Spotlight: Yuval Kramer – VP AVSM at Kramer Electronics LTD
In my biweekly blog series, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling Yuval Kramer. This post is his story told to Dotan Shoval who was featured here already.
Make or Break? Yuval Kramer creates music against all odds
Yuval Kramer, now a VP at Kramer Electronics, had every reason in the world to stay away from the Audio industry. Nevertheless, a number of key moments in his life eventually led him there. Yuval became a musician at a young age, created recording studios, wrote movie soundtracks, composed ringtones, recorded albums, and went on tours. He achieved all this while suffering from a congenital hearing disability that left him nearly completely deaf.
Yuval Kramer is ever industrious and active in the halls of Kramer Electronics, yet only few there know about his inspiring life story. A story in which, despite being the main character, he sees himself as merely an ‘extra’.
During one of our routine meetings, Yuval shared his special story and I had to wait two years before I had his approval to publish it.
When asked about his birth date, Yuval lists three different occasions:
The first is 1981, the year his father, Dr. Joseph Kramer, founded Kramer Electronics; the second is 1983, the year his mother, Hanna, gave birth to him; and the third, which he describes as a defining moment for him, was at the age of 27.
Rather symbolically, Yuval’s parents named him after Yuval, the biblical character who “was the father of all those who play the harp and flute” (Gen. 4:21), and, as Yuval puts it, “essentially, he was the first musician.” However, Yuval was born with a genetic disorder that degraded his hearing abilities, leaving him almost completely deaf. “I learned how to manage myself. It is amazing how the human brain can compensate for whatever is missing. My friends, family, and people around me never let me feel different even for one second and we made it through the challenges posed by adolescence. In grade one, I sat in the first row, I learned how to lip-read and keep up with the rest of the class, both in educational and social regards.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it”
His father’s influence became a critical factor in choosing his path: “my father always emphasized the ‘how’. One of the things he repeatedly told me was that it doesn’t matter what I choose to do with my life, what’s important is that I tackle it as a professional and persevere.” Guided by the discipline picked up at home, Yuval chose two things with which to persist: martial arts and playing the guitar.
Bridging the gap between deafness and producing sounds
“I had every excuse to stay away from music but, luckily, my father never believed in excuses. He said that ‘when music plays in ‘Tower Records’ at the Champs-Élysées, no one cares if the musician is deaf. If it’s good music – then great, if it’s not – it’s gone!’ He handed me a guitar and said: ‘start playing!’. Since I could barely hear, I clenched my teeth, placed my jaw on the guitar, and ‘listened’ to the vibrations – that’s how I learned to play.”
“There were several, and one of them became a defining moment in my life. It happened at school, when I was standing around with a bunch of friends of mine. I thought I was a part of the group until I realized they were staring and smiling at me. One of them said something to me and I didn’t hear it. At that moment, everything disappeared for me. I understood that I wasn’t communicating with them in the same way they were communicating with each other. It was a tough moment, one of the toughest I have ever experienced. I decided to focus on avenues that would allow me to depend more on myself and my abilities and less on communicating with others. This led me to martial arts and heavy metal. Cesar Millan once said: ‘a three-legged dog doesn’t feel sorry for himself, he accepts his life as it is and keeps wagging his tail’ – I matured into this understanding. I had no reference as to how others were hearing sounds so I just listened to the vibrations, that’s it. I created my own point of reference.”
Now what? Life after the IDF
As a teenager, Yuval was assiduous with martial arts. However, at 18, when mandatory enlistment to the Israeli Defense Force came around, the IDF was in no hurry to recruit him, despite his expertise and tenacity. “The doctor said that I might be suitable for a desk job, at best. I was depressed and it radiated to those closest to me. I could see my mother hurting, and this gave me the will to fight to get enlisted as a Krav Maga instructor.”
Throughout his service, Yuval trained various IDF units including the elite and special forces units in advanced hand-to-hand combat skills. “During some small talk with a commander of one of the units, a seasoned 40-year-old fighter, he asked me: ‘say, besides fight, what else can you do?’ I said I was a musician. He looked at me and told me something that had a deep impact on me: ‘you have the power to make and the power to break’.”
[RELATED] : If you have missed any of my previous interviews, please click here.
Those words sunk deep and with his release from the IDF, Yuval chose to create. At 21, he set up a recording studio and by the age of 22, he had taught close to 100 musicians. He composed soundtracks for films, managed online music discussion boards and, at 23, he created a ringtone for a cellular company that became very popular. The best was yet to come – at the age of 24 he released his debut album and started touring the world with his bands.
Born for the third time
The musical breakthrough wasn’t Yuval’s last. At the age of 25, he decided to undergo surgery to fix his hearing disability, a second surgery came at 27.
“Before going into surgery, I made a list of 10 albums I wanted to listen to as soon as my hearing was fixed. I was very curious to hear hits and compositions I ’heard‘ so many times when I was practically deaf.”
Three weeks after his last surgery, the stitches and bands came off, and at once, his hearing was back. “I leaped when the doctor asked if I could hear him. It sounded like a scream, and I have never experienced this volume before.”
“When I came back home, the 10 albums I planned on listening to were waiting for me, but instead, I went outside to the porch and for a whole week I listened to the sounds outside. I heard rainfall and wind for the first time, I could hear the kids from the playground around the corner, passing cars, whispers, distant conversations – everything. I remember how shocked I was when I realized you could still hear things outside the door even after it closes.”
The first album Yuval listened to in sound waves instead of shock waves (vibrations) was by Vicente Amigo, the flamenco player. “I couldn’t move for 4 hours. I sat, listened, and cried. It was an intense emotional experience. After that album, I listened to many amazing others such as Schindler’s List soundtrack, Michael Jackson, Metallica. I was reborn.”
The effects from the surgery – personally and professionally
“The metal music to which I listened as an almost deaf person relies heavily on ones and zeros. In contrast, jazz and classical music offer significantly more layers and to me, that was a meaningful discovery. I remember that one day I was strumming on my acoustic guitar and it was the first time I could hear the E note resonating, and how all the harmonies and sub harmonies slowly come to life echoing in my room. I just let them be present for a while, played with them and I realized a door to other, richer worlds opened. I was excited from understanding that my days listening to music in a binary language were over, it now has a wide dynamic, ever-changing range.”
“The ability to hear has affected everything in my life, both professionally and personally. On the professional side, I now challenge phrases like: ‘why change the way we make microphones if we’ve made them the same way for 60 years?’ The perspective I was fortunate enough to get taught me that you can always do things differently, research, change, and improve. I say challenge everything. “
“Looking back, it’s clear to me that I could have taken a different path and become a different person. But the sequence of meaningful events that I allowed to change me shaped me into who I am today. I was taught not to dwell on difficulties but to overcome them. I grew up in an environment where losing as an option did not exist and I want to enjoy everything life has to offer without going easy on myself, I will not be stopped.”
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This article was written by Galit Ben Hamo – AVMaster.
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