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Expanding Horizons: The World Of Audio Veteran And Sound Company Owner Chris Anderson

Owner and CEO of Anderson Audio discusses his roots and journey towards becoming a heavy-hitter.

By Kevin Young May 4, 2017

Chris Anderson in the shop with some of his company's new Powersoft amplification inventory.

“I often tell people that I feel like I formed a sound company by accident,” says Chris Anderson, owner and CEO of Anderson Audio, “but the company grew out of my personal career.” It’s a career that began early on, while Anderson was in the recording program at Lebanon Valley College.

Although the company officially incorporated in 2005, he’s worked under the Anderson Audio banner as sole proprietor since 1999, after stints in various capacities with Promix (part of PRG since 1998) and Masque Sound. “In 1999 I stopped working for the other shops and started on my own,” he notes. “I’ve always been geared to doing my own thing, but it was quite informal at first.”

Since that humble beginning, the Harrisburg, PA-based firm has grown substantially in its reach – providing services throughout the continental U.S. – and in terms of the services it provides, which range from live sound, lighting and video, to broadcast recording, sound design, and installation.

Anderson was introduced to the business in 1986 while still in junior high, by his uncle Jim Anderson, a noted recording engineer/producer in the jazz and classical world who’s worked on multiple Grammy winning and nominated recordings. He also worked with NPR and is currently a professor at New York University (NYU).

“I’d always been enamored of what he does,” Anderson says. “How wouldn’t you?” When his parents flew him to Detroit to get a look at his uncle’s gig mixing The Montreux-Detroit International Jazz Festival in the mid-1980s, however, he was more interested in what was happening on stage than in the remote production truck.

“Jim was in the loading dock mixing and for some reason I didn’t find that interesting enough,” he says. “I wanted to hang out with the live sound guys. Of course, years later, I was like, ‘Man, I would have killed for a truck gig.’ That was my introduction to the business.”

Making Opportunities

Back in his hometown of Horseheads, NY, Anderson didn’t have much of an outlet to explore live audio beyond his high school’s AV and drama clubs. Consequently, when an opportunity to work at a local musical theater production about the life of Mark Twain he leapt at the chance. Held in an old hockey arena roughly a mile from his house, the show featured local and out-of-town actors and crew, including sound designer Abe Jacob, who went from doing sound for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Mamas and Papas to Broadway.

“It ran for eight summers and I got a job loading in the first year it opened,” he says. “There were no positions on the audio crew, which was just killing me. The show did have two A2s – a tape operator and mixer – and obviously I had no business in any of those jobs, but I still wanted one of them.”

And it happened after one of the A2s fell ill. Anderson filled in, a role he held for several years before ultimately mixing the show. He also came into contact with numerous NY-based sound designers/engineers and the Promix team, who provided audio for the show.

“I thought I had the makings of a job because I knew a bunch of people, but they all said, ‘You’re going to college.’ I didn’t want to, but Abe told me he’d blackball me in the industry if I didn’t,” he says. “And I’m glad that they were so stubborn about it because I probably wouldn’t have gone.”

He chose Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA, based partially on a meeting with John Uhl, the director of the audio program and a protégé of his uncle Jim. “My uncle drops into my storyline here, there, and everywhere,” Anderson notes. “He’s never said, ‘Hey, here’s how to mix the thing,’ but his influence has always been there in ways that weren’t predictable.”

Many of his peers moved from music to audio, he says, adding that Lebanon Valley’s recording department was a part of the music program. “Everybody in the program had to major in music – audio was a concentration,” he explained. “Though my mom was a music teacher and introduced me to baritone horn, piano and drums, I was concerned about my proficiency in a music program. Taking my dad’s influence as a science teacher, I opted to be the first person through the program as a science major.”

The program focused on recording, but Anderson’s sights were set firmly on live sound and he made opportunities for himself to work in that setting, mixing shows at Hershey Park – a rite of passage for anyone going through the program, he says – and starting his own small audio company.

Anderson Audio team members Scott McKeown (left) and Connor D’Albora with Anderson at the racks prior to a gig. Credit: Lori Diemer

“Everybody nicknamed the company ‘Anderson Audio 200 Bucks’ because I didn’t know how to price anything,” he adds, laughing. “I’d do any college band or event that would have me.”

Whenever his contacts set him up with events that were more ambitious than he could take on with the gear that fit in his old blue minivan – “including a couple of interesting corporate things I probably had no business doing” – he’d rent the necessary gear and do the job.

“I was ‘Anderson Audio 200 Bucks,’” he adds, “so why not? If there was a live sound thing to do I did it. College often seemed to be just the place I was while working on my audio career.”

Still, it provided opportunities, some owing to existing events for the theatre and music program and others he initiated over his time at Lebanon Valley. He maintains a connection with his old school: “In fact, most of my employees went there and we teach a class at the college now.”

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About Kevin

Kevin Young
Kevin Young

Freelance Music and Tech Writer, Professional Musician and Composer
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.
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