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Daniella Peters at a JBL event at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas during the company's recent Roadshow.

Tuning Up To Success: The Passionate High-Fidelity Journey Of Daniella Peters

Talking with a UK native who's worked her way up in the industry over the course of two decades and is now holding a key production audio role with HARMAN.

We had never met face-to-face until a day this past June when Daniella Peters pulled up to the east gate of the Electric Gnat Ranch, my Illinois home, farm, and refuge not far from the Wisconsin border, but she and I weren’t strangers, having crossed paths via email, texts, and the phone on various occasions since HARMAN Professional Solutions named her National Sales Manager, Production Audio in July, 2021.

Having been duly shocked when I told her earlier that if she was up to it, the opportunity of becoming the subject of a profile article was all hers, I suggested meeting in person to begin the interviews leading to this article while she was northbound on her way from Chicago to meet with her client Clearwing Productions at Milwaukee’s Summerfest.

A UK native with a little more than two decades living and working in the US under her belt, her voice still retains a British inflection, but it has mellowed somewhat to a point where some may mistakenly think she is the product of some Mid-Atlantic boarding or finishing school. Specifically, Peters is from Lancashire county in North West England, a non-metropolitan region north of Manchester and Liverpool. Her mother was a ballet dancer and her father a teacher, involved in theatre.

Getting Started

A graduate of The University of Manchester with a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Management amended by a year studying business at Paris Dauphine University in France, fresh out of college she took a job with JAFRA Cosmetics, a move that ultimately led her across the Atlantic to work in the company’s Westlake Village, California office.

Taking up residence in North Hollywood, she recalls “I was young, naïve, and so excited to be living in Southern California in a place with ‘Hollywood’ in the name it didn’t even occur to me that I wasn’t the epicenter of glitz and glamor, I believed I was in the greatest place on earth.”

Peters admits that while originally she didn’t have an exact plan, she believes life is full of opportunities and surprises and you always have to throw your hat over the fence. “Life is definitely a lot of hard work and a bit of being in the right place at the right time as long as you are prepared and say yes when that moment arrives,” she says.

In need of a car, by chance she bought a truck from Jon Monson of Camarillo, California-based Rat Sound. The next day it broke down, and Monson did the honorable thing and repaired it. During the process they became friends, and he introduced her to audio engineer Karrie Keyes, (monitor engineer for Pearl Jam and later, founder of Soundgirls) who worked at Rat Sound from 1986 to 2005.

“I was so grateful to Jon for fixing the car and introducing me to Karrie,” Peters says. “I was still working for JAFRA at the time, but I started hanging out at Rat more and more, doing odd things on the side like delivering amplifiers in my truck. One day a delivery led me to a job offer as a sales assistant in the audio industry from Doug Schwartz, who was leading HHB and Ashdown Music distribution in the US at the time. A year or so later after Sennheiser bought HHB and her job was no more, I pitched Karrie to come work for Rat doing marketing. In short order I was going to shows, taking photos of the crew and gear, and keeping Rat’s name and image in trade publications.”

Rat Sound founder Dave Rat soon told her she had to generate income to keep her and set her a goal to sell one Rat sniffer and one Audix OM7 a week ( the mic he was using on Anthony form the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s vocals at the time). A year later, the one microphone had turned into many and the sales division hit one million dollars in product sales. She became a force in the company’s pro audio sales efforts developing both the sales and install division and working with clients like ATK Audiotek, Pearl Jam, The Hollywood Bowl, and the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

Peters with Rat Sound team members at the Coachella Festival.

“Daniella Peters literally built the sales and install departments at Rat Sound over 20 years ago,” Keyes told me recently while out on tour, giving Peters credit where she feels credit is due. “It was her dedication and hard work that took a small division that was almost an afterthought and developed it into an entity that now employs several people and stands by itself. I loved working with Daniella at Rat Sound, and over the years we have become close friends. HARMAN is lucky to have her today.”

Talk to Peters for any length of time and part of the takeaway is the sense of family she holds deep inside. Rat Sound will always be part of her professional family, she notes, and even as she continues to evolve in different directions, anyone who touches her life with profound measure carry on with her in one form or another.

New Horizons

Leaving Rat Sound was without question one of the hardest decisions she has ever made. “It doesn’t seem real sometimes and when I visit sound companies and see their teams who have been together for decades it warms my heart and brings a nostalgic smile” she says. “I wasn’t looking for the job but I was approached by Mike Schoen, HARMAN’S Senior Director and Head of Audio Sales. If I hadn’t had a little more down time because of the pandemic I might not have entertained the idea of talking to him about the position. There were 90 other applicants for the job so I figured I had little chance of getting it. I went to the interview essentially to have a chance to meet some new people. When I actually got the job I seriously went into shock. Rat was my family – we had spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmases together. This new job was not part of the plan.”

