In late January 2020 when I caught up with audio and RF technician Gary Trenda, he was getting ready to head out to his next job, Super Bowl LIV in Miami. “I was in Miami last week for rehearsals and today I’m actually packing up to head back tomorrow to start loading in at the stadium,” he explains.
While the Super Bowl is one of the most wireless-intensive live events in any given year – with thousands of devices competing for clear spectrum and little room for error – Trenda takes the pressure in stride. “You have to have the temperament for dealing with the fact this can be stressful. I don’t care if it’s 20,000 or 120,000 people, it’s a big deal to folks,” he says.
In fact, the Super Bowl is just one of the large-scale events Trenda works on. As an applications engineer for Orlando-based Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) as well as on his own, Trenda has provided technical services to awards shows like the Latin Grammy Awards and the 2019 CMT Awards, Telemundo’s Billboard Latin Music Awards, sporting events for ESPN and Fox networks, and corporate events for companies such as Salesforce, Hewlett Packard, and SAP – on whose events he’s often worked with big-name musical acts like Fleetwood Mac and Metallica.
Typically, he splits his time between home in Wisconsin, PWS headquarters in Orlando, and various projects across the U.S. “Maybe a week or two a month I’m traveling for an event, and I do a lot of trade shows because PWS also has a manufacturing side, but sometimes I also have the opportunity to work from home.”
As frequency intensive as the Super Bowl can be, Trenda notes that he’s responsible for more frequencies at certain corporate events because, at times, he’s leading a team of frequency coordinators covering multiple venues and various spaces within them. “Assigning frequencies is my main focus for those corporate events, whereas – with the Super Bowl – the National Football League (NFL_ has a team of Event Frequency Coordinators (EFCs). So I’m just another wireless user, requesting frequencies from the EFC team, and I’m responsible for ensuring all my wireless equipment works.”
As in the past, the focus for PWS’ 22nd consecutive Super Bowl (and Trenda’s fourth) is the on-field entertainment – all wireless microphone and in-ear monitor systems for the pregame and halftime shows, the post-game championship trophy presentation, and even the wireless systems for the on-field game officials.
His first Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Lady Gaga in Houston, attracted roughly 140 million live television viewers. So, you know, no pressure. “Actually on that first game, they didn’t tell me that sometimes more people watch the halftime show than the game. So if something goes wrong for me at work on that day, a lot of people are going to know about it,” Trenda adds, laughing.
Part Of The Culture
Trenda grew up in Lakeville, MN and now lives near Madison, WI. In both places, football was a big deal, he explains. “I played in high school, and in the upper Midwest, especially in Wisconsin, there’s a real football culture. Particularly with the Green Bay Packers being a publicly owned professional team. And that’s unique, so people in Wisconsin have a real sense of ownership of the team.”
Yet football and audio, let alone a blend of the two, didn’t factor into his career plans early on. “I was one of those kids that always had a fascination with how stuff worked and would tear apart anything that broke,” he notes, which led to studying Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, adding, “I thought I was going to go build things for a living and was really excited about manufacturing technology when I got out of high school.”
It was during this time, however, that he became interested in audio thanks to a college roommate who played guitar in a blues band: “So, when they had trouble getting their PA to work, it was, ‘Hey, let me take a look at it.’”
After graduating in 2000, Trenda worked with various audio companies, first in Wisconsin then Texas, and then as a touring systems technician, often taking on mixing duties when necessary. “I very much started as the person setting up the sound system, but then, in situations where a band is traveling with just a FOH or monitor engineer, I’d mix monitors or front of house.”