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Frontline: An Interview With Veteran Church Sound Operator Cal Timmer
Timmer shares lessons he's learned after running sound at his church for almost two decades.
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Cal Timmer at the console at Haven Reformed Church: "Always think ahead. You must know where the service is going, what’s coming up next, and what’s coming after that."

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Cal Timmer has been a sound operator at Haven Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan since 1989, and over that time, the church has moved from traditional services to a more contemporary style, including a praise band.

The sanctuary was built in 1964, with a classic “shoebox” shape and a capacity of about 450.

It’s an acoustically live space, and last year was outfitted with a new sound system better meeting the changing style of worship and the physical attributes of the room.

ProSoundWeb Editor Keith Clark talked with Cal, who was kind enough to share some of his experiences for us all.

Keith Clark, PSW: How did you end up working with sound at Haven CRC?

Cal Timmer: Mostly by being interested. I knew a little bit about it, and my family is musically inclined, although I’m not (smiles). I was also a member of the committee that was in charge of purchasing our previous new system about 16 years ago.

PSW: How do you get folks involved with helping with your tech team?

Cal: Usually it just comes down to asking them. This type of activity is easy for some, but the more technical things become, the harder it gets.

We’ve had volunteers that didn’t work out, so we try to find a different spot for them to contribute. Often they start feeling it too, and this can be a bit tough on everyone.

One young man joined us as a freshman in high school. He was mature and really interested in helping, and now he’s heading up the technical side of the auditorium systems at the public school auditorium. He knows more about this now than I do.

We’ve found that if someone is willing to work and willing to learn, it works out more often than not.

PSW: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the years?

Cal: Technology just keeps rolling along. All of this work is getting increasingly technical, especially as we head toward the so-called “contemporary” style.

When I started back in 1989, the church hosted a concert we needed to support, so we had to understand things like number of inputs and microphones and stage monitors – back then, a monitor on a church platform wasn’t all that common.

At the time it was kind of a big deal and seemed complicated, but now, it’s just what we do on a regular basis. All you can do is take on each challenge as it comes, deal with it, and then move on to the next one. Just keep going.

It’s vital to realize that service is not always easy, and this is by design.

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