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Facebook Dream Job Landed By Emily Pitts ‘18

Technology and Applied Composition alum heard her calling in sound design

March 4, 2020 by KBacellar

By Karen Meurer Bacellar

When people would ask Emily Pitts (PSD, ‘18) about her dream job, she used to say: “It would be so cool to write music for film and games.”

After graduating from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Pitts worked as a software engineer at companies like Vistaprint and Nest. But she felt this nagging desire to pursue composition. In 2015, she began taking composition lessons with SFCM alum Devin Farney (MM ‘09), who encouraged her to apply to the conservatory’s then new Technology and Applied Composition Program (TAC).

She got accepted and soon discovered an entirely new career at the intersection of software and audio.

“[Before SFCM] I always thought of writing music for linear media,” recalls Pitts.

Things changed when she took composition classes—including one where she learned about the workflow of a professional composer through a partnership with Sony—and more specifically a game audio class where she learned how to implement sound effects and music for dynamic and interactive games.

“That’s where my software background made a lot of sense,” discusses Pitts. “I was able to figure out how everything would actually fit into the code that was being written for the game. Then, I could work backwards and say, ‘This is the way we need to make the sound, or we need to perfectly loop it in this way,’ because I know how things are going to be implemented [in the code.]”

Pitts’ software and burgeoning audio composition skills caught the attention of Dren McDonald, a sound designer at Facebook, who also taught at SFCM at the time. He connected Pitts with another team at Facebook and she came on as an Audio QA Engineer, helping the audio engineering team test some of their software.

She stayed in touch with Dren and eventually jumped over to his sound design team, where she now works on audio for AR (Augmented Reality) camera effects in Instagram Messenger and Messenger Kids, including a lot of effects that are bite-sized games.

Thanks to her background in software and the producing skills she learned at SFCM, Pitts says she is “uniquely positioned on the team to be able to create sound and music and implement the code for the effect.”

“It’s pretty cool [when they say], ‘here’s a game, put audio on it,’ and I’m able to do that front to back,” says Pitts.

She is also excited for how her current role could evolve with the future of AR: “As AR continues to develop our team is going to go beyond games into working on how audio and AR can improve our lives and the way we connect with others.”

Reflecting on her time at SFCM, Pitts is thankful that the faculty “advocated for students with different backgrounds and skills sets and connected them to opportunities and people” that could help their careers.

For a career on the edge of art and tech, learn more about the TAC program.