Ember Duke | Staff Writer
In anticipation of the 50th class reunion, alumni like Jim Anderson M’73 are reminiscing on their time spent on the Bluff. The Grammy-winning sound engineer said he still uses the things he learned at Duquesne everyday in his 50 year career.
“It was all the influence at Duquesne…they really set up the foundation for me,” Anderson said.
Creating something meaningful that the audience can connect with drives Anderson.
“That’s the thrill you get when you know that what you are doing is important and it’s going to be seen or heard by people,” he said. “You try to do work that you know is going to kind of affect people and influence people or bring emotions and entertain them, too.”
Recently he and his wife—who ia also his professional partner—Ulrike Schwarz have been focused on immersive audio designed for streaming. Their work consists of producing, mixing and advising on a range of musical projects. They have an extensive multi-genre discography including jazz, classical and vocal recordings. Occasionally, the couple will also engineer movie scores, like they did for Oscar-nominated movie “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
“Anything that needs sound I can do,” he said.
Thirteen of Anderson’s recordings have won Grammys, four of which he received personally.
“It’s really great to be acknowledged by your peers,” he said. “The recognition is fantastic and it does kind of validate or at least kind of helps you feel like you are on the right path.”
He credits his music education degree for a well-rounded understanding of music and engineering.
Christine Jordonoff, a graduate assistant during Anderson’s undergraduate years, advised him musically and aspirationally. After recently reconnecting with Anderson in New York, Christine saw how he harnessed his knowledge to be a spearhead of the sound engineering field.
“He took the basis of his music education from Duquesne and turned it into this astonishing career in a field that then Duquesne finally developed. It’s just amazing, he did it on his own,” she said.
From the start, Jordonoff was astounded by his musical abilities.
“We always knew there was something he would do that would take him beyond the norms,” she said. “He really is something significant in his world…He’s just a unique and pretty modest individual.”
After graduating, Anderson worked at WDUQ FM for three months but quickly moved onto sound engineering for NPR. In 1981, he took a chance at freelancing that turned into a 30-year career. Now a professor emeritus at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he balances teaching and co-running his own engineering company with Schwarz.
Anderson maintains an excitement toward his work that he said contributes to success. His ambitious demeanor lends to his philosophy that you get out of something the energy you put into it.
“You do need to be positive in everything you approach,” he said.
When working with clients, he tries to bring his best creative insights and masterfully hone his abilities.
“You are always trying to better yourself for sure,” he said. “It’s also the kind of thing of being able to be presented with a challenge and to approach it and to win. And to not let it overtake you, you can say ‘I can do that.’”
His attitude and talent can be traced back to his undergraduate days, said Sister Carole Anne Riley, retired professor of piano and music education. She thought he was a model student and has proudly followed his success over the years.
“He’s a gentleman in the best sense of the word, and I think he lives the Duquesne spirit. It’s the spirit that gives life because his spirit has given life. And he’s really taken the Duquesne spirit with him wherever he’s gone,” she said. “I think he exceeded his own expectations…so it’s a great privilege to watch someone like that.”
Creatively, Anderson is open to trying just about anything. He tries to experiment and learn new musical styles, while still maintaining his techniques.
“There’s only two kinds of music, good and bad, so we’ll essentially listen to almost anything,” he said.
Anderson is a committee member for the 1973 class reunion, which will run Oct. 20-22. Event details can be found on the Duquesne University Alumni Association page.