The True Value of Music Education and the Impact of Band & Orchestra School Programs

Dave Hatmaker — former member of Yamaha’s Global Research & Development team and sound designer for The Walt Disney Company — explains the importance of music education, strong mentors, and supporting the next generation of music professionals.

Photo by: Isabelle Smith

Earthworks Audio is committed to uplifting voices in all industries, especially those in music education. Doing so not only improves our industry in the present, but it provides a better springboard for the next generation of musicians and industry leaders.

It is well understood that today’s band & orchestra students will become future music directors and key decision makers for leading MI retailers and manufacturers. The investments made in supporting B&O and music education not only have a profound impact on society at large, but that we are cultivating and nurturing the future success of the entire industry.

That won’t happen unless we give those students the best tools — like the new Earthworks  SR117 microphone which is a versatile powerhouse for any music student. While it’s primarily used for live vocals, it sounds just as great on horn, woodwind, or brass. It’s the perfect all-in-one microphone for musicians of any skill level.

We also need to provide students the chance to work with incredible mentors and industry leaders like Dave Hatmaker. We were able to sit with Dave for a quick interview and to get his take on the power of music education and how his choir and band directors helped inform and impact his life and success.

“My goal is to make life a bit better for musicians by having better, easier, smarter, better sounding new products, while having FUN!!”

Hey there, I’m Dave Hatmaker, and let me tell you about my ode to my choir and band directors who changed my life forever! Back in 1982, I headed over to Long Beach State in California with big dreams of becoming a band director.

You know, it’s funny how a few key people can totally shape who you become. My band director, PT Arnold, and my choir directors, Bob Duncan and Cheryl Gillaspy, left a massive impact on me. PT Arnold got me hooked on everything band-related, from the sweet sound of the sax sections to the Bari Sax’s place in the mix. Thanks to him, I fell in love with Tower of Power’s music too. Bob Duncan, besides being a choir director, was part of the famous Diamonds and even sang on the ‘Happy Days’ TV theme song from the 70s! Talk about being surrounded by greatness!

Those three mentors set my sonic homing pigeon —my unique sound signature — which stuck with me throughout my career in mixing and product development. They knew what they were doing! If a band or choir sounded fantastic in the rehearsal room, it almost always meant they’d rock the stage too.

I was all in as the drumset player in these choirs during high school and college. My passion grew, and thanks to these awesome directors, I ended up in the music industry, developing products based on what I saw and experienced every day. Whether I was helping to develop IEMs, microphones, speakers for live sound, recording interfaces, and monitor speakers, I always drew upon my background as a performer and tried to always deliver what the market needed.

As my career progressed and as I developed more and more industry leading equipment, my sons followed in my footsteps joining instrumental music programs and thriving in the music and entertainment theme park business.

What’s super cool is that I was able to use their schools for product development, just a regular ol’ band dad with big ideas. But one day, someone tipped off one of my son’s band directors, like, “Hey, do you know WHO he IS?!” 

Suddenly, I was creating stuff that changed the industry, and it wasn’t just about sales or awards – the real thrill was seeing my products being used in concerts and events. That feeling was priceless, let me tell you!

Now, after years of creating game-changing products and unforgettable show moments, I feel it’s time to give back. It’s like a mentor lap, ya know? Sharing the knowledge I’ve gathered in over four decades of doing this stuff every single day. I wanna make sure that band directors and technicians have all the tools they need to rock their shows. And hey, no more missed solos or technical snafus – we gotta be ready to capture those magic moments!

I got some cool tools for directors and techs, and I’m all about sharing info ahead of time. None of that last-minute stuff – we want those shows to be epic. It’s all about giving some love and affirmation to these amazing educators. They shape the future, man, way past graduation, whether their students stick with the arts or not.

So here I am, ready to mentor, support, and give back to those who helped me succeed. None of my success would have been possible if it were not for my mentors and for the role that music education played in my life. 

I am here to help ensure that every performance is awesome and leaves everyone buzzing with excitement – we owe that to the students, to the proud parents, and especially to the grandparents who attend the big shows!

 Music rocks, and so do those who make it happen!

Dave Hatmaker is a seasoned veteran in the audio industry with over 30 years of expertise. With a diverse background encompassing live-sound mixing, product development, sound design, and educational advocacy, Dave has made an indelible mark in various facets of the field.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dave has had the honor of serving as the front-of-house engineer for an impressive roster of clients, ranging from the Vice-President of the United States to renowned astronauts, high-profile corporate executives, and beloved music acts. Some notable names on his live-sound credits include Dan Quayle, Neil Armstrong, Bob Eiger, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Mamas and the Papas, The Jets, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, LoneStar, Martina McBride, Roy Orbison, Bryan White, Lou Rawls, The Spinners, New Kids on the Block,The 4 Tops, and countless others.

As a sound designer at the esteemed Walt Disney Company, Dave played a pivotal role in creating unforgettable in-park spectaculars and entertainment shows. His contributions to productions like “Beauty and the Beast” (prior to its Broadway debut), “Spirit of Pocahontas,” and “Hunchback of Notre Dame: Festival of Fools” have left an enduring impact on the theme park experience.

While being part of Yamaha’s Global Research & Development team, his insights and collaborations led to the development of cutting-edge technologies and groundbreaking products.

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