I’ve always been a major tech-head, savvy with everything technical while simultaneously being linguistically challenged. My mother was Math and English teacher – let’s just say the math stuck. I just can’t find enough time these days to sit down, relax, and spend an afternoon running 3D physics simulations (seriously). My English and social science skills, however, are still a bit rough despite the average 35 books I read (well actually listen to … audible.com man …) in a typical year. Being a tech-head and coming into this world in Marquette, MI, I suppose it is no surprise that I continued my higher education at Michigan Tech starting in 1987.
Although my love of everything technical has greatly shaped my life since my early years, I’ve also held a strong affinity towards music. Born in 1969 and living through the 70’s and 80’s, I can remember how excited I was about groups like Juice Newton and Joan Jett and the Black Hearts and I was simply in love with Blondie. One of my first major purchases was a Blondie 8-Track and I still have a few ABBA albums on vinyl. At the age of ten, I used my developing ENTJ personality to recruit broom-stick musicians from around my block to jam out to “Greased Lighting” complete with all of John Travolta’s dance moves. We pulled our record player around in a rusty red wagon with a squeaky wheel.
In 5th grade, after a brief and less than spectacular encounter with a viola, my heart was set on playing the flute. My dreams were immediately crushed when a middle school music teacher visited our class, informed me that I had a great sense of pitch, and proceeded to punish me by assigning me to the trombone for the rest of my natural life. My career as a flutist was over before it began – truly difficult times.
Fast forwarding to my senior year at Marquette Senior High School (1987), I was finally introduced to bass guitar. The first song I was taught was “Message in a Bottle” by The Police and the next, “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. The effort of lugging home the high school’s flat-round jazz bass and amp was a small price to pay for the hours I would get to pound away at tunes learning everything by ear.
I was introduced to a band called RUSH by a friend and it was over for me. I had found bass lines that really moved around the fretboard. I loved the bass guitar and played every free moment of the day. Shortly thereafter I found myself in my first “cover” band. Spending what little money we had on a Peavey PA system, we were in business. I remember the PA well, 8 channel mixing board (still have it, still works), 800 Watt power amp, and two SP-2 speakers. Peavey equipment – not super fine, but it can take a beating.
I had an absolute blast during my college years packing dance floors in the 80’s Rock cover band “Amethyst”. I was doubly pleased because I spent those same years applying my newly acquired engineering knowledge to designing and building computer-controlled “light show” equipment from scratch on almost no budget. Where most MTU students were buying electronics kits from the bookstore for their schoolwork and labs, I was buying up all the kits for my band projects.
My first lighting controller was set inside a large jewelry box with a convenient hinged cover, the second was built into a Tupperware container (keepin’ it fresh), and my final design graduated to using a huge original IBM PC computer.
Amethyst had a great run, made its mark on many local people, and was one of the best experiences of my life. From there I went on to run lights and sound for a group call “The Heat” – now these guys were talented. I learned, learned, learned over these years about running live sound and gained a reputation for pulling off near CD quality mixes of live bands.
Around 1993 I graduated from Michigan Tech with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Shortly before graduation. I reluctantly turned in my mullet and took a real job for a local computer company, Strategic Solutions, where I would eventually become an owner and be employed for a dozen years.
About five years into my business man seclusion, I was recruited back to the music scene by old friends. Before long I found myself back on the stage in a new local covers band call “Hot Damn.” To be perfectly honest, my biggest reason for joining a band was to lose weight. I figured the weekend gigs, hauling equipment, and dancing on stage would be better than growing roots on the couch watching episodes of “Friends.”
Around the same time I had my first studio recording experience with some friends. This guitarist from this group, Residual Action, introduced me to the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity in Hancock where he was a member. Within a year I had been invited to be an advisor for the Phi Kappa Taus and I was delighted to take on the position. Although I was sort of anti-Greek during my time at Michigan Tech, these young men made an amazingly positive impression upon me. To this day I am still proud to be an advisor for the Gamma Alpha chapter of Phi Kappa Tau in Hancock, MI.
Presently I work days as a Process Engineer and general Computer Geek at Calumet Electronics. My wife Jessie Brassard works at Portage Health in their communications department. Jessie is a very talented graphic artist and a general pain in my butt. I love her dearly and our first child is due this fall.
Perhaps the most relevant aspect of my life with respect to PJ and Rock Camp is the little “media” business, Brassard Media, that Jessie and I run on evenings and weekends. One of my fascinations over the years has been shooting video. Ever since I installed a “media” lab with Ray Bosley at Ontonagon High School over ten years ago, I’ve been very interested in video editing. You can watch some of the Winter Carnival videos we have produced over the years on our web site, including a country music video we produced with Hannah Bethel.
Each time I shot and edited a video, I found myself to be disappointed with some aspect of the final product. I’m sort of that way. Where PJ Olsson and Adam Johnson are always so upbeat, I’m a little more cynical and self-critical. I never really feel anything has reached its potential (no worries, my wife is working on improving my positive attitude.) My constant need for improvement and reaching the next level drove the purchase of better and better equipment and developed a need for collaboration with artists who I could learn from.
When people started developing a general interest in our work (video projects for me, graphic art for Jessie) we decided to start a little business for fun. Brassard Media was born. Since our inception in January of 2009, we’ve enjoyed working with Adam Johnson, Dave and Karyn Olsson, Ray Bosley, and many others on some very cool projects.
We’ve very excited to finally have an opportunity to work with PJ. Our goal is to facilitate Rock Camp through everything from conceiving and building up the Rock Camp web presence to quickly swapping out a faulty guitar cord during rehearsal to allow PJ to stay focused on the kids rather than on technical issues. Rock Camp, what an amazing experience. I’m just loving it.