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to give something back, too," Aldous concluded.