Bob McCarthy Receives USITT Distinguished Achievement in Sound Award

Bob McCarthy Receives USITT Distinguished Achievement in Sound Award

Author and audio engineer Bob McCarthy received the 2014 Distinguished Achievement Award in Sound Design at USITT's 54th Annual Conference & Stage Expo on Wednesday.

USITT Sound Commissioner Curtis Craig presented the award to McCarthy in honor of his many contributions to sound design for live entertainment. McCarthy is an authority on loudspeaker system optimization and helped pioneer the concept of sound measurement in the 1980s, while developing the SIM audio analyzer for Meyer Sound.

"I'm still learning," McCarthy said during a session devoted to his career. "Each time a new loudspeaker comes out, I'm like, 'Well, guess I'm obsolete now' ... But you still need to do the work. You've still got to get that mic up at the top row."

About 200 fans of sound design and McCarthy attended his award presentation at USITT's biggest annual event, the four-day Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Fort Worth. This year's event has drawn 5,000 live entertainment professionals and more than 250 companies, with 240 workshops, meetings, and events.

On Friday, McCarty will participate in a panel with the five other 2014 USITT Distinguished Achieverment Award winners: Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth, SNL and Wicked scenic designer Eugene Lee, lighting design legend Shirley Prendergast, Texas stage manager and mentor Susan Threadgill, and technical theatre educator Dana Taylor.

During his award session Wednesday, Craig showed photos of McCarthy from his early days as a roadie for the Grateful Dead and other rock bands, which introduced him to John Meyer of Meyer Sound and the SIM project.

"The Grateful Dead were the first band to really let us go (experimenting with the sound system) in 1984," McCarthy said. "The other rock bands didn't really want us to change anything. The Dead were totally the other way. They were, 'If you're not going to change things, like, what's the point?'"

McCarthy is the author of four books on sound design, including the field's leading reference, Sound Systems: Design and Optimization. He is known as a generous educator who still shares his expertise in seminars around the globe. He recently returned to Meyer Sound as director of system optimization after several years as a freelance consultant.

McCarthy stayed late Wednesday to present another sound design award, the Robert E. Cohen Sound Achievement Award, to Mercer Aplin of Purdue University as part of USITT's Young Designers & Technicians in the Performing Arts Awards.

USITT is the national association for theatrical and live entertainment designers and technicians. It provides year-round opportunities for networking, training, and promotion of the backstage arts. For more information, visit

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