Contrary to what many may believe, Peters ultimately did not take the job with the idea that it was a move up. Looking around her at the sales and install department she had done so much to create at Rat, she realized she had been there “forever” and thought about what would happen if Adam Figueroa, next in line within the department, had a chance to take charge.

“On certain levels I had exhausted every original idea in my brain in terms of what to do next,” she explains. “So, I thought what would happen if I passed the torch over to Adam? He really deserved a chance to rock out, he had new and fresh ideas and I was standing in his way.”

Chilling at front of house at the Sahara Tent at Coachella in 2018.

The dye was cast and there was no turning back. “When I started at JBL we had come out of the pandemic and it had devastated much of our industry on both a financial and emotional level. Production audio is full of men and women who have given their whole lives and passion to this craft so I feel I have a responsibility to our clients (who have chosen JBL and invested thousands and thousands of dollars into our speakers) to give my 100-percent focus. It was an unequivocal decision I made day one. It’s been amazing to see live sound thrive again and I love the challenge of helping our clients get gear on time for their tours, even during these weird times. I have truly enjoyed every second of this new role so far.”

Now, after turning the corner into her second year with HARMAN, among her primary efforts is her work to expand the company’s VTX A-Series and grow beyond the legacies of JBL’s storied past. Just like the VerTec technology serving as the backbone of its first professional line array, the VTX A-Series was designed from scratch. Engineered in a scalable fashion for mid-to-large touring applications and fixed installations, the line’s compact size, weight, sonic qualities, and ability to be rigged with other components represent tangible new developments and were prominently displayed along with new SRX Series offerings during this year’s JBL Audio Roadshow, which crossed the country from east to west, winding down in San Francisco in mid-October.

Doing The Work

A day in Peters’ life along the route began early with the load-in, where it wasn’t uncommon to see her pushing boxes in her trademark basketball shoes. “I pitch in wherever I may be needed,” she tells me in a rare moment at home during the first week of this month as the event was nearing its conclusion, “but we all bring our own specialized skill sets to the process. I don’t think it was planned this way, however, I quickly realized at Rat I wore many hats, and now all those hats have come together and I’m able to lend knowledge and skills in multiple areas that help us push our business forward.

“Our crew consists of people who have toured heavily with major acts for years. We travel from town-to-town using a semi-tractor hauling a 53-foot trailer. The pace is quick, everything has to work with engineered precision. I manage the VTX A-Series portion of the show, which involves a presentation integrated with an actual demo of the loudspeakers.”

At Premier Production & Sound Services (PSS) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with Brian W Gordon (left) and Russ Bryant with their serial number 1 JBL CSX-835-95 loudspeakers.

The newest member of the A-Series is the A6, which made its debut in July of this year. Demonstrated in mono during the Roadshow without a subwoofer using the song “Heaven” by Kem, and in stereo – also sans sub – to the sound of “Unchain My Heart” by Take 6, Peters says the passive, 6.5-inch A6 caught the attention of attendees as the smallest among the A-Series, yet still capable of delivering 110-degree dispersion down to 500 Hz, as well as big system-like performance with stated LF extension down to 67 Hz and a 134 dB max SPL.

“The Roadshow has been a great vehicle for bringing us face-to-face with the people who actually keep this industry running,” she states. “I’m extremely cognizant of the legacy a lot of the sound engineers and companies that I am meeting have so I am proud when they are giving positive feedback to the new launches. In my opinion, it has been a huge success and we are seeing the numbers to support that.

“On a personal level, it’s been one of the latest parts of the greater adventure I embarked upon here in the US a little over 22 years ago. There are obviously things I miss about the UK, but I truly love the United States, you can realize dreams.

“Little did I realize when I first came here that I would be doing what I am now,” she concludes. “Getting paid to work with and meet creative, talented, passionate people and be a part of the energy that puts on some of the biggest and best live shows in the world? I feel very fortunate. When the final curtain comes down I know I won’t feel like I missed anything or sat it out on the sidelines, you can’t ask for much more than that.

“Our challenge is to do our very best along the way, in good times and bad, not just for ourselves but for everyone whose lives you touch. That’s how we’ll always move forward.”

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