Splash. Woof. Crunch. Creak. All sounds you might not expect to hear in a university class. In Dr. Rick Cousins’ Cultural Studies course at Trent University Durham GTA, you will hear all that and more, as students explore the use of sound in storytelling.
Students in the Radio and Podcast Workshop (CUST 3139) learn to harness their creativity and push themselves outside their comfort zones to share their thoughts, passions, and ideas in their own radio broadcasts.
In the workshop course, students learn the basics of sound recording, editing, interview skills, concise writing, scheduling, production, and of course, storytelling.
Throughout the term, students submit broadcast pieces including an interview, an ad or public service announcement, a radio theatre piece, and music playlists. By the end of the semester, their projects culminate into a 30-minute radio show to be shared on their big broadcast day.
On broadcast day, students showcase their own personal radio station with a name and theme of their choice.
In one class, Dr. Cousins took the students on a “sound walk,” where they travelled around Trent Durham’s Building A listening for sound effects that the students may want to use in their broadcasts. This included locker slams, drumming on leather couches, speaking into buckets, and more.
Justin Blair, a Media Studies student at Trent Durham, is working on his video game-themed broadcast. Prior to his time at Trent, Justin studied acting, improv, and sketch comedy writing, so this class is a perfect extension of his skills and passion for creativity.
“Rick's a great teacher with a lot of knowledge from working in the industry, so I'm always picking up new things,” he says.
For Trent Durham English Literature student Allison Bunt, the course was her first experience with podcasting.
Thanks to the course, Allison says she’s become more confident connecting with others. “This class has helped me be more comfortable with who I am,” she says. "Dr, Cousins is a professor who clearly cares about his students, who works hard to make sure the content and workshop is engaging and informative, and truly wants us to have fun with radio and podcasts.”
Learning from a pro
Before coming to Trent to earn his Ph.D. and becoming a course instructor in the Cultural Studies department, Dr. Cousins was a freelancer for CBC Radio. There, he produced and performed comedy and variety features for many years. He says his skills for conciseness and sticking to time limits were developed throughout his time at the CBC, and he now teaches those skills to his students.
It was important for Dr. Cousins to make this a workshop course, rather than just a lecture. He says the theory of broadcast media can only take a student so far. He feels it’s imperative for them to experience what it’s like to interview a stranger, or what it’s like to be on air.
Dr. Cousins says his students begin to find their own authentic selves as they construct their audio pieces: “The students start to get a sense of what it’s like to speak as themselves.”