There are people who come in to your life and make a lasting impression. Despite distance or time-passed you still feel a bond with them. Yesterday the world lost someone who will always have a special place in my heart. Al Shapiro was my first audio professor in college and one of the most influential people in so many young lives. You might expect me to wax poetic about how much I learned or how he imparted his wisdom on to me in the form of a perfect magnet quote. That was not Al. He was gruff on the exterior but a teddy bear on the inside – he would tell you to fuck off to your face and then crack up laughing a few minutes later. He was no bullshit and meant business but he was also a mentor and a guiding force in such a tough time in so many people’s lives (how do you know what you want to be at 19?!). He spent his career prior to teaching working with some of the most amazing musicians of our time (including John Lennon and Michael Jackson). He forgot more about music and sound than most people will ever know and he was truly one of the highlights of my college experience.
We were unlikely friends – at age 18 I was quiet and unsure of myself when I took my first audio class; at 45 he was at the point in his life where he wasn’t going to cater to some smiley girl from the suburbs who couldn’t cut it. He told me I wasn’t going to make it in this business unless I found a backbone ASAP – and could tell him to fuck off. True story. A semester later I became his first Teacher’s Assistant and got an amazing internship at Finish Studios in Boston. I figured out the summer of my internship that I wasn’t ready to be in the real world at age 19 armed with an associates degree and I decided to stay and get a second degree in TV production. Al wasn’t thrilled – he wanted me to go into the real world and do it – but he knew I needed to find my own way. I ended up realizing that I loved the audio/video business but needed more stability and structure then a studio or mix house could provide.
I credit him with the gusto I have now and I am so saddened that future generations of audio students won’t hear his amazing stories or learn the art of properly miking a studio! Moreover I’m mad at myself. Al and a few other amazing professors were pushed out by my alma mater a few months ago and we had emailed a few dozen times about getting together. And I was busy. And I had work commitments. And I didn’t want to show up and feel like I had let him down….so I didn’t make actual plans. Somewhere in the back of my head is the 18-year-old girl who wanted so badly to work in the music business in NY and kick ass and take names. Over time that has evolved into a 32-year-old woman who works for a software company managing projects and accounts – kicking ass and taking names. I’m proud of where I am but I was so afraid I wouldn’t measure up to his standards – so afraid he’d be disappointed that I took the “corporate whore” route (his words). In hindsight I can see how foolish that mentality was – but of course it’s too late now. Where’s hindsight when I need it?! 🙂
Life is funny – you don’t really realize the significance someone has had on your life until you can’t say thank you.
Thank you Al Shapiro for life lessons, audio knowledge, great stories but most of all thank you for encouraging me to be my own person and not give a fuck what anyone thought. I will miss you more than you know! Oh and I hope you can’t see Facebook – you would absolutely HATE all this attention! ❤