17-Year-Old Programmer Lighting Way for Churches, Concerts, Sinbad

17-year-old Will Flavin is hoping to attend InfoComm to make contacts in industry he loves.

Photos & Slideshow
View the slideshow View the slideshow

Five years ago, Will Flavin started as a volunteer, working with Paxton Sound on programming and production of lighting shows for Louisiana area churches and local businesses and concerts. He’s since made programming of intelligent lighting for these spectacles into a part-time career.

So why are we writing about him?

What makes Will Flavin stand out from the hundreds or even thousands of others who’ve followed a similar career path? Flavin is only 17 years old and a junior at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport, La.

“When you go to a live event, it can be really rewarding when the audience is talking about it and remembering how much they liked it,” says Flavin, son of Gary Flavin, a systems specialist at National Oilwell Varco.

Photos: Check out the 17-year-old programmer’s portfolio

In addition to working toward a possible pursuit of an electrical engineering degree in college, the younger Flavin has been busy with his after-school and weekend “hobby.” He programmed lights for the July 4 show by country singer Kix Brooks and is often seen programming elaborate light shows for local churches and the Shreveport Bossier Mavericks American Basketball Association team at the Hirsch Coliseum.

His recent work has taken him to Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La. for a holiday concert that marks one of the biggest shows he’s ever done and a collaboration with longtime comedian Sinbad, who made a living in the systems integration business before crossing over to comedy.

“You really have to lock in on what the band or the artist is doing and respond to that,” says Flavin. “It’s really rewarding when you have 10,000 people reacting to something you did.”

Here’s a look at a show Flavin programmed for Trinity Baptist this summer:

Flavin is “saving as much as possible” of the money he makes in hopes of buying his own lights rather than relying on other companies to supply them for him, and he’s already becoming familiar with the largely unpredictable nature of his possible future career.

Sometimes he’s paid by the hour, while other times he gets a daily rate.

Flavin, who took a tech class in school, says most of his knowledge about the craft has come from working in the field. He is hoping to find a way to attend InfoComm 2014 in Las Vegas, he says, to build up his network of industry contacts and talk to some of the most prominent people in the business.

Flavin’s story is one that shows the future of the AV industry is in better hands than some in the twilight of their careers may believe. Although Flavin’s been helped by watching his father work in the space for many years, his focus in more in the entertainment realm than his father, who works more on the corporate and IT side.

And, while Flavin has had pretty good success and has a strong aptitude for creating impressive light shows for clients, not every job has gone the way he’s hoped, he says. He remembers one time when the audience experienced what he calls “a quick blackout” when he accidentally turned off the power switch instead of the light on the desk where he was sitting.

“You definitely learn from mistakes,” he says.