Byron Cancelmo, who is in charge of sales and business development at Peninsula Plastics Co. in Auburn Hills, Mich., has invented a device that could help professional musicians avoid disasters like this (Ashley Simpson's infamous performance at the 2005 Orange Bowl). The invention is called the vocal acoustic monitor, or VAM. It helps singers hear how they sound when they are on stage, according to this Associated Press story.
"A lot of time a singer is off-key because he can't hear himself," [Cancelmo] said. "It's hard to maintain a good vocal quality on stage if you can't hear yourself." Live performers are always compensating for the ambient sound. "Have you ever covered your ears and talked? That's what you hear on stage. Now you have to maintain a pitch," said Cancelmo, whose musical career has included touring Europe with a highly regarded men's choir while he was in college and performing with his own band, B&R, in clubs around Detroit. "I've played hundreds of shows, and I think only 2 percent or 3 percent of the time I could hear everything," he said. The VAM is clipped to the microphone and funnels the "true" sound back into the performer's ear, helping him understand almost instantly how he is coming across to an audience in any kind of setting. "It's what you hear in the studio through the headphones. It's crisp. It's clear. It's you," Cancelmo said. "Strangely enough, the louder the environment is around you, the better you can hear yourself. You can't really put a price to that."According to the story, VAM took more than $200,000 to develop. Cancelmo plans to get a global patent, and now he's getting tooling for the project. He credits Peninsula Plastics for supporting his project, even though it's a bit outside the company's normal automotive thermoforming work. The story quotes Richard Jositas, Peninsula Plastics' owner and chief executive, saying he's glad Cancelo came up with VAM, because it has the potential to help diversify the company's business mix.
"Being primarily an automotive supplier in Detroit, we're looking for opportunities outside that core industry to help stabilize some of the peaks and valleys in our own business," Jositas said. "I think it was just worth taking a gamble on this one. It's still in its neophyte stage but we have great hopes for it. "I wish we had more employees coming up with great innovations we could take to market," said Jositas.