Grammy-Nominated Country Star Sturgill Simpson takes SAE Nashville Graduate on the Road this Summer

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Since late January of this year, Dalton VanVolkenburgh, a December ‘14 Valedictorian graduate of SAE Nashville’s Audio Technology Program, has been touring the world as the monitor engineer for Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and popular Atlantic Records recording artist Sturgill Simpson.

Dalton VanVolkenburgh, a December ‘14 Valedictorian graduate of SAE Nashville’s Audio Technology Program, is the monitor engineer for Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson.

Because my instructors taught me how to think like a problem solver and use my knowledge to fix any challenges that come up, my SAE experience absolutely prepared me for my current job with Sturgill.

Since late January of this year, Dalton VanVolkenburgh, a December ‘14 Valedictorian graduate of SAE Nashville’s Audio Technology Program, has been touring the world as the monitor engineer for Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and popular Atlantic Records recording artist Sturgill Simpson.

“On the last Monday of January, I heard that Sturgill needed an engineer, and that if I wanted the gig, the tour bus would be leaving that Friday,” says VanVolkenburgh. “I studied the mixing console and his music all week, packed my bags, hopped on the bus on Friday, and I’ve been on the road with him ever since.”

VanVolkenburgh’s work with Simpson has brought him to some of America’s premier music festivals, including Coachella, Stagecoach (the country festival that was headlined this year by Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, and Tim McGraw), and the upcoming Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

While his official title is Simpson’s monitor engineer, his actual duties far exceed his job description. “I handle gear load in, instrument and systems tech, stage set-up and running of the cabling, placing and setting up of the microphones, and configuring of my mixing console and equipment rack,” says VanVolkenburgh. “I coordinate all of my frequencies before soundcheck, tweak the mix during soundcheck, and take care of any last minute trouble-shooting to make sure that everything’s comfortable for the talent on stage.”

A native of Indianapolis, VanVolkenburgh developed a passion for music at age 12, when he learned to play the drums. His talents were nurtured and supported by his father and stepfather, both of whom were professional musicians. After graduating from Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School in 2011, he enrolled at Ball State University in Muncie, IN and earned an Associate Degree in Business Administration in 2013. Realizing that a creative career in the music business was his true calling, he compared different audio engineering programs and selected SAE.

“I chose SAE Nashville over all the other engineering schools because it seemed to be the most straightforward, no nonsense choice,” says VanVolkenburgh. “I liked the fact that SAE’s Audio Technology Program was rigorous and that it concentrated a lot of curriculum into a short time frame. Because I was taught how to think like a problem solver and use my knowledge to fix any challenges that come up, my SAE experience absolutely prepared me for my current job.”

When asked what advice he has for SAE students and grads who’d like to pursue careers in live sound, VanVolkenburgh offers three simple recommendations.

“Be humble, listen more than you speak, and always be the person who works the hardest,” says Van Volkenburgh. “The artists, road managers, and engineers will always want the guy on their team who’s the most dedicated and has the best attitude.”

About SAE
SAE Institute provides aspiring creative media professionals with a foundation of practical theory and valuable hands-on training in their chosen areas of concentration. Under the guidance of our faculty, which is comprised of working industry professionals, students gain the essential experience they need for entry-level jobs in the entertainment business. Our students are supported in their job searches by SAE’s international network of alumni, many of whom are leaders in the music, film, game arts, and live performance arenas. We offer programs in audio technology across our seven US campuses, along with a music business program at select locations, all fully accredited and focused on preparing students for employment when they graduate. Bachelor’s Degree programs in Animation, Audio, Film, Game Art & Graphic Design are available at the two locations of Ex’pression College, which is owned and operated by SAE Institute Group, Inc. SAE Institute Group, Inc. is a part of Navitas LTD. Learn more at USA.sae.edu.

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Jeffrey Baker
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