Thirty minutes before his interviewee arrives, Dave Schmidt is in the studio.
He’s running through his checklist: adjust the mic stands, plug in both sets of headphones, open the recording software, run through the recording setup. Then he’ll do the standard “check, check” on both microphones while adjusting the gain on each channel to make sure all the levels are good and the equipment is in working order.
The man is meticulous. He doesn’t want to find out something is wrong while the tapes are rolling and a guest is in the middle of a narrative.
He checks and double-checks everything. Partially, because he doesn’t want to waste his guests time. But also, because when he first started this project, he learned first-hand how many different ways a recording can go awry.
When all the variables are finally controlled, he settles down before his mic. In a carefully measured tone he reads, “This is Confluence Radio, the podcast about how we impact and interact with nature. I’m your host Dave Schmidt.”
In the inaugural episode, released February 13th, Schmidt dove into gender biases in the outdoors, specifically dealing with two women’s experiences guiding on Denali.
His guests in that episode included Deb Ajango, whose 30 plus years of experience in outdoor education has led her to summit Denali eight times and Becca Erdman, an APU student who just got her start in mountain guiding. Over the course of the next 24 minutes, Schmidt steers the conversation through the various biases experienced by women (particularly young women) in the outdoor profession, the disparity in the percentage of male and female adventures and guides, and what men can do to help foster equality in the outdoors.
At one point in the podcast, Schmidt says, “When I asked why it’s so important to strive for equality in the outdoors, Deb argued a sentiment that has been argued by many people, many naturalists, over the years: the idea that nature is a proving ground as a venue to test oneself and seek improvements through the challenges that outdoor activities provide.”
Schmidt has found a similar proving ground in the creation of his podcast.
Though outdoor studies are an arena Schmidt had been immersed in well before he made it his major (he was involved in raft guiding for the outdoor recreation program on his base while in the armed forces), podcasting is new field.
Sure, he’d listened to shows like This American Life and Ted Radio Hour and had an interest in music and sound engineering, but crafting his own podcasts wasn’t on his radar.
Serendipitously, Schmidt enrolled in a course on recording techniques at the same time as his senior project proposal. It wasn’t long before he realized the medium he was mastering in one class could elevate his project in another.
In the months that followed, he immersed himself in everything related to podcast methods, microphones, storyboarding and editing.
“It was a steep learning curve,” Schmidt said.
The first episode took Schmidt five weeks to finish. He’s hoping with practice the following three will be quicker.
Those upcoming episodes will deal with the history of environmentalism, the impact of outdoor education on children, and hydropower.
The latter episode will look at the issue of dams from multiple viewpoints, proving that the ethos of the series is in its name.
“A confluence is the point where two or more rivers converge,” Schmidt said. “I chose that name because I liked the imagery of multiple ideas converging into one. I wanted to shoot for the middle ground and bring in all sorts of different ideas and research supporting multiple sides of these issues.”
Schmidt said his first class at Alaska Pacific University dealt with environmental ethics, so capping off his outdoor studies degree with a show that will continue to drive discussion on environmental issues is bringing it all full circle.
Not that he’s planning on stopping the series post-graduation. Though Schmidt, his wife and daughter are moving to Colorado following graduation, he said he has a laundry list of podcasts he’s planning on working on.
“Eventually,” Schmidt said, “I’m hoping it’s something that I can turn into a fulltime job.”
To tune in, head over to confluenceradio.com
Written by Bailey Berg