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Penn State Theatre sophomore wins Pat MacKay Diversity in Design Scholarship

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Sydney Smith

Penn State School of Theatre sophomore Sydney Smith was one of six winners of the inaugural Pat MacKay Diversity in Design Scholarship awarded by Live Design International. 

A well-rounded artist, Smith is pursuing a theatre degree with a concentration in design and technology (emphasis in sound design) and a minor in music technology. He said he believes art should be entertaining and able to tell a thought-provoking story. 

Starting out his musical endeavors by mixing tracks for church services, Smith did not gain interest in his intended major until his senior year of high school. He said his teachers encouraged him to see what else sound could do. 

“My [high school] teachers told me applying for this prestigious award would be great publicity for me—not only from the Penn State community, but the theatre community as well,” said Smith. 

Penn State and its enormous alumni network enticed Smith to become a Nittany Lion. His future career goal is to one day work in film, theatre and game design as a sound designer or composer. His dream profession would be to work alongside like-minded artists on Broadway, where he would be able to spread a positive message through his work. 

Smith has been a part of multiple productions at Penn State, but his favorite so far is “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies,”a story about two African American teenagers from completely different backgrounds. 

“As an African American, it’s really important that I can show my side, my African American life,  through sound,” said Smith. “An example of this is shown through ‘Hooded,’ as it was a play involving many black characters and emphasized music from black artists.” 

Smith said Penn State creates a refreshing and exciting environment for him to learn, with his professors urging him to read in between the lines of sound and design. 

Although he is only a sophomore, Smith has big plans for the future. He hopes to encourage other high school students who have a passion for sound technology and theatre to pursue their dreams. 

“You’re going to put in what you get out,” said Smith. “If you want to go into the theatre world, make sure you’re not trying to do everything. Pick something that you want to focus on—that you really love—like I focused on sound.”