“Combine a great engineer’s sense with great ears and an accommodating demeanor when dealing with a variety of artistic temperament, and Brian Hunter is the result,” Denver folk music stalwart Harry Tuft recently told us.
This week we are celebrating Brian Hunter’s 20th Anniversary with Swallow Hill Music. Now our Chief Sound Engineer, Brian’s work and dedication to his craft are synonymous with the musical excellence audiences expect from Swallow Hill.
Twenty years with any organization is quite an accomplishment, particularly in an oftimes unsentimental music industry. In a time that saw music audiences move from CDs to iPods to digital streaming, the rise of mega music festivals, and the collapse of the concert industry due to COVID-19, Brian Hunter remains.
“Over the years I’ve been extremely impressed with Brian’s skills handling sound reinforcement for live performance,” Saul Rosenthal, co-owner of the Denver Folklore Center, former Chair of Swallow Hill’s Board of Directors, and performing musician told us.
“He definitely knows his stuff. More impressive has been his ability to work so seamlessly with performing artists. Musicians are not the easiest people to please but Brian has such a gentle way about him that often disarms the usual stuff musicians complain about.”
In our last full year of onsite concerts – 2019 – Brian worked the board in Daniels Hall at 82 events. Many of these were sold out performances from national touring artists and beloved local acts, but he also worked sound for our Sensory Friendly Concerts, Music School Graduations, spoken word events like The Denver Moth, and more.
Perhaps it’s an inexact number, but if you take 80 events a year over 20 years, Brian Hunter has worked roughly 1600 Daniels Hall concerts during that time. This says nothing about his time running our Sawtelle Recording Studio, working with burgeoning musicians in our House of Rock Camp, or mentoring veteran and beginner musicians alike when they seek him out for advice on how to get the best sound possible whatever their instrument or style.
“I’ve attended a number of Swallow Hill shows, and played a fair number of them as well,” musician and Colorado Music Hall of Fame Inductee Dick Weissman told us. “The thing about Brian, is that when he’s engineering the shows, I have a feeling of comfort that the sound is going to be the least of my problems as a musician or fan.”
Dick continued, “I know that if something technical does go wrong, he’s going to quickly figure out why something isn’t working, or why a band is not sounding balanced. Sometimes that can be simple, of course, and other times it may take a bit of experimenting. It rarely has interfered with the music.”
It’s that mix of technical expertise and sense of calm behind the board that makes Brian so invaluable to musicians whether they are performing live, or recording.
Saul recalled that “Back in 2005 Hal Aqua, Steve Brodsky and I performed as a trio for a concert called “Boychiks in the Mood.” The show was recorded to tape (12 reels of them as I recall) and we hired Brian to clean it all up and turn it into an album. I was amazed at what he was able to do in those days long before digital and the ability to use software to correct mistakes. He was masterful.”
When Saul takes all of this into account, he concluded, “Few people have been as important to Swallow Hill’s concert successes as Brian. I wish him many more years of keeping us sounding good and relaxed on stage.”
“In all the dozens (if not hundreds) of times that I have been on the stage of Daniels Hall, Brian has always been sensitive to my requests, providing me with the best results of presenting myself to the audience,” Harry confirmed. “Brian has my confidence and my thanks.”
Paul Lhevine, CEO of Swallow Hill, put a ribbon on the marking of this 20th anniversary by saying “Brian is the embodiment of the spirit and values of our music community. Brian is thoughtful, caring and passionate about his contributions, helping to make every musician he works with as great as he knows they can be regardless of the skills they bring to the table. Brian, through his craftsmanship and his character brings out the best in everyone around him and elevates the experience for all who walk through our doors. And on behalf of the Swallow Hill community, I am deeply honoured to express my gratitude for Brian and his two decades of service.”
Congratulations Brian, here’s to many more years of creating memories and beautiful sounds with Swallow Hill!