Craig at the theatre

As the sound director for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, Craig Breitenbach found himself taking an unplanned break from work in 2020. But rather than take up a new COVID hobby, he wanted to do something productive with his downtime from work. “With all of the theatre closures over the past year, I realized that I had the time to take some classes in August.”

He decided to enroll in computer-aided drafting and design (CAD) classes at FRCC last fall. “Because of the online-remote program, I was able to complete most of these courses at the Larimer Campus [in Fort Collins] even though I live within five minutes of the Westminster Campus.”

Learning New Skills Online

A potential career move is what motivated Craig to sharpen his design-related skills. Early in the summer, he had gotten a job interview with a company that designs the type of theatres he currently works in as a sound designer. The interview revealed that he needed more expertise in design softwares—like AutoCAD and Revit—to be competitive for this type of job.

So he signed up for classes at two different FRCC campuses, which was convenient because the courses were all being offered online. Craig says he’s had a wonderful experience with virtual classes. “My first couple of classes were incredibly well organized. I was able to work through each week—and once I had every box checked, it was easy to see that I had completed the requirements.”

Bringing Together Inter-Related Interests

As a working professional, Craig caught the attention of his professors with his final project in the fall. He used the 3-D design software Sketchup to create a model of a theatre—and all of the sets and lighting to fit the stage. “It was really exciting to see someone so adeptly crossing between theater and CAD,” says faculty member Chris Yates.

“I have a 20-year career doing sound design for theatre, and hopefully will be better at it after this experience,” adds Craig. “I look forward to the possibility of moving up to the next step, and designing the infrastructure I use on a daily basis, instead of just using it.”

Career Advancement

“I find these classes to be very useful to my current—and future—careers,” Craig says. “As a theatrical sound designer, for me, the most useful information shared in theatrical design is technical drawings created in CAD software.”

“In my current position, I see my new CAD skills being useful in creating drawings that conform to industry standards and look more professional. I now have training on more of the tools available in the software that should allow me to create documents more efficiently.”

The new CAD skills also open up a possible future career path for Craig in designing audio/visual systems. “The people in this field work closely with architects and other mechanical, electrical and plumbing trades to design rooms with a specific function. These rooms can be anything from an opera house to a movie theater or a conference room.”

Next Step: Industry Certifications

Craig has an earlier bachelor’s degree in communication from Western State College (now Western Colorado University). During the fall semester at FRCC, he completed a certificate in computer-aided drafting and design—and plans to complete another certification in Revit software this summer or fall. Craig continues to take classes this spring semester, and says he may also eventually complete a certificate in Sketchup software.

“I believe that being able to list these software programs on my résumé with a note that says ‘certified’ tells an employer that I have a complete base knowledge of the software, and that I should be capable of ‘hitting the ground running.’”  Craig adds that the programs being accredited helps, too.

“I have found my break from life due to COVID to be a good thing. It has given me the opportunity to explore other opportunities. The CAD classes are relevant to my current career—as well as new career paths I have started looking into. My goal of this unplanned downtime is to certify that I know how to use industry software on top of the experience I have in the field.”

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