Like many in the entertainment industry, Peter Greenlund’s career has provided amazing opportunities and unbelievable experiences. His career and life before becoming the program chair for the Live Sound and Show Production program at The Institute of Production and Recording (IPR) not only enhanced his talent but also allows him to enrich the learning environment of his students. He recently sat down to highlight some of his most influential experiences since starting his career.
Peter Greenlund embarked on his professional career. “Technology is how things have changed, in the 70s, we were making it up as we went along, there were no schools, only the school of hard knocks, we had ideas and concepts, but the technology has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the process, and where there might have been 800 pounds of gear, there’s a 100 now.”
He goes on to say, “regardless of the awesome technology, the variables are the same, acoustical environments that vary in space, systems, and audio source. As live sound and show professionals, we work with these acoustical challenges and at times, nightmares, to re-create the sound to the level of excellence that the performer demands.”
It is no surprise why Peter takes his job so seriously after learning from his own mentor, audio engineer, Rob “Cubby” Colby, award-winning sound mixer who has worked with everyone from Prince to Shakira to Pat Benatar. Colby told Greenlund, “that the measure of a good engineer is how well he can make any system sound.”
He took that advice to heart as he began his career and crafted his own commitment to excellence. Speaking on mentors, Greenlund says, “it’s still an industry of who you know.” He continues to say that skill and attitude play a large part, “our job is to become the “fifth Beatle”, you know, a player in the band. Recording in the studio is producing, but in a live setting, we are re-producing the experience so that we can achieve the sound the band desires.”
Peter Greenlund recalls boarding a presidential Lear Jet sent by the Bill Clinton administration and flying above the weather with only a pilot and Willie Nelson’s guitar amplifier. The pilot’s mission was to deliver the amp and audio engineer to a Willie Nelson concert outside the Department of Agriculture adjacent to the White House.
As the stretch limousine picked up Peter and Willie’s amp on the rain soaked D.C. airport tarmac, one has to wonder if this was just another night on the road for Greenlund. Having toured internationally with Prince (including his Love Sexy Tour, with attendances upwards of 80,000 people), Phil Collins, Wayne Newton, and the Commodores, he is no stranger to rock legends and epic live sound shows.
Peter remembers helicoptering into the Brazilian jungle to golf with Willie Nelson. The caddies used machetes to “locate his poor shots.” This was a tougher course then when he played at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and found that his locker was right next to Evel Knievel’s, who happens to be one Greenlund’s heroes.
He says, “Willie did not like to do soundchecks, so he bought me a used set of Pings and taught me how to golf. Every place that we went, we would find a course to play.”
This was the year he was hired as the Media Director at Wooddale Church. Greenlund stresses that whether working on an international tour or in large house of worship, the goal is the same. “Whether being a front-of-house engineer, engineering a major artist, being in all of the different possible venues, with the different variables, such as room size, acoustics, load-in, load-out, it’s the goal of being prepared to create the best possible atmosphere for the show or event that is happening.”
Greenlund was hired as program chair of Live Sound and Show Production at IPR. The students in the “Live Sound and Show Production” program will be prepared to work on any job site as audio operators/technicians, lighting operators, and visual display specialists.
Greenlund explains, “Each venue will have protocols for how they are run and maintained, in any job opportunity, they will learn from the house or production company how to follow their protocols. Our students are prepared with the skills and education to meet these requirements in a variety of working situations.”
He goes on to say, “With the new Live Lab being a facility that continues to evolve, we are able to train in extreme real-world working experiences.” The facility along with the brilliant faculty, create an atmosphere where students are given every opportunity to succeed in the field.
It is December and the Super Bowl is closing in on Minneapolis in less than two months. Sound engineers from all over the country, the best of the best, over 100 professional peers of Greenlund, attend a Digico seminar in the Live Lab at IPR Edina Studios. It is the largest ever Digico seminar, with 22 consoles, and sound engineers from the NFL and major touring acts. They are preparing to create the best possible sound experiences at the Super Bowl events and beyond.
Earlier that week, touring musician Kat Perkins and her team conducted a rehearsal in the Live Lab, not long after that, the Live Sound and Show Production Program students put on their Big Show, a professionally produced concert utilizing all of the skills they have learned in the program. This is the kind of fast-paced, real-world environment that IPR – and the entertainment world – is known for.
Live Sound and Show Production
Chatting with Greenlund in his office at the Live Lab facility at IPR Edina Studios, which houses the Live Sound and Show Production program, I have to press to hear these legendary road stories as Greenlund is more concerned about diligently mentoring and teaching all of his students.
He is intent upon transferring his passion for live sound and show production to every person who comes through the door.
Walking into the 7,500 square feet Live Lab, one may find Greenlund leading a basic wiring class, or standing on top of a truss. He could be helping a student set up a projector for a video installation, or showing a prospective student the full capabilities of the facility with the fog machine pumping, video walls beaming, and the light show shining. There may be audio and music luminaries from the Twin Cities and the world collaborating, rehearsing, and learning with Greenlund and the students.
This spirit has led to a very high rate of employment for his students in the Live Sound and Show Production Program
Greenlund caps off the conversation saying, “Even if times are tough, people will always need sound, light, and video operators to have a place to escape their problems in night clubs and at concerts, or to pray in churches and houses of worship. Any place there are microphones, lights, or video needs, there is an opportunity for someone from the Live Sound and Show Production Program. Since 1976, I have never been unemployed.”
Link to Video of Digico Seminar https://youtu.be/P1MOQAphoLE
Peter Greenlund Bio: https://www.ipr.edu/blogs/faculty/peter-greenlund/
Live Sound and Show Production Program Link: https://www.ipr.edu/programs/sound-production/