Thomas J. Knab: An Appreciation

[image-1]The passing of Grammy-winning audio engineer and information specialist Tom Knab on September 25 at the age of 61 was devastating not only to his family and friends, but also to a long list of colleagues, artists, ensembles, and institutions with whom he worked, and who treasured his expertise in recording and post-producing their music, both for distribution and for posterity. (Read an obituary in the Case Western Reserve University Daily, where he served as Chief Information Officer in the College of Arts and Sciences.)

Erica Brenner was one of Knab’s closest colleagues in the recording industry. They first met at Telarc, when she and Tom were “off hours” editors long before that company was sold and changed its emphasis. “We often handed projects off to each other,” she said in a recent conversation. “When he started getting more calls for freelancing, he graciously offered my name, and we had quite a nice arrangement going ever since 1992.” Brenner added that her freelancing would not have been possible without the generosity of Elaine Martone and Telarc, who let her use their editing equipment.

“It was Tom who recommended that I produce the Akron Symphony back in the ‘90s. He also recommended me to Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire,” Brenner said. “He had a way of seeing connections between people that would create opportunities. Without all that freelance experience, as well as clients, I would have never been able to make the transition to independent producer the way I did. I’m still humbled by that, and realize I probably never told him what that meant to me. It makes me sad, but I also think, knowing Tom, that he probably knew.”

The list of projects Knab and Brenner completed together is staggering. “It’s nearly 40, 30 of which were freelance,” she said, adding that both of them also held full time jobs. “So he did all of that work after hours, and he was a devoted family man as well.”

Recordings they made for Telarc between 1993 and 2009 included the Cincinnati Symphony’s Mahler Third Symphony, several discs featuring harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, and P.D.Q. Bach’s Short-Tempered Clavier (for which Knab and Brenner had to travel to Iowa with Peter Schickele to record a calliope).

Their freelance projects included the Akron Symphony’s American Voices, Baldwin Wallace’s The Conservatory, Margaret Brouwer’s Crosswinds, Donald Erb’s Sunlit Peaks and Dark Valleys, the Columbus Symphony’s CSO Showcase, the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Low Brass — From the Back Row, Joshua Smith’s Bach Flute Sonatas I & II, Michael Sachs’ The Orchestral Trumpet, Ryan Anthony’s Bold, Blue and Bright, Ensemble HD’s Live at the Happy Dog, trombonist Rebecca Cherian’s Water Awakening and Voyage, and CityMusic Cleveland’s yet-to-be-released Visconti: Roots to Branches.

Topping off that list are fifteen albums of recordings Brenner produced and Knab recorded for Apollo’s Fire, beginning in 2002 with the ensemble’s first Mozart album and ending with Bach’s St. John Passion in 2016. Read the rest of the article on