Women’s Month Series
We are featuring some incredible women this month that are transforming the world of audio and tech!
With decades of experience, Michelle has blazed a trail for herself in a male-dominated industry, earning her a place among the most notable engineers.
-Exceptional not only for her talent but also for her commitment to helping others succeed.
Michelle began her career in the late 80s when very few women worked in the industry. Soon after, she mixed FOH for the Spin Doctors. Since then, Michelle has toured with some of the biggest names in music, including Styx, Gwen Stefani, Melissa Etheridge, Mr. Big, Ke$ha, Jewel, Collective Soul, Thievery Corporation, Christina Aguilera, Elvis Costello, and more!
In 2013, Michelle co-founded SoundGirls to support and empower women working in professional audio and create a supportive community through resources like mentoring programs. Soon after, she was inducted into Full Sail University’s Hall of Fame and is a mentor and coach for students interested in Music Production and Live Sound.
Michelle also operates an online video course called Mixing Music Live, where she guides aspiring sound engineers, musicians, and producers to achieve their dreams of working in audio.
Michelle is a powerhouse. Through her 30-year career, she has made a name for herself and paved the way for other women. It is a pleasure to feature her!
Q+A with Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
FOH Engineer for Elvis Costello, Co-Founder of SoundGirls, Creator/Owner of Mixing Music Live
Q.What achievement are you most proud of?
A. Soundgirls.org When we launched the organization in 2013, I don’t think we had any idea how fast it would grow and how receptive the industry would be. I am always grateful for the support and the community that has been built around it. To know it has made a positive difference in so many women’s lives is incredibly moving to me.
Q. What lesson can you share from your experiences that is unique to being a woman?
A. Learn how to stand in your own power. We teach people how to treat us. When we allow unacceptable behavior, we allow others to take our power. When we stand in our power and demand respect we are treated with respect.
When you show up and do your job professionally, carry yourself with confidence and authority, most of the time you will be treated respectively.
Sometimes you’ll be faced with someone who can’t see past their limited ideas so you just have to focus on doing your job and don’t let the noise in. Remember if they have a problem with you being a woman, that is their problem not yours.
Q. You are undoubtedly busy, how do you take care of yourself and maintain a good mental health?
A. I’ve been really trying to adopt a healthier and more sane lifestyle. I’m someone who has always been going at life at 110mph, constantly juggling as many projects as I can. Years of that has taken its toll and my new approach is to play more. I am working very hard to remove being ‘crazy busy’ or ‘my schedule is slammed’ from my vocabulary. I never want to be crazy busy again so I consciously choose where and how I will spend my time. I’ve recently realized how insane that is, that we pride ourselves on how busy we are and how little we sleep so my current goal is to work less and sleep more! I also have a regular yoga and meditation practice, I try and practice clean eating as much as I can (incredibly hard on tour) and get out into nature whenever possible.
Q. If you could have one superpower, what would you like it to be?
A. The ability to time travel
Q: What helped you navigate your way through a male-dominated industry?
A. Having confidence in myself and my abilities, and a thick skin. Also building a strong support network of my male peers. As a touring sound engineer I am living on a tour bus and working side by side with men all the time. If I wasn’t comfortable working with men and couldn’t hold my own, I would never have gotten very far. Unfortunately, some 30+ years later it is still a very male dominated industry, so you need to be comfortable with that and to be able handle yourself in a professional manner. I’ve had a very positive experience and enjoyed great support from my male colleagues but I know many woman who have had it much different. Finding your tribe, your support network is a huge help and now there are so many organizations where women can connect and support each other in the music industry.
Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?
A. Learn how to listen. When someone is trying to pass on their experience and wisdom to you, listen with a quiet mind and take a moment to take it in and ask questions. All too often we are trying to impress others with how much we think we know and we interrupt saying ‘I get it, I know, yeah, yeah I agree, etc.’ We all do it. We are all guilty of the need to tell our ‘teachers’ what we think we already know. But when we do that, we end up deflecting instead of absorbing deeper knowledge. It shuts down the conversation and there is nowhere to go from there. Whereas if we can let go of what we think we know, we can learn so much more on a deeper level.
Q. Do you have any advice for women in the music industry just starting out?
A. Build a strong support network. There are numerous organizations for women in music and they are a great place to start. You also need to make friends with your male colleagues and learn who you can trust and who will have your back if you need support. Take some self defense training. You may never be in a situation where you need to use it, and hopefully never will be, but it’s incredibly empowering to know that you have the ability to defend yourself if you need to. There are courses that are women only and specific to real life situations. Also, if anyone ever tells you that you can’t do something because you are a woman, don’t get mad, just show them how wrong they are.
Q. What are you working on now…anything exciting you want to share? 🙂
A. I am still a touring FOH Engineer and currently working for Elvis Costello. Along with that, in 2019 I created and launched MixingMusicLive.com where I teach live sound and mixing via online video courses. I am also working on a few initiatives to better support women who are getting started in audio and live production.
Next: share a playlist! 👯♀️