Remembering Frank Gordon Edmonson (August 5, 1953 – November 28, 2002) was born in Denver, Colorado to Fan and Bill Edmonson. He grew up in Lakewood and Arvada and graduated from Arvada High School in 1971. He soon moved to Gold Hill, Colorado, where he was a founding member of the J. B. Stetson Sweat Band, playing guitar and fiddle. When the band broke up in 1975, he moved to Denver and became a guitar repairman at the Denver Folklore Center. Through Frank’s work at the Folklore Center, he became friends with the members of the bluegrass group Hot Rize. In 1981 he was hired as the group’s “roadie.” Soon after, he added bus driving duties, and began learning sound reinforcement from a master, Hot Rize guitarist Charles Sawtelle. By summer of that year, he had become the group’s full-time sound engineer, maintaining band equipment and mastering many different sound boards all over the U.S. and in foreign countries from Europe to Japan and Australia. He also took the job of road manager, handling many critical details of Hot Rize’s busy touring schedule. At about this time, the group made Frank a full member in terms of both band decision-making and pay.
Following Hot Rize’s disbanding in 1990, Frank worked for a variety of artists including Lyle Lovett before becoming road manager and monitor engineer for multiple Grammy-winning Alison Krauss and Union Station. This close association lasted from 1994 to the end of his life. In off-time from Krauss, he toured with world-renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas and with Dan Tyminski, still doing occasional Hot Rize reunion dates. In 2002 he provided critical sound and organizational support to the two history-making “Down the Mountain” tours, involving many artists.
Although Frank never attended college, he became one of the leading sound engineers in the traditional acoustic music circuit. He was especially valued for his depth of knowledge and understanding in a field where true experts are relatively few. He learned his skills through hands-on experience and mentoring, fueled by his dedication to excellence. Although at first he had wanted to be a performing artist, he channeled his skills to enable many musicians to reach their audiences effectively, through his sound engineering and road managing. Throughout his career, Frank was appreciated for his straightforward, friendly manner and his clear desire to help everyone and everything he could. He was well-loved and highly respected far and wide by those with whom he worked.
Frank Edmonson’s story is an inspiration to all who strive to achieve a meaningful life. It is particularly appropriate to the students at MSU Denver, many of whom are struggling to establish themselves and to transform their futures. Like Frank, many MSU Denver students find ways to have significant involvement and impact on other’s lives, that they may never have imagined before attending MSU Denver. The Edmonson Scholarship is particularly appropriate for MSU Denver because of its Modified Open Door status, providing educational opportunities to all high school graduates, regardless of their previous levels of achievement, and MSU Denver’s sister institution status with UCD, at which course work in sound engineering is offered.