2017 November, Vol 65 No. 11
For audio professionals, there is often a specific event – a time and a place – that stands out as a moment of inspiration that led to a path defining one’s approach to the field. While speaking recently to audio students about career paths they might choose, I was reminded of such an instance.
In the 1970’s, with record labels like ABC/Dunhill, Atlantic, Columbia Records, RCA, Warner Bros. and more all supporting round-the-clock sessions at major studio complexes in L.A., New York, Nashville, and other locations, I was certainly not the only young person seeking a way into the exciting business of commercially-recorded popular music. Gaining early exposure to professional audio equipment and techniques as a bass guitarist in recording sessions, I found my way to a potential part-time entry level job at “Cowboy” Jack Clement’s Nashville Recording Studio, which eventually became the legendary Sound Emporium. While hanging out doing menial tasks like labeling tape boxes and cleaning up after all-night sessions, I realized the more subdued atmosphere of the studio held less attraction for me, than did the live-show environment I was already familiar with.
A gentleman entered the studio, asking in a friendly manner who I – the young newcomer - might be. It was John Wesley Gardner, stopping by to discuss tools of the trade like the new White Instruments Model 140 Sound Analyzer with the engineers. Upon briefly hearing my story he said, “why don’t you join me at a meeting tonight with some other audio fellas here in town? It’s really casual and I’m sure you will fit right in. I’ll introduce you around”. There, kindly strangers offered copies of current periodicals (dB Magazine, Recording Engineer-Producer, and the JAES). A notice about an upcoming Convention for something called the Audio Engineering Society, let me know, without doubt, in which direction I’d be setting my course for the future.
Meeting that early group of mentors led to a cable-wrapping, truck-loading concert sound job with live-sound weekend warrior Bob Todrank, who patiently explained to a novice the intricacies of the Valley People Gain Brain. There was Johnny Rosen, in the early planning stages of Fanta Sound and what would become his fast-attack remote recording trailer for live concert use. And Fred Schultz, who leveraged my budding interest in live PA systems into an assignment to help replace fried high-frequency driver diaphragms on his Nitty Gritty Dirt Band touring system, laid out in a sunny driveway behind his storage garage one weekend.
More than 40 years later, John Wesley Gardner is long retired – but still an active member of the Audio Engineering Society. We recently had a pleasurable conversation about those early days in the ‘70’s, and how important it still is today for selfless audio engineering professionals to nurture such entry-level interests in students and job-seekers alike: passing the torch of knowledge for audio industry practitioners, from generation to generation, remains one of the hallmarks of our Society.
Today, with 89 professional sections and 123 student sections, and a growing member group numbering over 12,000 persons worldwide, I am extremely encouraged by the passion and commitment evidenced in today’s younger generation of audio professionals. There has never been a more exciting time to consider a career in audio. The long-standing triumvirate of recorded sound, broadcast audio applications and sound reinforcement expertise are now joined by a rapidly-developing set of other disciplines: audio for electronic games, automotive audio technology, immersive sound, internet-based audio, digital audio networking and so many more emerging fields offer diverse options for those individuals interested in professional audio as a career. And, the Audio Engineering Society remains the world’s leading professional organization for audio professionals. Whether one is, or aspires to be, an operating engineer, a product developer, an audio scientist, an acoustician, an audiologist, or an academic researcher, this Society offers a unique, collegial gathering place – a community that is both virtual through the AES website and Journal, and in-person through our many local and regional section meetings and gatherings, our conventions, and our topical conferences.
As we approach the Society’s 70th year in existence, it has never been more important to participate with each other, and to share values and ideas as peers, colleagues and mentors. Entering this term of office as your President, I am grateful for the diligent work of recent holders of this office. Frank Wells (2012-13), whose media-savvy expertise helped to re-frame the Society’s relevance in a changing industry. Dr. Sean Olive (2013-14), whose sense of disciplined academic research helped establish a firmer foundation and greater frequency for our topical International Conferences. Andres Mayo (2014-15) whose recognition of our need for improved business-management practices led to the establishment of an effective financial planning committee. John Krivit (2015-16), whose innovative work as Education Committee Chair upped the Society’s level of engagement with the audio student community around the globe. And Alex Case (2016-17), whose experience with business analytics highlighted the need for a new strategic planning team, formally establishing a platform of consideration for future directions by your Board of Governors.
I hope you’ll join me this year in reaching out to even more of our friends and colleagues in the field, with a personal invitation to join, participate in, and carry forward the traditions of the Audio Engineering Society.