Nicolai Jacobsen

Audio Production

The Art Institute of Houston


Critical thinking is the most important thing, period. Nicolai Jacobsen , Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston

Academic Credentials

D.Mus., Music, Rice University
M.Mus., Music Composition, University of Missouri - Kansas City
B.Mus., Music Composition, University of Missouri - Kansas City

Live Sound Engineer and Composer-in-Residence, Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program. Member of the Society of Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States and American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). Dr. Jacobsen's original compositions have been performed throughout the United States and Europe by members of eighth blackbird, New York New Music, the ensō Quartet, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and The Fourth Wall ensemble. He has won several composition contests, most recently the 2010 Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition (for Skitter). Other commissions include works for The Fourth Wall ensemble, pianist Andrew Staupe, violinist SoJin Kim, cellist Lachezar Kostov, and Da Camera of Houston.

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I grew up surrounded by musicians, so it felt natural for me to pursue a career in music.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I constantly reference my outside experience in the classroom. Anecdotes about how the things I’m teaching helped me out in a professional situation are great learning tools. They show students that what happens in the classroom actually relates to the real world.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring—and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

In my Audio Technology I class, I put students in pairs, give them a bunch of equipment they’ve never used before, and have them set it up within a short period of time. It forces them to use problem-solving skills based on what they’ve learned. It’s a real-world situation that they’ll be confronted with on a regular basis as professionals, so the practical gives them a sense of the industry they’re about to enter.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Collaboration among students in different departments is key to their future success. Audio is connected to many of the Media Arts departments—imagine a movie or video game without sound. Many job opportunities in the real world require a background in multiple disciplines, so working with peers from other programs is a valuable experience.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Critical thinking is the most important thing, period. You need to be able to make a whole picture out of the small pieces you’ve been given, and see how all the seemingly disparate elements are interconnected.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Charge what you’re worth. Too many students start doing work for free, and that snowballs into the expectation of always doing work for free. While they may love what they do, earning a living is important, and “recognition” is not accepted by bill collectors.