The Golden Year

Although you are reading this in February 2019, it was written in December of 2018 due to the weird schedules needed for online publishing. December of 2018 was a personally momentous month because it represented a major milestone — my 50th year as a member of the Audio Engineering Society and the professional audio community at large.

Frankly, way back in 1969, I never dreamed I would still be walking the planet at this point, but here I am — as Elton John once said — still standing, and hopefully still contributing.

Damn… a half-century has gone by and I still have the same job — at least, sort of.

And that’s the unique thing about the ProAV community. We are really just a small town of a few tens of thousands of individuals all over the planet, but we all have one thing in common. We never have exactly the same job every day. And it is that little bit of the unexpected in every day that keeps us hooked on this industry.

And because of that quirky facet of this world, we are all part of an industry that draws people who want to be here, not just people looking for a job.

There is an underlying passion and commitment that makes all of us stick around. Over the decades I have come across very few people who are working in this business because they have to — in fact, I can’t really think of anyone who is.

We do this because we can contribute in a positive and useful way to the lives and experiences of an amazingly large number of our fellow planetary inhabitants. Every day millions of people experience the results of our designs, systems, products and applications.

But as our industry enters the early stages of its second century, with many of us are now beginning the second half-century of our own journeys, it seems reasonable to take a moment and pause to think about one essential thing that we all can and should be doing — giving back!

We need to think about how we can keep the knowledge alive and help it grow because  there is no absolute fixed curriculum for a ProAV professional, no pre-formatted syllabus of classes you can take to graduate with a degree in how to do this.

Sure you can get technical knowledge, learn theory, study the math and physics, but the essence of sound and vision is something that is felt, rather than known.

The unique sense of fulfillment you get when a system works precisely as you imagined the design is something you can’t put on a numerical scale and quantify — it just is — something you — sense.

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Over the last 50 years, I have had the privilege of a chance to experience that ‘sense’ in many different ways. For example: when the lights go up after a successful concert, when a HOW sound system delivers the spiritual message to the whole congregation for the first time, when a teacher can effectively communicate with hundreds of students across multiple locations, when a residential entertainment environment produces that ‘wow’ moment for the buyer, and dozens of other ways. These different scenarios come from the various hats you have to wear working with sound and picture. Some would say that these are different situations but I would disagree. They are the same work in different spaces, for different audiences, but ultimately they are all trying to achieve the same goal — a solid, clear, balanced articulate presentation that is true to the source and allows every one to hear and understand the content-whatever it might be.

Passing it On

This industry was built on and through the almost entirely organic concept of “passing it on.” That is to say, we have always created the next generation of pro-audio folks by educating — mentoring, training and helping the new people gain the experience and knowledge that was created by those who came before.

If you accept the premise that the ultimate goal of this profession is the same regardless of the specifics, then it becomes even more critical to consider the necessity to keep the knowledge reservoir filled and make sure everyone can get a drink.

Whenever I see a call for papers or presentations going un-answered or under-subscribed, I wonder what those who are not participating are thinking. Is it simply an “I’m sure someone will step up mindset” — or is it an unwillingness to put back some of what you got along the way?

We have enough knowledgeable and experienced citizens of our ProAV town to easily supply expertise whenever and wherever it is asked for — yet I more often than not see the same people again and again and far fewer new faces than we should have become involved in the numerous ways to pass it on. Share the knowledge opportunities that exist every year.

Which group of community members are you in? The “sit back and let somebody else do it” one or the “step up and give back” faction?

As the new year begins, think long and hard about what you are willing to do to keep the lights on and the sound working!