Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Recently the name of Rudy Van Gelder came to my attention. It was actually the title of an article 'optometrist by day, recording engineer by night' that was the real eye-catcher.
Reading the article, I realised, this is a great story. Understanding the current challenges many people face in their professions, especially through automation and the pandemic, and as someone who has also gone through a career transformation, from violinist to entrepreneur and startup founder, this was something I wanted to know more about and share with you.
Born in Jersey City in 1924, Rudy Van Gelder showed early interest in jazz, taking up the trumpet. But it was the technology behind the recordings that really fascinated him.
Thinking that becoming a recording engineer was not a profitable profession, Van Gelder trained as an optometrist, receiving an O.D. degree at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. After graduating he opened an optometry practice in New Jersey.
Whilst studying and working as an optometrist, Van Gelder, in his free time, pursued his real passion: recording engineering.
Whilst his parents were building a new house, Van Gelder used the opportunity to build the living room as a recording studio. The living room was acoustically designed according to Van Gelder's ideas and vision of the sound. Adjacent he built a fully sound-proof control room.
Optometrist by day, recording engineer by night.
From 1946 to the late 1950's this was the place where Van Gelder recorded jazz music, gradually achieving greater success. By 1959 he was so well established as a recording engineer, that he left his optometry practice and completely devoted himself to his first love.
1959 was also the year Van Gelder move his recording studio into a newly built studio designed under Van Gelder's strict supervision and vision. The inspiration for this studio came from the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose designs and large-scale models Van Gelder and his wife had admired at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.