Strehle, second from left, with his voice cast in the recording studio. SHADRACH STREHLE | COURTESY

A recent graduate from Hillsdale brought home an award from College Broad­casters, Inc. this month.

Shadrach Strehle ’19 took third place in CBI’s Best Special Broad­casts (Audio) cat­egory for his 10-minute radio drama episode titled “Patmos, Wis­consin.” Strehle’s work — one of four finalists nom­i­nated earlier this year — focuses on a cop in the small town of Patmos, Wis­consin, a fic­tional location created by Strehle. 

“It was a final project for the advanced radio pro­duction class. We were tasked with putting together a radio project drama,” Strehle said. “I thought about a couple dif­ferent horror things, like things hap­pening below the surface. If you’re driving through a country road and you see a barn, you have no idea what’s going on. Or in New York City, if you see a ware­house, what’s going on inside? The sense of paranoia and worry was what I was going for.”

The pilot episode, which Strehle created for a class in his last semester at the college, follows the officer and his partner as they are called to a crime scene where a woman from Cal­i­fornia has been “rit­u­al­is­ti­cally scarred,” Strehle said. The rest of the plot posits ques­tions to the mystery of how she came to be in Wis­consin and what hap­pened to her. Strehle said the simple story of the episode was meant to emphasize, more than any­thing, the audio pro­duction.

Strehle said he exper­i­mented with dif­ferent audio tech­niques, espe­cially sound­scapes, a col­lection of sounds that creates an envi­ronment and setting for the lis­tener.

“I’m a huge fan of sound­scapes, espe­cially ones that illicit really strong horror ele­ments. I don’t like watching it, but I like making it,” Strehle said. 

In one scene that Strehle calls “the dream sequence,” the main officer wakes up in the middle of a forest. In this, Strehle tried to replicate the idea of doing the same thing over and over again, while getting the sense of “being closed in on.”

“Espe­cially for the dream sequence, I used very minimal and basic envi­ron­mental sounds. That starts to grow more and more; there’s drum beats, chants, stuff like that. It gives it a suf­fo­cating feeling, a sense of urgency.”

Strehle also used direc­tional sound in the drama. For this, he says he blocked out the scene in his mind to get a sense of the char­acters’ spatial action.

Scot Bertram, general manager of the radio station, said that the advanced radio pro­duction class chal­lenged stu­dents to use the full scope of audio. Strehle achieved this with the 10-minute piece, he said.

“He did some pretty neat things with panning,” Bertram said. “He had tire sounds moving from left to right in the channels — things like that. We talked a lot in class about space and dis­tance, making things get further away and sound closer.”

Bertram added that for Strehle’s piece to place in a national com­pe­tition is impressive for a radio program that’s rel­a­tively young, as the station is in its fourth year of oper­ation. For example, he noted that the Uni­versity of Oklahoma placed in the same cat­egory as Strehle, though they are a much larger school.

“Those awards are not easy because there’s a lot of com­pe­tition,” Bertram said. “The other hurdle is you never quite know what the judges are looking for. It’s dif­ficult to cal­culate what might be best. But we just want to present what we think is the best stuff we did throughout the year.”

Strehle’s piece, Bertram added, was well-exe­cuted and included solid vocal per­for­mances, so he decided to submit it for CBI’s con­sid­er­ation.

Bertram said he is proud to see how stu­dents grow in their pro­duction skills, some­thing which is reflected in the awards the station con­tinues to win.

“I’m proud of the work that’s been done and the com­mitment the stu­dents have shown to ending up with really high-quality products,” Bertram said. “The goal is to con­tinue and win more and get other stu­dents rec­og­nized. Some­times with radio, you don’t know who’s out there lis­tening. You can get feedback from lis­teners, or you can get recog­nition through awards. That’s how you know people are lis­tening.”