Colville tribal member Noa Pakootas in his Spokane studio.

SPOKANE - Colville Tribal member Noa Pakootas was studying music education at Spokane Falls Community College when he met Devonte “T.S. The Solution” Pearson at Guitar Center one day. 

Pearson was a friend of Pakootas’ uncle, James G. Pakootas, and Noa asked him where he had gained his knowledge of music - specifically hiphop. 

Pearson pointed the young tribal member to the SFCC Audio Engineering Program, and Pakootas jumped at the opportunity. Now, Pakootas has one quarter remaining before he finishes with an Associates of Applied Science in audio engineering from SFCC.

“Overall at the program my time has been good,” said Pakootas. “The instructors are very knowledgeable but due to COVID-19 I only had one-third of my classes on campus and the rest online. Due to these circumstances there was a lot of pressure to teach myself principles of audio engineering with more-so guidance from the instructors.  For instance each quarter they create videos covering topics but a lot of the work was just memorizing concepts of mixing/mastering with not much hands on work outside of Pamela Meyers’ live classes. There have been weeks where all of the mixing I do and studio experience I gain is at home recording and mixing music we make or specific songs the instructors give to us to teach us new concepts.”

Pearson has remained Pakootas’ mentor in and out of the program, helping the younger sound engineer grasping new concepts delivered through the program and assisting with different projects.

One of those projects included  “Horizons,” a single released by James “Just Jamez” Pakootas on Youtube, March 22.

Both Noa Pakootas and DCM Collective received credits on the piece for producing the track and engineering.

Since 2006, the SFCC campus has graduated hundreds of audio engineering students, all of them proving a mastery of recording, editing and mixing music, says Steve Gamberoni, an audio engineering instructor. Many of those have transferred to universities for more education; others have transitioned into the field post-graduation.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics employment predictions, jobs for sound engineering technicians will increase by about 9 percent, about as fast as average for all occupations, from 2012-2022.

Potential positions include: studio recording/mix engineer, editor, live sound engineer, AV technician, Foley mixer, MIDI programmer and more.

Gamberoni says income can vary within the industry, with starting hourly wages ranging from $10 to $22, while successful audio engineers and producers can earn well over $100,000 a year.

“If it’s something you like to do, here’s a way to get paid to do it,” Gamberoni said. “This has been pretty consistently popular.”

What’s more, the Falls has a matriculation agreement with Eastern Washington University. Students who get at two-year degree can transfer into the Bachelor of Arts program in music technology and entrepreneurship.

For many students, that’s a logical and likely next step. 

Pakootas however plans to continue to produce music and establish a small studio in Spokane.

“For now my plans after the program are to continue to run the studio we had set up in our basement, now that James moved me and my younger brother took over on our lease and are building the studio back up with help and equipment from T.S.!” said Pakootas. “We have plans to drop another album for my younger brother Moses ‘Kootas’ Pakootas and will be running studio sessions out here to try and make a central location for hip hop in Spokane under the guidance of T.S.! Overall though I just want to be successful and fulfilled with everything I am apart of and create right now and prior to graduating from the program!”

NOTE: Information in this article came from an article written by Jonathon Glover, titled, “Spokane Falls Community College’s audio engineering program - brining sound, music and passion to the Spokane area for 15 years.”

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