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AV Hall of Fame: Alan C. Brawn

Nearly A Quarter of a Century in the Pro AV Industry -- My Recollections By Gary Kayye, CTS

Alan Brawn started life in Wood River, Illinois: Population 11,000. The small town, 25 miles east of St. Louis, offered a classic 1950’s style upbringing, says Brawn, with three oil refineries employing most of the adults and sports occupying the time of much of the youth.

“I grew up loving sports and in my early teens I lied about my age and worked at Alton Dragway, a famous drag strip in the Midwest,” Brawn says. “As a youth, I got to skinny dip with the likes of ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits and Don ‘the Snake’ Prudome at the end of a race weekend.”

After high school, he began extensive college studies that would result in three master’s degrees. His interest in oration, communication and presentation were the backbones of his studies, but the interest almost lead him down a very different path from the one he took.

“I wanted to become an attorney in the early days, but my mother pointed out that they spent most of their time doing research,” says Brawn. “So my second love was teaching and I pursued that path. I had competed in public speaking during my high school years and was fortunate enough to compete at the state championships in Illinois, so the natural courses for me became all of the public speaking courses.

“I then fell in love with theater and concentrated on acting, directing, and technical theater,” he says.

Brawn earned Master’s Degrees in Communications, Theater, and Media Marketing from Illinois College in Jacksonville and Southern Illinois University, where he managed the Theater Scene Shop and was a graduate teaching assistant.

During grad school, Brawn worked his way through college as an auto mechanic. And with the theater background he now had, he worked throughout the Midwest as a stagehand for acts such as Harry Chapin, Moody Blues, Chicago, and a number of other groups. One of his steady gigs was as a hand for the Mississippi River Festival productions of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The technical theater courses were excellent training for Brawn’s later involvement in ProAV.

“To achieve degrees in technical theater you must have advanced courses in architecture, construction, electronics, audio, and lighting. Armed with years of experience in these areas, they formed the perfect foundation for many years later joining the professional audio visual industry.”

Alan Brawn is currently the National Product Marketing Manager for Samsung Electronics America’s Pro AV Group.

Now, here, in his own words, is the evolution of the ProAV world as seen through his eyes.


After spending the decade of the 70s and the early 80s teaching communications and theater and then a nine-stint in the world of photography, I literally stumbled into the Pro AV industry.

Next door to the photographic accessory company my partner and I owned was an audio visual company called Communitronics Corporation. The owner, Bob Anderson.and I become friends and we would get together after work and discuss each other's businesses One evening after a particularly bad sales month on the photo accessories side of things.I told Bob I needed to do something else with my life. He seemed amused and said "I wondered how long it would take you to realize that 50% ownership of nothing is nothing!" The next evening he told me he wanted me to come and run his audio visual company.

After the shock, and knowing that my knowledge of the audio visual industry was nil, I accepted with a great deal of anxiety but understood that something was really better than nothing.

What characterized my first two years in the business was approaching the learning curve at the entry level and attempting with all my power to come up-to-speed in knowledge in the shortest period of time possible while at the same time managing a flourishing company.

This journey began with a trip to NAB with my chief engineer at the time, Kevin Morrow, who is now VP of Technology for ParkerVision. Kevin and I were standing next to some very professional broadcast engineers from Chicago and the group was discussing component video. I knew nothing about video let alone component video but I wanted to take part in the discussion and since I had taught audio at the university level, I blurted out a reference to different components in a system like a tuner and an amplifier.

Kevin looked at me in shock and grabbed my arm and led me away. He said and I quote, "If you ever open your mouth and embarrass me and Communitronics again by not knowing what you are talking about, I will quit!"

After turning several shades of red and knowing I had made the worst mistake imaginable, I decided that I would seek the knowledge I obviously lacked and someday make Kevin and my new colleagues in the industry proud of me.

In the early 1980s I didn't know where to find audio visual courses, and the World Wide Web that we take for granted today was a decade away, so the path to knowledge was not obvious.  

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Related Keywords:Alan Brawn, AV Hall of Fame, audio visual industry, NAB, Parkervision, Communitronics, Kevin Morrow

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