Alum spotlight: Ron Saint Germain (BFA ’70)

collage of photos

Ron Saint Germain, BFA in Performance, 1970

Ron in 2006

During his senior year at VCU, Ron hitchhiked to New York for an open call for HAIR. He stood in line for seven hours for a ten second audition, but after a series of seventeen callbacks, he ended up playing Woof for a year in the show.

Ron in front of the Broadway HAIR marquee

He later forsake acting for sound mixing. On his first day in his first job as a sound mixer’s assistant at the legendary Record Plant, he opened the studio door just as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were coming out. That was an auspicious moment in a career full of them.

In the “Richmond News Leader”, 1969.

When Ron moved with his family to Newport News, “I was an Air Force brat”, Ron participated in a nationwide talent contest with over 35,000 participants. He won a full scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Art and Speech in New York. This was when the Vietnam War was raging and since the Academy was NOT an accredited college, he decided to choose another school.

Ron with Don Draper (aka Buddha ’71) in their high school production of Cinderfella, 1966

At VCU, Ron was in eight mainstage shows and sixty one-acts. His former high school experience playing Peter Pan came handy for VCU’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When Ron played the title role at his Omaha, Nebraska high school, the teacher brought in Peter Foy of Flying by Foy to rig the flying system (he flew Mary Martin on Broadway). Ron contacted his high school drama teacher and she sent Ron’s harness for Sam Maupin to wear as Puck in Midsummer.

Ron and fellow alum Bill Burdette in a tree house at Year of the Mushroom, 1970.

Since Ron was third in line for the role in Hair, he had a few months to wait. That’s when he got involved with The Year of the Mushroom which was “a multimedia communal rock theatre fantasy,” in an upstate commune of 40 people. The group ended up on the cover of LIFE Magazine.

Ron on Wall Street while he was in HAIR, 1970
HAIR script!
solo Wolf song in HAIR script

Once he did get to Broadway, he also worked on camera, but “I hated the waste of time in making movies and TV.” Since Ron’s first love was music, he came back to Richmond and became lead singer in a band called Mercy Flight. Taking the band’s demo to New York was his first exposure to a recording studio. He recalls, “The board looked like an airplane cockpit, and I loved planes.”

Still loves flying! Ron in a Black Hawk helicopter

After reading the production credits on his favorite records, Ron decided to let his “fingers do the walking” and called three major New York studios for a job. The manager of The Record Plant asked, “When can you start? and I said, ‘as soon as I finish the paperwork.’” That’s when he ran downstairs to the studio and walked into the famed Beatle and his wife. He thought, “Things are off to a great start.”

Kenny Shaffer (Hendrix publicist), Alan Douglas (Hendrix Manager/Producer) and Ron in background, 1973.

His first engineering credit was for three posthumous Jimi Hendrix albums: Crash Landing, Midnight Lightning and 9 to the Universe although they’re no longer available. For a year, he listened to 900 hours of Hendrix. In the early days, he was making “$50 a week but since my rent was $220, I’d come down to Virginia, get a bunch of pot and sell it to the musicians. They were a built-in market.”

Band SNUFF and Ron (far right) at Alpha Audio in Richmond, 1983.

Since going “Independent” as a Producer, Engineer and Mixer in 1977, Ron’s worked on more than 100 gold and platinum records, including U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. (See this link for an impressive full list.)

Musician Mag article featuring Ron, 1984.

One of his favorite jobs was mixing on Sesame Street for ten years. “You have to set up every instrument: four pianos plus organs and synths, every percussion instrument you can think of, plus the full band. All recorded live in mono on a four track recorder. From that point on, I was an engineer.”

Ron (far right) with 311 and Shaq
Ron and HR of Bad Brains

After 51 years in the biz, Ron is considering moving back to Richmond, “I’d love to come back and set up shop and ease the workload down in a place where I feel at home.” He’s also considered passing on his knowledge by creating, “ a place where I can do my work and teach kids how it’s done.” Who knows? An adjunct gig at VCU might be in Ron’s future!

Ron and solo classical pianist Tania Stavreva at SearSound NYC. Her album won 17 awards!

Header image (clockwise from top left): Ron by the HAIR marquee on Broadway, 1970; At “The Shed” studio, NYC in 2004; in front of his Neve/Amek 9098i in 2010; Snuff at Alpha Audio in 1983; and Saint, Warren Zevon and LesWaldbauer at SunsetSound, LA, 1979.

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the August 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.