Music takes mayor's son from St. Charles to the Persian Gulf
Like any other parent with a young child who is showing some interest in music, Don DeWitte was cautious about spending too much money on the first guitar for his son, Patrick.
"He was very interested in music when he was about 8 years old, the St. Charles mayor said of his son. "But the first guitar we bought for him was at Toys 'R' Us, because at such a young age, we weren't sure how strong his interest might be.
Turns out, it was plenty strong, leading 24-year-old Patrick DeWitte to a career in the music industry as an audio engineer for HD Ready, a music production company operated by Joe Thomas out of St. Charles.
After graduating from St. Charles North in 2004, and Columbia College in Chicago in 2008 with a degree in music business, DeWitte was confident he could get involved in the music business because he had already been working part-time with Thomas at HD Ready.
What he may not have expected when he was hired full time was the traveling he would do as part of HD Ready, which produces the Soundstage show for PBS.
A few weeks ago that traveling took DeWitte to the Persian Gulf with a crew filming and recording singer Jessica Simpson's MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Show aboard the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier off the island of Bahrain, south of Kuwait.
"We are filming a Jessica Simpson concert in New York this week, and she asked about two months in advance that we come to the Persian Gulf with her to shoot her shows on the aircraft carrier, DeWitte said. "The segments we shot there will be spliced into parts of her concert show in New York.
Even though the shows were staged aboard the aircraft carrier, DeWitte and his crew joined Simpson when she went to Bahrain to visit troops at the military bases.
"Getting around with a camera and audio kit was tough due to space constraints, DeWitte said. "The ship itself was rather loud, so there were definite limitations to what we could capture, but I'm confident that we got a lot of really good stuff.
Simpson may not fall into a category as one of DeWitte's favorite entertainers, but he left the Gulf with a respect for her commitment to bringing joy to the troops and spending time talking and signing autographs.
"Jessica Simpson was very pleasant, and seemed to really enjoy being among the troops, DeWitte said. "Everyone just lit up as soon as they met her, and you could tell she was making a really positive impact, and I really respect her for that.
Most of DeWitte's recent work has been in New York City or Los Angeles, where he did audio of a concert of The Secret Sisters, a new country duo, along with T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello and Jakob Dylan in what he called one of his favorite concerts to date.
But the trip to the Persian Gulf gave DeWitte a chance to see what most Americans don't our military personnel stationed in a war zone of a foreign country.
"Everybody we met on the ship was fantastic, DeWitte said. "From the commanding officer all the way to the medics, everyone was very welcoming, willing to help us out, and happy to have us.
"Morale, having never been among military personnel before, seemed high, DeWitte added. "I consider it a privilege to have been able to watch members of our military at work, and it sort of put things in perspective for me.
"Whether you support the war, or the government, or not, you've got to stand behind the people that are getting their hands dirty for you. That's as clear to me as ever.
Don DeWitte is proud of his son's accomplishments and is pleased he is involved in a line of work he is passionate about.
"The trip to the Persian Gulf was just an incredible part of it for Patrick, Don DeWitte said. "Very few people in the professional world are able to travel halfway around the world to a region that most of us will never see, let alone an area of conflict.
And Patrick would add one other thing.
"It was brutally hot, he said. "Once you stepped out the door of a car, you were sweating instantly. It was just gross, and it was so humid.