Sporting events are a major facet of college that help shape and mold our unique Penn State experience. The energy of the players, the enthusiasm of the crowd and the entire atmosphere of attending an event is something that we—as Penn State students— have difficulty describing to outsiders. The spirit that is felt during a game is not without the hard work from the behind the scenes people.
Alex Melso is a senior film major and responsible for keeping the crowd energized and engaged at sporting events; in particular, hockey games. “Anytime that you hear music in between sessions, like they blow the whistle and music comes on, music’s playing, lion roars, I’m hyping up the crowd, trying to produce the show properly,” says Melso.
Immersing himself in the sound industry at Penn State his freshman and sophomore year, Melso started by doing radio where he learned that he had a passion for entertaining. Through an internship after his freshman year of college, he met PJ, who works closely with Penn State athletics.
“If he had events and things he taught us how to produce and do stuff like that. And then that grew into him letting us have the chance to do shows and do games,” says Melso.
Producing for hockey games is far more demanding than one would think. Melso talks about the importance of choosing the right audio to reflect the teams performance during a game. He chooses and produces the music, makes warm up and mix tapes for the teams and occasionally is the emcee at games. Picking the music means trying to please thousands of students with thousands of different preferences.
“It’s one of those things that you need to produce the show properly and kind of learn your strengths and weaknesses in regards to what you like and what other people like,” says Melso .“You try and please as many people as you can in regards to giving that authentic PSU atmosphere that we have in our games and that idea of keeping energy moving throughout a whole game.”
“Turn Down for What” has become a quintessential song on the playlist of Penn State sports games. This also happens to be Melso’s favorite song to play to motivate the players and the crowd.
“I remember my first time I ever produced I didn’t know how the volume worked on the board that I was using and I jacked it up a little bit and it just blasted,” admits Melso. “So that was my first moment with PSU athletics, my first foul up. It’s kind of like my signature sound, I guess.”
In addition to being heavily involved with Penn State athletics, Melso helps produce music for events around campus. “I feel like I’m the minute man of state college, where if something needs music for an event, PJ or myself and others who work in the sound industry at Penn State just get right on it. I’m always around playing music.”
This year Melso is working on larger projects such as a yearlong project for his major, which is making a horror film. Next semester, he is taking his talents to Hollywood where he will be interning through the Penn State program.
“There’s this career path called Foley work, which basically there is almost a backline of sounds that needs to be added into film to make it sound authentic,” says Melso. “So there’s people that sit within studios that create these sound effects and add them to the film. It’s really an artistic side along with a technical side that mixes the two together.”
After graduation, Melso is excited to continue producing and making connections within his field. His advice to students who are interested in film and audio is to express interest and to not be afraid to ask questions.
“The alumni connections throughout our programs here are absolutely amazing. That’s the one thing I would say to students— Be curious,” encourages Melso. “Everybody was a student at one point and we have that advantage. I’ve gotten jobs and internships just by saying I’m a Penn State student. That’s the one thing where you can relate and there’s that drive that we have.”
Melso is a prime example of how taking advantage of opportunities, following your passion and making connections here at Penn State can help you get that much closer to your goals. The man behind the music gives more to Penn State students than we even realize. Next time you’re at a hockey game, keep in mind that someone is working hard to keep you and your friends hyped.