Sound Slayer

They say that music makes the world go round. And that’s true for Isabella Ness, BYR ’16, especially if the world you’re referring to exists inside of a video game. 

Photo credit: Julia Robinson

Scoring her dream job

The former music composition major is currently working as a senior sound designer and producer for Team Audio in Austin, Texas. On the production side, she makes sure that the sounds produced integrate well with the tone of the video games and the uniqueness of each designer. As a designer, she creates sounds for creatures and environments, and edits and mixes voiceovers.

“Voices add heart to a game,” she explained. “The writing won’t be half as impactful without the real human emotion spoken into the script, and being able to help bring that element into the gameplay is one of my favorite parts of the job.”

Isabella at a Glance

Orchestrating her future

Ness first realized she wanted to pursue a career in music while attending Thomas Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia, where her music teachers encouraged her to write and perform music. Studying at Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance added knowledge about recording, synthesis and sound waves to her repertoire.

Under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Adam Vidiksis, BYR ’13, Ness began to explore the idea of intermixing traditional music with digital sound techniques. She also had the opportunity to work as Vidiksis’s sound assistant for local theater productions. “For some rehearsals, I had the chance to substitute for him and run the sound engineering.”  

Maurice Wright, professor and chair of composition and jazz studies, introduced Ness to computer music and showed her that music is much more complex than beats and melodies. 

Wright was also passionate about making Boyer’s program in composition—a field dominated by white males—more culturally inclusive and diverse. 

“He spent a lot of time making sure that women and underrepresented identities in the department felt welcome and included,” said Ness. “That made me feel much more secure and able to explore.”

In addition to instilling in her the idea that she could pioneer new ways to make music, Ness’s four years at Boyer taught her how to work effectively as part of a team and gave her the confidence she needed to envision a career past a diploma.

Game master moment

In 2018, in an exciting twist of fate, Ness led the sound team for an installment of Spyro Reignited Trilogy, part of the Spyro video game series she had played as a child. Seeing her name on the side of that box was a moment that a young Ness, who spent countless hours playing RPG (role playing games), could never have imagined. But it’s one of her proudest to date. 

“I am very lucky that I get to play for a living.”

By Sujeiry Gonzalez and Lauri Kochis