Karrie Keyes to Receive Parnelli Audio Innovator Award
LAS VEGAS – The Parnelli Board of Advisors has announced that Karrie Keyes, longtime monitor engineer for Pearl Jam and co-founder of SoundGirls, a nonprofit dedicated to the empowerment of the next generation of women in audio, will receive the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award at the 19th annual ceremony on Jan. 17, 2020.
“Karrie has taken care of the monitor needs of one rock’s premiere acts, Pearl Jam, for nearly 30 years,” says Terry Lowe, Parnelli Awards Executive Producer and publisher of FRONT of HOUSE and PLSN magazines. “That alone is impressive, but we also recognize her work with SoundGirls, an inspiring organization whose mission is to empower the next generation or women in audio by establishing networks of support, mentorships, internships, and job placement.”
As a teen in Los Angeles, Keyes had friends in bands and loved to go to concerts. Rebellious and not prone to conformity or people telling her what she could and couldn’t do, she graduated from high school early and moved out of the house. Naturally she was drawn the L.A. punk scene at the time.
“I went to a Black Flag concert in 1986, which Dave Rat [of Rat Sound] was working,” she says. “I talked to him and asked him to teach me what he was doing, even though I had no idea where to begin.” She just started showing up, helping with load in, hooking up cables, and basically beginning at the bottom of the dues-paying trajectory (including sleeping in the warehouse).
As part of the early Rat team, she grew with the company. By 19, she sat behind the monitor board of a popular Southern California Ska band, The Untouchables (No Doubt often opened for them). She handled the 10-musicians well, and monitor world became her destiny. Other acts and one-offs ensued.
Especially in the early days, she always met any resistance from having a woman on the crew by simply keeping her nose down and doing the work. “People still say, ‘women on a crew cause drama,’” Keyes says. “You know, I’ve been touring with men my entire life, and the drama always comes from them. Today there are 10 women on the PJ crew, and the problem is always some guy having a meltdown because something catering did or didn’t do.”
In the early 1990s, she toured with The Untouchables, Soundgarden and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and crossed paths with Pearl Jam when they were opening for a RHCP show in 1991. By 1992, she was juggling monitor duties for both Pearl Jam and RHCP, eventually becoming a permanent member of the Pearl Jam family, including handling leader Eddie Vedder’s solo tours.
By 2013, Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato, another live audio engineer (Spin Doctors, Indigo Girls, Goo Goo Dolls), founded SoundGirls. “We met participating in a ‘Women of Professional Concert Sound’ panel at AES, and it was a great experience,” she says. “We were struck by how similar our experiences, work ethic, and passion was.”
The question at that panel — as it is now — is: “How does a young woman go about getting into sound?” SoundGirls was to be at least part of the answer. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization showcases and promotes women, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups working in professional audio, as well as inspiring young women and girls to enter into careers in music production and professional audio.
Today Keyes is executive director of the organization. (Pettinato stepped back in 2015 but is still an active supporter). In addition to maintaining a website of a wealth of information, articles, resources, profiles on other women engineers, and staying up on issues like sexual harassment, they stage workshops and camps throughout the world. They have over 20 SoundGirls chapters in North America and more in Mexico, Australia and Europe and more than 6,000 members.
Sound Image’s Dave Shadoan, who was honored as the Parnelli Audio Innovator in 2012, has known Keyes “forever” as “a dedicated audio engineer who never lets a client down. But it’s her work with SoundGirls that also deserves recognition. When I first heard about the organization from her years ago when it started, I thought it was brilliant because our industry has a big hole in it due to the lack of women in it. Now I’ve seen more women technicians in the last three-four years than in my 40 years prior, and I’m sure she’s had something to do with that.”
Keyes will receive the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award at the 19th annual Parnelli Awards on Jan. 17, 2020 at the Hilton Anaheim, located next to the Anaheim Convention Center. The ceremony will take place during NAMM’s annual convention and as part of NAMM Live.
For more information, please visit www.parnelliawards.com.