“My father died when I was 11,” says Mac Kerr, “but one of the things I remember him teaching me was to find a job that you like.”
“Don’t do a job you don’t like just for money because you’ll never be happy.”
The lesson stuck, he says, and has since served him well.
The New York City-born, Connecticut-bred designer/engineer has worked in virtually every facet of audio production - designing and implementing systems for hundreds of corporate events worldwide and involved in a multitude of live and televised events, including the opening ceremonies for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and seven Super Bowls.
Originally he aimed for a career as a mechanical engineer, studying first at Clarkson College in Potsdam, NY, then Mitchell College, and finally, NYU.
“Without great success,” he adds. “After four years I realized I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer. I was spending all my time in the theatre as a technician, so I changed my major to theater.”
During his time at NYU in the early 1970s, he took an apartment in Chelsea and began working as a lighting designer/operator at various off-Broadway venues, including the seminal experimental theatre La MaMa.
“At that time in the theatre,” he explains, “sound was still very rudimentary; primarily effects playback and little to no vocal amplification.”
But when a full-time job came up with at Erskine-Shapiro Theatre Technology in 1976, Kerr soon found himself thoroughly entrenched in the audio world. During that time, he learned the craft from the bottom up.
“I was the shop rat. I built mic cables, swept floors, but discovered that I liked sound better than lighting,” he details, and soon began engineering for corporate events at what was a fairly high level at the time – in his first year working the launch of the 1977 line of Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge cars in Atlanta.
As the success of Theatre Technology’s Manhattan studio grew, he was increasingly cooped up in a small room running the studio, and after a decade, he decided to give up the steady gig and go it alone.
“I had a lot of friends who were freelancing, traveling all over the world, making good money, and I wanted a piece of that.”
Since then he’s gone on to work with some of the largest corporate clients in the world, acting as head of audio for product launches for leading automobile manufacturers, pharmaceutical, technology and software companies; working meetings for the likes of Fedex, UPS, John Hancock Insurance, and global financial giants such as Goldman Sachs; and serving special events
such as the Clinton Global Initiative and a nationwide speaking tour with Oprah Winfrey.
For all of this high-profile work, he remains modest about his success. “There was a certain amount of luck involved.”
“I came along when the corporate presentation world was in its infancy, but growing fast.”
And during that time he met others, who, as they advanced in their own careers, came to rely on his skills. “It’s fine to have a resume, but it’s the people that know you that will get you a job.”
Having a broad-based education also aided his career, he notes, helping to develop a keen ability for problem solving and allowing him to communicate comfortably and establish meaningful relationships with others whose interests cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and specialties.
“You can learn the technology - that’s just nuts and bolts. Being able to integrate yourself into a group of people so that you work as a team is what, I think, it’s really all about.”