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NORMAL — In one way or another, Chuck Fudge's imprint has been left on our entertainment world here for three decades.

We just don't realize it.

It might impact the quality of the sound we hear.

It could have an effect on the way the performers are illuminated for us to see.

It certainly has everything to do with making sure they and their show go on for us without a single production-related hitch.

As technical director for Illinois State University's Bone Student Center and Braden Auditorium for the past 12 years, Fudge has come a long way since his days on the road as sound engineer for B-N rockers The Something Brothers.

The Monticello native came to ISU in 1981 as "a frustrated musician ... I tried to be one in high school," he confesses. "And I took concert piano and choir at ISU." 

But to no professional avail.

In lieu of actually becoming one, "I hung around a lot of musicians," he says, name-checking such popular '80s-era bands as the Uptown Rulers, Invisible Parrots and Saints, along with their regular B-N haunts, from The Galery in Normal to Scotty's Pub in Bloomington.

At one point, almost by default, "I started doing sound and mixing shows ... I had no skills, and I was learning on the run. It seemed like I was slinging the sound for every band that came through town."

In addition to his club assignments, Fudge could be found around campus sound-managing an array of gigs, from frat parties on the lawn to shows "in the basement of Tri-Towers."

Along the way, something pivotal happened — as in The Something Brothers, B-N's A-list rockers of the era.

During his three years with the band (1988-1991), he moved up from running sound to hitting the road, from Chicago to New York, as the band's road manager. He then followed them into the recording studio as producer and engineer of their first album.

"I thought at the time that tagging along with a band like that was the way to become a good sound engineer," he says ... and it was.

When the Brothers broke up at the height of their popularity, Fudge didn't miss a technical beat, becoming manager of Pro Audio at Pro Sound Center in Normal and meeting his future wife Dawn, who worked across the street at Mother Murphy's.

In short, he was here, there, and everywhere: helping open and install the sound system at Bloomington's New Lafayette Club and, most significantly, landing his defining role as assistant technical director for Bone Student Center and Braden Auditorium, where he advanced to head tech director in 2005. 

With Fudge as designer, the venue installed a new and "dramatically upgraded" sound system in 2014, and is implementing acoustic improvements over the next few years.

These days, he admits, Braden "sounds pretty dang good."

"Being a good sound engineer is about having an ear for music and how the instruments are put together in a mix," says Fudge. "I didn't go to school for it, but I did learn from the school of hard knocks."

In the years since, Fudge's hard-knocks schooling has ensured smooth running, not only at Braden, but also for any concert or Gamma Phi Circus event in Redbird Arena

Away from ISU, he is production manager and consultant for all the big outdoor concerts at The Corn Crib in Normal.

When the Castle Theatre debuted in 2010, Fudge was there to help open it as technical adviser, and sound and lighting engineer, an association he retains to this day. "I'm always on call," he says.

Over his 30 years, Fudge has been behind the scenes of shows, large and small, from frat parties out back to Springsteen and Dylan in Braden.

"The thing about being behind the scenes all these years is that I'm not starstruck," he confesses.

"I love what they do, and I love being a part of their show. But I'm not there to bother them or go ask for their autograph."

For Fudge, the priority for him and his staff is how what they are producing on stage translates to the paying customer in the seats.

"It's not about what I feel or what the artist feels ... it's about what the audience feels," he says. "That's the only thing that matters."

Follow Dan Craft on Twitter: @pg_dcraft

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