Booker W. Edwards, Jr.
The Art Institute of Atlanta
If it's not challenging you, it's not changing you. Embrace the challenge and you'll be changed for the better. Booker W. Edwards Jr. , Lead Faculty , The Art Institute of Atlanta
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I grew up in the 70’s listening to R&B and funk music. I fell in love with music and sound, and I was fascinated by how it made me feel. I named my first dog Jungle Boogie after the Kool & The Gang song, and by age five I knew I’d have a career in music.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
It's very organic, because I can relate so much to many of the paths that our students have taken to get here. I see their desire to take what they love and make a living at it. I pull directly from my experiences so they can learn from my mistakes. Many students come in with career blinders on...they think music is all there is to audio when there’s so much more. I was like them until I found a mentor who opened my eyes to the opportunities, and I try to do the same for my students including being honest, sharing accomplishments, failures, and challenges, and teaching them to take responsibility for their own success. I want my students to leave here with a realistic view of the industry—hard deadlines, rigorous and challenging projects, honest constructive critiques, and reward for a job well done.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
I present projects in the context of contract work with a client. Students receive a letter from a client detailing what they want, when they need it, and how it's to be delivered. Students execute and deliver the project. Of course, I’m actually the “client.” The pay is their grade—if the work is good, the grade reflects that; if not, there’s specific feedback from the client. It’s all about practicing for a career, not just trying for a grade in class.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
In the real world, audio engineers work with artists and producers, sound designers collaborate with film and TV directors, and so on. Our campus is a microcosm of the media/entertainment industry. Audio, Digital Film, Animation, Game Design, they all have an audio aspect. We’ve created a special topics class that puts Animation, Video, and Audio students together on a project encompassing all three disciplines. If our students learn to collaborate here, they’ll be ahead of the game when they get out there.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
If it's not challenging you, it's not changing you. Embrace the challenge and you’ll be changed for the better.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Don’t be afraid to succeed. But success means more than just believing. It means putting in the work.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love sharing my experiences with the next generation of professionals. When a former student comes back to campus and says, "Thank you for helping me," or tells me I had some impact on their life, the feeling is truly priceless.