Sonoma Valley High unveils podcasting studio in media arts lab

Last month, teacher Peter Hansen named a brand new broadcast studio inside the media arts building at Sonoma Valley High School. The students of its advanced classes are the luckiest, as they can participate in the wave of the future here and now. They learn how to produce live podcasts.

Podcasts are causing a stir – with 67 million Americans listening to a podcast at least once a month. 112 million Americans have listened to a podcast at least once, a figure up 11% from last year.

During a recent visit to SVHS studios, four students were producing a podcast. They were seated at a large table and in front of them were four microphones mounted on matte black boom stands. Each student wore professional grade headphones. In the background was a mixer and a $ 15,000 “magic box” containing audio processors and compressors. The students spoke enthusiastically about the recent Homecoming festivities. Visitors were able to listen with similar headphones.

Interested listeners can listen to the podcasts by visiting the program’s website,

Hansen divides his students in his advanced class into teams to tackle various projects. The members of the team divide the different roles necessary for the production of podcasts or films: presenters, writers and engineers. The team will swap roles for the next project.

Another recent podcast, led by Andrew Powers, was on politics. All the subjects are chosen and decided by the student teams. The topics may vary depending on the news of the day. Team members produce the podcast by manipulating the dials, knobs, and knobs.

Hansen has put together a first-class media arts program at Sonoma High. Rita Amador, a 2013 SVHS graduate, said it was through Hansen’s media arts program that she first saw the potential of becoming a filmmaker in herself.

“Finding each other, isn’t that what we’re here for?” Hansen said of his role as a teacher.

Amador graduated in 2017 from New York University with a degree in film and television production. She is now successfully employed in the film industry. His appreciation for Hansen’s program has been echoed by dozens of SVHS graduates.

A full-time media arts teacher, Hansen has around 170 students on his roster. About 75 percent of students are enrolled in entry-level classes and are involved in writing stories and directing films. The rest are advanced students using all the tools provided by Hansen.

Sixteen years ago he started his first film course at SVHS, studying all aspects of filmmaking and producing short films. From the start, the students were enthusiastic about the program. He uses a transversal approach to his teaching, encouraging students to integrate various academic subjects into their filmmaking. The students made short films on arithmetic, history and science. (

The school district has not been able to offer general financial assistance for equipment and operating expenses, thanks to the program received grants for vocational technical education, most recently including $ 7,000 for some equipment upgrades.

Hansen says schools with such an extensive media study course are rare. “Most public schools can’t afford it,” he said.

Commenting on developing his program, he said, “It was a leap of faith and a lot of hard work. I knew the community would support him, ‘

Hansen has developed a relationship with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and has provided welcome financial support.

The main financial angel of the media arts program has been the Sonoma International Film Festival. Hansen estimates that he has donated “$ 600,000 or more since its inception in 2002.”

Kevin McNeely, executive director of the Sonoma International Film Festival, is quick to praise Hansen and the SVHS media program. He has overseen fundraising efforts and donations to the program for the past several years.

In addition, SIFF offers scholarships to graduates entering film programs at the university. They can range from $ 500 to $ 2,500, depending on the need.

McNeely said: “Peter provides excellent training from A to Z on film production on a daily basis. With the new podcast studio, Peter exposed his students to a new and growing storytelling medium. ‘

As McNeely says, “kids learn a trade that can be used later in life.”

George Stewart, 18, is a senior at SVHS, and in his fourth year in the media program. As a freshman his main focus was on making films, but he has since turned to making graphics or pre-produced media.

“Every day I love going to my media class,” said Stewart. “It’s an escape from reality and gives me time to be creative. That’s why I took the course every four years.

Senior Siobhan Hernandez is also part of Hansen’s Advanced Class. She especially enjoyed her courses in advertising and product design.

“I really enjoyed the process of designing a logo and bringing the idea to life,” she said. “The project really opened my eyes to media and logo design, and now I want to pursue a career in this field. “

As Hansen says: Isn’t that what we’re here for, to help them find each other? May the magic continue.

Previous New Emerging Media Arts Degree to Prepare Students for Changing Industries | Culture
Next Gehlot Launches Media School website for Dalits and Tribal Youth