Meet Christen (CJ) McCoy, a graduate of the Recording Arts & Show Production program and the Valedictorian for the Spring 2019 graduation! CJ fell in love with music at a young age and took that passion to F.I.R.S.T. Institute to further her career. While CJ mentions putting her passions on the back burner for quite some time, she is ecstatic to be doing what she loves once again – and this time, as a career. Check out all the exciting opportunities CJ had as a student at F.I.R.S.T. Institute and what her goals are going forward.

It Was Always Music

Christen McCoy took an interest in audio because of her love for music. Even as a child she wanted to pursue music, and it started out with playing instruments. After hearing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker, CJ knew that the flute was the right choice for her. Through middle school and high school, Christen continued to play the flute and participate in band and marching band. Even though Christen refers to herself as “the band geek,” she recalls these years as the happiest times of her life.

Inspiration is Everything

Christen talks about the many people that inspire her to excel in her career and follow her passion. One huge inspiration of CJ’s is her mother. CJ explains that her mother is the hardest working person she knows! Her mother gave the advice that it’s not about following the money or doing something that is going to make you financially stable, it’s about what makes you happy or what you’re good at. An artist that inspires Christen is Justin Timberlake. “It’s the instrumentation, it’s the arrangement. He’s a dancer, he’s a singer, he’s a producer, he’s in movies. He is basically the whole package.”

F.I.R.S.T. Institute: A Place For You to Feel Comfortable

Christen credits her favorite part of F.I.R.S.T. Institute to the school’s environment. She explains that everyone makes you feel so comfortable to be at the school and everyone pushes you to be the best that you can be. The small class sizes really impacted CJ, as you’re around the same people for the entirety of the program. She details that everyone becomes so close whether it’s classmates or instructors.

A Network of Professionals

During her time at F.I.R.S.T. Institute, Christen aimed to work as hard as she could to try and stand out in her classes. Her instructors recognized her hard work and now CJ is proud to have this network of professionals in the industry that she never thought she would have.

Industry-Related Projects

The two projects that impacted Christen McCoy the most during the Recording Arts & Show Production program were the Band Project in Recording Arts and the Movie Project in Sound for Visual Media. Christen credits the band project because she was able to work with two amazing musicians and record two songs of them. She says the project was extremely rewarding and inspiring as the artists offered their support for her educational journey in audio.

The Movie Project in Sound for Visual Media was an important project for Christen as she knew it would be showcased at graduation. CJ took on the role of Sound Supervisor for the project where she was able to divvy up the project amongst her group members and take advantage of the different talents in the group.

Internship Opportunities Are Abundant at F.I.R.S.T.

Christen mentions how thankful she is to have multiple internship opportunities under her belt as she enters her post-graduate journey. She worked with Timucua Arts Foundation working behind the scenes of live performances and also worked with Orlando Bands doing live sound and setting up stages.

From Live Sound to Inside the Studio

CJ talks about her favorite internship which was working with Program Director John LaRosa as his own recording studio, Tru Sun Media. Christen McCoy was able to work on the set of a music video and even shadow a session with Grammy award-winning producer Rodney Jerkins.

A Shoutout to Instructor Dave Willis-Lorenz

Christen McCoy credits the instructors as F.I.R.S.T. Institute and thanks them for inspiring her and pushing her to be better. CJ would come to the campus and work outside of class, getting a chance to spend more one-on-one time with all the instructors, whether she had them or not. CJ gives a shoutout to her favorite instructor, Dave Willis-Lorenz, from the Recording Arts & Show Production program. She loved that Dave would push all the students to be the best that they could be. He would never give the students all the answers, he instead would guide them and make them work for it. Christen definitely loved this challenge.

Looking Forward

Looking forward for Christen, she is excited about all the possibilities of audio from what she learned at F.I.R.S.T. Institute and is open to any opportunity. Her biggest dream, however, would be to work on the set of a movie for a musical which would combine all of her passions into one job.

Advice for Someone Interested in Audio

Christen offers some simple advice for anyone interested in going to school for audio: believe in yourself. When CJ first came to the institute, she was scared and nervous and didn’t truly believe in herself. After arriving at F.I.R.S.T. Institute, CJ realized she was with people that were just like her and saw she was afraid for nothing. Don’t worry about time as it just keeps going, just don’t forget about your passion because that is what will make you happiest.