Valley Lives - Mark Valcour

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 14, 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Our radio guy; sound tech leaves behind silence

by Anastasia Philopoulos

It was all about the "spikeys" - Mark Valcour's name for the peaks in a sound file that edged on too loud. The veteran sound engineer had a few funny terms and sayings that stuck with the students he taught: knobbies, slider fades, there's no such thing as noise only sound, sound is best served long, and don't forget the ambiance (but it was the way he would say ambiance).

Award Images
Mark Valcour was a sound technician and instructor with Carleton University's Journalism school for 28 years. His high standards have inspired a generation of radio journalists. Photo courtesy Mary McGuire.

Valcour taught thousands of students at both Carleton University's School of Journalism and Algonquin College, passing on his incredibly high standards for sound in radio production to a whole generation of journalists. Having sat in his classroom for two years as a radio kid, I saw first-hand how generous he was with his knowledge and his overwhelming dedication to students. For those who fell in love with radio during their studies, Valcour was an important mentor and guide along the slopes of soundwaves.

"I think everybody is heartbroken. I felt shattered by the news," said Carleton University journalism radio instructor Mary McGuire. Valcour, 60, died suddenly in his Cantley home and was found on Jan. 7.

McGuire and Valcour taught side-by-side for 25 years. McGuire would guide students through the writing and reporting process for radio while Valcour took on the audio and technical aspects.

"I went ahead and introduced him to my class this semester anyway," McGuire said. "You do those kinds of things, in the moment of receiving the news."

Along with his precise and particular approach to sound, Valcour was also a bit of quirky collector, with at least part of his home in Cantley dedicated to his massive Lego collection, not to mention the stuffed animals that graced his office at work. "There's one great big stuffed animal in the studio now, set up like it's adjusting the sound board," McGuire said with a smile. "It's just so charming that a man his age could have those hobbies."

Valcour hosted his own weekly radio show on CKCU, and ran his own company doing sound tech for bands, regularly coming into class with stories of musicians and gigs at one of his favourite haunts, the Dominion Tavern.

Valcour could be gruff at times, but, in a way, that was what endeared him to his students. And his sometimes-tough exterior gave way when it came to his dedication to his students.

"The demands on his time [had] grown. We expanded on what we offered," McGuire said.

at we offered," McGuire said. Most radio students were well aware that Valcour had a cot in his office where he would sleep sometimes during the week, often juggling his own work to help desperate students who needed just a bit more time to complete their radio projects.

"It's a huge loss to the school," McGuire said, "but he leaves a huge legacy behind."

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