|Black Hills State University alumnus David Velte will be working behind the scenes as a sound engineer for Sunday's 85th Academy Awards.
When the 85th
Academy Awards airs this Sunday, David Velte will not be concerned with which movie wins Best Picture or the best and worst dressed of the red carpet, he will be behind the scenes making sure what’s heard at the most prestigious motion picture awards ceremony is top quality.
Velte, a BHSU alumnus, has spent the last three decades as a sound engineer in California working on a variety of television shows, talk shows, documentaries and special events such as the Oscars and Grammys.
The week prior to a large show like the Oscars, Velte, along with a crew of about 30, puts in 16-hour days making sure everything runs smooth. He has been providing the sound for the Oscars for 10 years, and while he says it is easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the celebrities, he is there to do a job. “It is easy to get caught up in the moment, but I pretty much stay focused on providing the best sound for the show.”
“It kind of takes you aback,” he said of being so close to the celebrities. “All of a sudden these people that are in movies – they are standing 10 feet away from you.” Velte said he has had encounters with several celebrities including Barbara Streisand and Jack Nicholson.
“I am kind of star struck when I meet them,” he said.
Velte’s interest in the sound industry started when he was a student at Spearfish High School.
While in high school he joined the Young Americans team, a group founded in 1962, that focuses on providing music education and performance opportunities to young people around the world. Through the Young Americans, Velte spent a several summers as an audio mixer for a dinner theatre in Northern Michigan.
Velte enrolled in Black Hills State University in 1975 where his father, Wallace Velte, was the choral director. “I played in the band and sang in the choir,” he said. One day a new sound system came in and Velte began playing around with it.
“I just kind of learned as I went,” he said. “You just ask a lot of questions. Start at the bottom and build your way up the ladder.”
In 1980, Velte moved out to California with the Young Americans. He initially got a job doing the sound for Disneyland, but was soon introduced to a guy from Nebraska who owned a sound company. “I started working in the shop and worked my way up to doing shows for musical artists,” he said.
The first musician he worked with was Mac Davis. He then spent seven years traveling with Neil Diamond. “We went on tour and did shows all over the country.”
After nearly a decade of living out of a suitcase, Velte decided to settle down in California and got a job working the audio for TV shows.
“Back when I was on the road, you worked hand in hand with (the artists),” he said. “In the television thing, you see the people but you don’t really sit down and talk to them.”
He has worked on a variety of TV shows including Arsenio Hall, MTV Video and Movie Awards, the Miss American Pageants, and the Screen Actor Guild Awards. He’s been the recipient of seven Emmy Award nominations including an award for his work on the 49th Annual Grammy Awards and the 2002 Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
Velte said he enjoys what he does and can’t imagine doing anything else. “Each show is different. Sometimes it is a talk show and sometimes it is a big event like the Grammy’s or the Oscars.”
While he has been a California resident for more than 30 years, Velte still remains close to his Midwest roots.
“I moved away from Spearfish some 30 years ago, and I’m still homesick. I may come back there to retire.”