The Audio Engineering Society (AES) has welcomed Leslie Gaston-Bird CAS, MPSE, as president, effective January 1, 2024. Gaston-Bird will serve as the first African-American president in the organisation’s 76-year history.
An AES Fellow, Gaston-Bird currently serves on the AES Board of Directors and has served in the past on the Board of Governors: first as Vice President Western Region & Canada and then as a Governor-at-large. She co-founded the Diversity & Inclusion Committee alongside fellow AES member Piper Payne, and provided valuable expertise as part of the AES Technical Council’s Technical Committee for Broadcast and Online Delivery’s “Guidelines for Over-The-Top Television and Video Streaming.”
Gaston-Bird’s classical piano training, love of math and science, and studies in audio technology led to a broad career in the audio industry, spanning music, radio, post-production sound, and academia. She is the founder and director of Immersive and Inclusive Audio, CIC, which provides training in Avid Pro Tools and Dolby Atmos certification for underrepresented groups, and she performs freelance work as a sound editor and re-recording mixer through her production company, Mix Messiah Productions. Gaston-Bird is the author of Women in Audio (Routledge) and Math Fundamentals for Audio (A-R Editions). She is a Pro Tools | Dolby Professional Avid Certified Instructor and Dante Level 3 Certified audio engineer. She is a member of the Cinema Audio Society (CAS), Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), and a voting member of the Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs).
Gaston-Bird became a tenured professor at the University of Colorado, Denver in 2012 where she also served as Chair of the Music and Entertainment Industry Studies Department. Early in 2024, she will be awarded with a Doctorate from the University of Surrey’s Institute of Sound Recording (IoSR). She is currently a senior lecturer at City, University of London.
“Leslie Gaston-Bird has proven herself through her dedicated work for the Society and her impressive accomplishments in both the audio industry and academia,” says outgoing AES President Bruce Olson. “From the very start of her involvement in AES leadership, her path to the Presidency seemed near inevitable. As a member of the Board of Directors for the past year, she’s lived up to all expectations and I’m delighted to hand over the Presidency of our Society to her capable hands.”
Gaston-Bird’s vision as president includes broadening the AES community, in part by bringing greater visibility to affinity groups focused on supporting underrepresented groups including women, minority, non-gender conforming, and gender-expansive audio engineers.
“These members of our greater audio community are doing a lot of heavy lifting on their own, and I want to continue to grow AES support of their efforts within our wider network,” Gaston-Bird said of the 70-plus affinity groups documented around the world. “It begins with listening to what these groups need and understanding how we can be supportive of the value they bring to our industry. I look forward to connecting with as many as possible. We are all stronger together.”
In her more than 30 years in the industry, Gaston-Bird, who is also fluent in American Sign Language, has seen inclusivity and representation change for the better, calling the “magic of AES” powerful and empowering. She notes that few other communities are as encouraging or helpful for people finding their way in the industry.
“These changes only come about because our members are making it happen,” she noted. “My job as president is to help maintain the day-to-day functioning of the Society, but it’s your job as an AES member to chime in about things you want to see happen and to contribute, build people up, network, share, and be collegial and professional. That’s what we’re asking of our members and that’s how the AES is going to make it another 75 years.”
Gaston-Bird is also enthusiastic about emerging technologies and the lineup of AES events in her presidential year and beyond.
“While the technology is changing and the people who are here are becoming more representative of society as a whole, our basic function is still the same: it’s networking, it’s sharing information, it’s being a resource for our members. That’s solid as a rock, and the AES is going to stay strong for many, many years to come.”