Tom Fortier could probably share some juicy tales.
He’s worked with plenty of big-name acts in his long career running sound for concerts, fairs and other events.
But he’s too professional for that.
What he will say is that he loves his job. And this year, his company — Concert Production Services — is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
“I would have never guessed it. The fact that I’ve been doing audio straight for 35 years, and with this company for 30 years — that’s a majority of a person’s adult life,” Fortier said.
For him, it’s been a good life.
The Kennewick company started in 1986 as a division of Music Machine, founded by former Music Machine owners Dave and Connie Carpenter.
Fortier was there from the beginning. In 1993, he bought the company.
Fortier and his crews have been stalwarts at numerous community events over the years, from the Benton-Franklin Fair & Rodeo to First Night Tri-Cities.
“He’s extremely reliable. We’ve learned to use him in the planning process” as each year’s fair is coming together, said Lori Lancaster, the fair’s executive director.
“He’s a very good adviser,” Lancaster said, adding that he always comes through in a pinch.
It’s always nice to be part of what brings other people pleasure. When we see the smiling faces and hear the applause, it’s not for us, but we were part of what made that enjoyable.
Parker Hodge, a longtime First Night organizer, said Fortier is the consummate professional, with a keen eye for detail.
Hodge called Fortier “a godsend to us.”
“He’ll take a look at your performance schedule and catch that there’s a hypnotist in close proximity to a rock band, or only a 15-minute set break between a big band and an Irish dance group that needs to have a totally clear floor,” Hodge said.
Hodge also runs sound for some community events, such as high school dance competitions, and said Fortier has been a font of knowledge, always willing to give advice.
“He’s the guy I’ve got on speed dial,” Hodge said.
Fortier, 62, grew up in Pasco, graduating from Pasco High School in 1971.
He’s always loved music, picking up guitar at age 12.
“I played in bands, I did all kinds of stuff in the music scene. I was actually a music major, briefly, at WSU,” Fortier said.
He knew the music industry could be tough, so he became a pipefitter/welder.
“I would always do (sound) on the side. If there was a strike or a work outage, rather than travel all over the country looking for jobs, I’d just hook up with the nearest rock band leaving town and run sound for them,” he said.
In the early 1980s, he went into sound work full-time.
When people learn what he does for a living, they frequently pepper him with questions.
“I’m often asked who’s the most famous person I’ve ever worked with,” Fortier said. “I have to tell them Mickey Mouse.”
That would be when a Disney tour came through the Tri-Cities.
Fortier also has handled sound for musicians from Keith Urban to James Brown, as well as politicians from George W. Bush to Al Gore.
What seems to be closest to his heart, though, are the community events he works — Benton-Franklin fair, First Night, the Living Nativity, Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre productions and the like.
Fortier is proud of his many longtime local customers.
“The focus I’ve always had was to service our community. That’s priority No. 1 for us,” he said.
Bill Burke, manager of Ted Brown Music’s special project division, has worked with Fortier in several capacities over the years, including as an artist, customer and colleague.
He said the 30-year milestone speaks to Fortier’s relationship-building.
“It’s a testament to Tom and the guys that they’ve been around this long,” he said. “Being a sound person is like being a baseball umpire. If you’re doing your job, people aren’t going to notice you. But if something goes wrong, you’re the first one yelled at. ... He’s obviously doing something right.”
Fortier doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Now is a busy time, with multiple fairs, including the Benton-Franklin fair, which runs Aug. 23-27.
He’ll be there, with his equipment and his crew.
“It’s always nice to be part of what brings other people pleasure,” Fortier said. “When we see the smiling faces and hear the applause, it’s not for us, but we were part of what made that enjoyable.”
For more on Concert Production Services, go to concertprosvcs.com.