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Where Sound Echoes Scene

Dan Perelstein ’10 translates visual to aural in city theaters

An honors double major in music and engineering at Swarthmore, New York City native Dan Perelstein aspired to be an acoustician. But after a theater course in his first semester, he was inspired by the Philadelphia theater scene.

 More theater classes as a sophomore led Perelstein to Nick Kourtides in the Lang Performing Arts Center office, who designed sound for student performances.

“Nick asked me to help him hang some speakers and paid me for it,” Perelstein says. “It turned out that Nick was one of the most prominent sound designers in Philadelphia. I worked with him whenever possible.”

Learning from Kourtides, Perelstein found himself in demand as a sound designer and later as a composer.

 “In my last two or three years at Swarthmore, I designed pretty much everything. And because the department often brought in guest artists from the city, I made lots of connections.”

The city’s Wilma Theater became a home for many of Perelstein’s most creative works. 

“The design and sound come from the script, picking up where the spoken word leaves off,” he says. 

To help him translate the visual elements of a work into sound, Perelstein obtained a $10,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. 

He immersed himself in the study of art and learned a lot. 

“Now, I engage with my visual collaborators in a completely different way—and I make art as a hobby,” he says. Whatever a play or musical might need in terms of sound or music, I’ve done it.” 

Perelstein is a 13-time nominee and two-time recipient of the coveted Barrymore Award. 

“People want to know why I got into sound design. It’s just what I do best. It’s a calling,” he says.

And for the coming academic year, Washington College has called him for the second time to teach a sound design course.