An old English proverb states, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Unlike others, Heidi Blackmer Robichaud never had that one profession for which she was destined while growing up. So, she took a long journey to become the President of Earthworks Audio. However, she has many great tales to tell.
Robichaud's rarely told story dates back to taking a summer job in Washington DC after graduating from high school in Tampa FL. She then decided to attend the University of Florida, but quickly judged it not to be her cup of tea. She loved city living so much that she returned to the nation's capital to take on a number of temporary jobs.
Later, she decided to expand her horizons and travel for some temp jobs. Ultimately, she landed in Boston, where she met David Blackmer of dbx fame. The couple married in 1983 and Robichaud attended an electronics school for some rudimentary electronics education to assist her husband on some of his projects. "He liked to test small pieces of things to 'prove out' what he was doing," she said.
In 1979, Robichaud and Blackmer moved to New Hampshire on a part-time basis to start a construction company that handled a wide variety of projects, including rehabilitating an old mill building and rebuilding a hydroelectric project. "On the Earthworks projects, my position was bookkeeping for awhile," recalled Robichaud. "Our son, Daniel, was born at the time and I enjoyed being an at-home mom until he started school."
After returning to school herself, Robichaud and Blackmer ran a restaurant that had a performance stage designed to perform music. At about the same time, Blackmer founded an audio division of the construction company. "He felt there were no speakers available that could authentically produce what he heard sitting in front of a musician," said Robichaud. "We attended a variety of specialty audio shows, including T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment show) and AES (Audio Engineering Society convention), to see the latest and greatest speakers being produced. We must have listened to a hundred different speakers over a couple of years and attended four or five different shows. I particularly disliked the use of metal tweeters."
This leads us to the creation of Earthworks Audio, which was founded based upon a perceived industry need. The Milford NH company celebrated its 15th anniversary late in 2010. Robichaud said the anniversary was truly a company milestone of which everyone was incredibly proud. "Fifteen years as a company is no easy feat in any industry," she said. "So, for us to make it to 15 years as a company and to be able to say we continue to stand for the principles that David founded the company on was something to be celebrated in a big way. We've always stood behind our products and pride ourselves on the quality of what we make. So, to reflect that certainty in our products' quality and craftsmanship, we decided to celebrate our 15 years with a 15-year warranty, which is unmatched in the industry."
Robichaud has served Earthworks as its President since 2002. She was previously the company's Vice President. The greatest rewards of her job are "seeing people get turned on to the passion" when experiencing her company's microphones and seeing her son—also an Earthworks employee—everyday. Robichaud's day-to-day responsibilities run the gamut, including approving credit applications, organizing Earthworks' participation in trade shows, planning finances and having strategy meetings.
Earthworks' President realizes that she, as a female in a male-dominated industry, represents a minority. But being a female has not been detrimental to her career in any way. "It's a tough industry, period," Robichaud said. "[But] the people I work with feel a passion for the product, so there is a good deal of teamwork focused on doing what is best for the brand and the company. I have received great advice and support from some of David's former colleagues, such as Zaki Abdun-Nabi and Larry Blakely, who worked with him at dbx. The challenges have just made us stronger and more driven to become a major part of the industry, as well as [expand our horizons] to what the users need/want from our products. A great example of that would be the creation of the PianoMic and Flexwand Systems. These products came from listening when the industry told us what challenges they faced with their current setups, and answering with an innovative sound."
Females are not only a minority in MI, but they are also a minority regarding microphone endorsees at Earthworks, something of which Robichaud is keenly aware. "We haven't been approached by many female artists," she said. "When we get asked for microphones or endorsements, it has overwhelmingly been by men. I can't really say what the underlying cause is for this trend. There are many big names who have used our products both in recording and live applications, but it's often the front-of-house (FOH) engineer who influences the artist's microphone choice. For us, I think getting microphones in the hands of FOH engineers is the key to signing more female artists."
The President of the company whose products are still handmade, -tuned and -tested in its original facility said she would like to see more females as musicians and engineers. "We recently started working with WAM (Woman's Audio Mission) and are looking forward to helping get the excitement built to encourage more women to enter the professional fields in the industry," Robichaud said.
Robichaud was remarried in 2006 to Paul Robichaud. (Sadly, Blackmer passed away in 2002.) "Paul has really helped us look toward expanding the business," she said. "He was instrumental in hiring our new Chief Operating Officer, Bill Norton, for which I am grateful. Bill brings the sales experience I lack."
As you perhaps easily deduced during the retelling of her life story, Robichaud loves to travel. Whenever she has the time, Robichaud enjoys exploring different lands with her husband.
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