Many students shuffle into lecture halls and assemble their notes in silence. But those lucky enough to attend lectures when Pete Brown is the projectionist may enter class to blaring tunes.
“I bring music here just to get a response,” Brown said.
The pre-lecture playlist is random; he doesn’t decide what he will play for his classes ahead of time, he said.
Brown said he tests the music on students before playing it on his weekly WEMU radio show.
Brown has worked at the University since September 1999 and was hired to work full-time in May 2001. He saw an ad in the paper and applied for the job after spending time making deliveries to the University while working for Thelner Electronic Labs.
Projectionists typically control the projections for five to six lectures each day, he said.
Most film classes – and one history class in which the professor uses many film clips – are especially challenging to run, he said.
For most of the professors, Brown sets up the equipment at the beginning of the lecture. Once the lecturers are prepared, Brown’s job consists of playing sporadic video clips and adjusting the lecturers’ microphone volume.
“A few professors like to set up for themselves,” he said. “I’ll just trouble-shoot for them.”
Sometimes the job requires a little bit more. One of Brown’s professors is blind. In the classroom setting, the professor asks Brown to be the eyes in the classroom.
“He asks me where they’re sitting, if they’re in the back,” Brown said. “I feel like I’m snitching on the class.”
For one instructor, Brown has to do almost nothing. This professor uses only two projectors, no slides and doesn’t put lecture notes online.
“I like his teaching style,” he said. “I guess that takes more concentration. You have to pay attention. You have to come to class.”
But Brown said his true passion lies in radio broadcasting. For the last three years, he has hosted a show titled “New Boogaloo Review” on WEMU that airs Friday evenings from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Brown, an Ann Arbor native, said he has listened to the station for years.
Before hosting at WEMU, Brown worked at the radio stations Lansing Power 96.5 and WGPR Detroit.
“Tune in,” Brown said. “I need all the listeners I can get.”