Howard Ungerleider won the Parnelli Visionary Award in 2014 for a good reason, he is a pioneer in professional lighting! What struck me during his 2018 NAMM Oral History interview was just how influential his ideas, designs, and innovations have had on the Live Sound industry. As Tour Manager for Rush, Howard was able to create theatrics within the concert performance bringing deeper meaning to what a show really is. He reflected on his early career as a manager when bands he was working with would ask, “So, Howard, what did you think of the show?”. He would reply, “What show? All I saw was a band performance.”. It was that idea that led Howard to work with lighting and staging to create shows to go along with the band performances, and with Rush, Howard set the bar high for what a show could be.
Within the design of the shows he created, Howard used some basic but very effective tricks such as his saying, “The most powerful cue is the blackout.”. He points out it should be done thoughtfully and sparingly but if done correctly, nothing is as stunning and as explosive as all the lights going out. His use of lights, especially new technology in lighting, has also been a game-changer for Live Sound, such as his work with Van Halen and Alicia Keys.
Here is a segment from Howard’s interview
Special thanks to our friend Kevin Mitchell who suggested we interview Howard. How happy we are that we took his advice!
Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian