Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Meet the Black, LGBTQ mixer breaking barriers in the recording studio

Ashley Simmons is making a name for herself at New York’s top audio post-production studio.

We caught up with the talented Brooklyn-raised audio mixer and sound designer for insight into her career and what it takes to be a mover and shaker in a male-dominated field. At just 30 years old, Ashley Simmons is one to watch!

Q40: Congratulations on being promoted to mixer. How has your five-year experience at Sound Lounge prepared you for this moment? 

Ashley Simmons: Thank you! These past five years at Sound Lounge have truly led me to where I am right now. As an assistant, I really had a chance to get my hands dirty and to learn what it means to be a Sound Lounge mixer. I was prepping sessions, shadowing industry greats, troubleshooting issues, recording talent, and mixing podcasts and commercials. But I also learned about our heart. What it means to be passionate and what it means to pour every bit of yourself into each job you do. All of this has prepared me for the challenges I may face in the mixing seat. 

What are your responsibilities as a mixer? 

A: In short, my responsibility is to make the mix sound impeccable. I record talent, clean up dialogue, sound effects, get the levels right…basically, I’m here to finesse every aspect of the audio. 

You were involved in Procter & Gamble’s “Widen the Screen” initiative, aimed at shattering racial stereotypes in the media. What was it like working on such an influential project?

A: I love working on projects where emotion, creativity, and important messaging all intersect. I thrive in a space where people truly believe in what they’re doing. When the meaning goes deeper, that’s where the passion really ignites. In this case, we’re creating something bigger than ourselves, and it’s so fulfilling for everyone involved.

How does your background in music producing and composition distinguish you from your peers?

A: I’ve been writing my own music for over a decade. An important part of producing music is timing and feeling. I’ve learned to trust that I’m making the right choices. From picking the right instruments to the bpm to executing when the beat drops, it really comes down to trusting your aesthetic and taste. Similarly with commercial mixing, it’s easy to get stuck wondering if the dialogue is loud enough or clear enough compared to the music and sound effects, but when you trust yourself, it’s easier to move things forward with your work and you become more confident. 

You’ve previously said the ad industry, along with the rest of the world, has made a larger shift toward prioritizing diversity and representation for BIPOC artists. How have you experienced this shift and what does it mean for the greater BIPOC community?  

A: I’m really excited to be on this team of mixers at Sound Lounge and to be celebrated for exactly who I am. Being a Black — the way I talk, the way I dress, the way I wear my hair — I haven’t always felt taken seriously in the industry. I’ve felt like there were aspects of my personality that I had to dampen down to fit in, but things are changing. Working on powerful projects that prioritize beautiful teams of Black and Brown faces has truly built my confidence to just be me. 

Do you have any mentors or individuals you look up to in the industry? 

A: I admire the entire team at Sound Lounge, but Tom Jucarone is definitely a legacy in the commercial mixing world. He’s worked on some of the most notable campaigns in advertising history, and it’s been a cool experience shadowing him and learning over the years. I’ve been able to sit in his sessions and see him experiment. My goal is to build my career like him, where I have consistent, loyal clients who keep comin’ back to me! 

Major Giammaria, too! He’s the re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor for our Film+Television division. He is the Avid Pro Tools master!! This man barely touches a mouse! They both motivate me to work harder to get to that level of consistency and knowledge. 

What advice would you give someone, specifically Black and/or LGTBQ, looking to build a career in this industry?

A: I hope other young talents can see me and see that they don’t have to be anyone besides themselves to succeed. Keep going, never stop following your path, and continue fighting for what you love.

How can Queer Forty readers see more of your work?

A: Check out my reel here. And follow me on social media at @koombahyamusic.

More about Ashley

Ashley has worked on meaningful campaigns alongside the National Women’s History Museum, Procter & Gamble, and DoorDash, as well as award-winning short films and documentaries, including “Pay Day” for Synchrony Bank, Black-Owned Brooklyn’s “Soul Summit” and “The Sun Rises in the East”, and Nailah Jefferson’s Descended from the Promised Land: The Legacy of Black Wall Street.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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