Mentoring and Audio Shows

One of the most obvious solutions to the problem of attracting a younger audience to high end hi-fi is mentoring. It is undoubtedly clear that younger generations of music lovers can distinguish between poor and good quality sound. They can, after all, hear a wider range of frequencies than older folks. And they do, after all, love music. So, what is the problem?

The problem is that younger people often don't know what to listen for. They are hearing the undivided whole. Which is fine. It is just as it should be, in fact. But I am convinced that once they learn what they are missing, they will then want more. It takes only a few moments for a more experienced listener to direct someone's attention to the subtler nuances of reproduced sound. We may not hear these details at first, but once we do, we will never forget them. You cannot unlearn the shortcomings of MP3, for instance. You cannot unlearn the beauty of a naturally reproduced violin, or guitar, or drum kit, or voice.

Jon Iverson wrote about the importance of mentoring in his June 2002 As We See It on "Mentoring and Audio Shows." He says:

Dad, you probably had no idea how important it was for me that you dragged me from room to room at that hi-fi show more than three decades ago. Thanks. And thanks, Mom—you helped me find and test the ultimate speaker cloth and brought home lots of great music….

I encourage each of you to find someone, or a bunch of someones, preferably young (most Stereophile readers say their interest began when they were between 11 and 16), and become their audio mentor.

I revisit this topic and illustrate it in my July 2008 As We See It, "Drunk on Vinyl," in which I give thanks to two of my own audio mentors, John DeVore and Michael Lavorgna. In our November 2008 issue, I hope you will read my further ideas on the topic.

Here I want to draw your attention to the most encouraging trend I saw at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, that of hi-fi manufacturers and dealers bringing their children along to the show. In many rooms, I was greeted by the young faces of first-time show-goers. They were there to help their parents and they were there to learn more about the art of music, the business of hi-fi, and the people behind it all. And, most importantly, they were happy about it.

I was very pleased to meet Gabriel Toro, son of Hiram Toro, US distributor for Koetsu cartridges, Chario loudspeakers, and Montegiro turntables. Gabriel is 23 years old and has been helping his father for the past year or so. He realizes there is much to learn, but he's enjoying the process. He glowed when he mentioned the extraordinary privilege he had of spending a month in Italy, visiting the Chario factory. He's looking forward to more hi-fi shows, and I'm looking forward to meeting him again.