Cerami Associates’ Bruce Manning joins the Commercial Integrator #AVLivingLegends family this week as our 36th induction. Manning, who has his CTS-D credential and who serves as the firm’s associate principal, richly deserves this recognition. The Commercial Integrator #AVLivingLegends initiative is meant to celebrate and honor our industry’s biggest contributors. With this series, we thus hope to spotlight the difference-makers and world-changers who move among us.
Here, we present a detailed conversation with Manning as he reflects on his career. He traces how he got started in the AV industry (Spoiler alert: It started with a passion for rock music!), and he describes the first big break he got. He also reminisces about some great rock memories, including a teenage close encounter with Twisted Sister.
Later on, Manning discusses some of his mentors and shares the lessons that they taught him. He also shares a funny anecdote about an ill-fated ball of duct tape and a resulting deluge! Finally, he talks about having become a master scuba diver and some of the exotic places he has taken the plunge.
Enjoy this intimate conversation with Cerami Associates’ Bruce Manning!
And if you’d like to read even more coverage relating to our #AVLivingLegends, like Cerami Associates’ Bruce Manning, check out our hub page. It includes direct links to every living legend!
Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry? What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?
Bruce Manning: My career has followed the familiar path of many in the industry: Trying drums and guitar, I realized at an early age of 14 or 15 that I did not have musical chops.
My friends started a garage band that gained quite a bit of notoriety. Cashing in some bonds, I purchased a sound system that included a Kelsey mixer, Peavey amps and Altec Voice of the Theater speakers. Eventually, I was hired by several high schools for graduations, etc., making a lot of money for a teen. Then, between getting a degree from the Institute of Audio Research (IAR) and a BSEE, I hit the road for a long stint in sound engineering and production management for some serious rock ‘n’ roll acts.
After many years of traveling the world, working in high-profile venues, I needed to settle down. I was tired of not knowing which city I was in or what day it was. Touring does not know weekends! Between tours, I was a studio rat, engineering albums and troubleshooting technology at some of the best recording studios in New York City. I had an ear and a knack for electronics, process and flow. About that time, the proverbial writing was on the wall indicating the decline of the mega-studio, and I needed a path forward.
I honestly did not know of the commercial AV business when I fell into it, by accident, by means of landing a gig with Anthony Nittoli, head of Pro Mix’s integration division in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He took a chance on me. My first commercial AV installation project was the renovation of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. It was a blast, and, in it, I found a new direction.
Like-minded colleagues and, of course, the gear have kept me engaged with my internal geek side. As a bonus, being a touring production manager, as well as a soundperson, prepped me for the life of an audiovisual engineer and project manager.
Commercial Integrator: Reflect on your role as both a mentee early in your career and as a mentor later in your career. Who helped shape the trajectory of your professional life, and how have you tried to help shape others’ careers?
Bruce Manning: One of my first jobs was working at Norm’s Music Store on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, N.Y. I made all kinds of cables, polishing my soldering chops. I worked with a biker named Carl (RIP), the electronics repair technician. He showed and taught me many things in the industry, and he introduced me to Charlie Barreca, sound engineer for Twisted Sister. I was too young to legally get into the clubs to see them, so they helped me get a fake ID (something that was quite easy to get). My friends (whose band I mentioned earlier) and I would sneak into clubs around the tri-state area. They would rush up to the stage. Meanwhile, I would rush to the soundboard to watch and learn. Charlie eventually put my hands on the board, and I was mixing Twisted Sister! What a rush!
I’ve always been a “do as I do” person, wanting to constantly get involved. I found this to be the best way to pass on knowledge. I can remember running large-scale integration projects, sitting with an apprentice, with both of us rigging, soldering or crimping together. This takes patience, which sometimes is in short supply. Much of what I learned from touring helped me pass along knowledge and organizational skills to others. Then, as an integrator, I was able to learn and pass along construction techniques, codes and processes (and union regs). Finally, it extends to consultant design techniques, coordination and processes.
Early in my consulting career, Alan Bjornsen was someone I worked with and someone to whom I looked for guidance. He made decisions subtly and with an even tone (most of the time). He taught me to be methodical, and he taught me how to navigate the waters of a construction project.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the most memorable story or anecdote of your career in commercial AV?
Bruce Manning: There have been many memorable stories, both good and bad. I have a doozy to share!
We were installing a new sound system in a theater and needed to get some cabling across a fly gallery proscenium. My technicians up in the proscenium didn’t trust walking across the rafters, so one of them made a ball out of duct tape at the end of the cabling to help it go across. The ball was thrown across the proscenium only to hit a sprinkler head, which deluged the stage. All the stage props and backdrops ended up being ruined. That was a valuable and expensive lesson to learn!
Commercial Integrator: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Bruce Manning: My greatest accomplishment is and has been being able to provide for my family by having this career. The AV industry has been quite good to me, and I’ve thrived within it. I’ve made many friends along the way, and I’ve continued to mentor, while putting meaningful designs out for clients and institutions.
Commercial Integrator: What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Bruce Manning: I’m not sure if it’s really a regret, but, to be perfectly honest, when I was a teen, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I had my schooling and career path laid out. Then, I got the rock ‘n’ roll bug! Honestly, I’ve been lucky to have this second passion and be able to take my music — and then the AV profession — with me all over the world. Meanwhile, while traveling, I’ve become a master scuba diver! I would take the plunge every chance I got — from the French Riviera to Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Bruce Manning: Consider all angles. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. In the AV industry, there are many variations in product and delivery (not all of them being equal). Same goes for design. There can be a myriad of ways to achieve the same goal. Listen to people. Listen to junior designers and competitors. Sometimes, a fresh take on an age-old problem will bring clarity and better results.
I had a colleague who practiced “my way or the highway” — to little success. For me, this is a life lesson, as well.
Would you also like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — in this #AVLivingLegends series just like Cerami Associates’ Bruce Manning? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, group editor, commercial and security, Emerald, at [email protected].
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