Remembering Rudy Van Gelder, OD’46
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Remembering Rudy Van Gelder, OD’46

Remembering Rudy Van Gelder, OD ’46

Dr. Van GelderThe Salus University community was saddened by the news of the passing of fellow optometrist and recording engineer extraordinaire, Rudy Van Gelder, OD ’46, on August 25, 2016.  Dr. Van Gelder was known for introducing his unique style to notable jazz albums from music legends including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and John Coltrane.

Throughout the 1970s, Dr. Van Gelder worked primarily for CTI Records, one of the most successful jazz music labels of the era, which tenaciously added to his growing collection of popular albums. Dr. Van Gelder took pride in being at the forefront of recording technology, and was the first engineer in the United States to utilize state-of- the-art microphones from Neumann, a German engineering corporation.

PCO's Orchestra, 1946 - Dr. Van Gelder, Top Row, L-R, Second
PCO's Orchestra, 1946 - Dr. Van Gelder, Top Row, L-R, Second

A true recording visionary, he was an early supporter of magnetic recording tape, and later favored digital recordings. Operating superior technology contributed to his success, but his ultimate goal was to, “get electronics to accurately capture the human spirit, and make records as warm and realistic as possible.”

Dr. Van Gelder was born in Jersey City, NJ, and at a young age, became interested in jazz music. He had a home recording device with a turntable and discs by the age of 12, and during high school became a radio operator. He attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) in Philadelphia, and felt, “Optometry would give me the mental discipline I needed and a steady income.”

Rudy Van Gelder with cameraUpon graduating from PCO in 1946, Dr. Van Gelder managed his own optometry practice in Teaneck, NJ, and pursued his passion of recording during his free time. In 1959, he made the transition to full-time recording engineer, and successfully built a home studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.  Most recently, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Art Jazz Master in 2009, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Recording Academy in 2012 and the Audio Engineer Society in 2013. 

Dr. Van Gelder will remain with us through the sounds of some of the most influential jazz albums to date, and his unique contributions will be forever remembered.

Rudy Van Gelder in The New York Times

Rudy Van Gelder in 1988 at the home studio that he designed himself in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Source: The New York Times