Robert Sereno, longtime sound designer for Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento, died at age 61 from pancreatic cancer June 17 at his Sacramento home.
Sereno started with the Music Circus in summer 1987 and continued there through nearly the end of the 2014 season. He was much loved there for his positive energy, generous spirit and unfailing sense of humor.
“He was incredibly unique, he had a sense of humor like no other,” said Scott Klier, California Musical Theatre’s executive producer and COO who started there in 1991 as Sereno’s assistant, dressing microphones for him. “Bob had a lot of heart, the most committed employee in our family. Bob would lose sleep if things weren’t going perfectly at Music Circus. He ate, slept and bled his job.”
Sereno’s sound engineering expertise was instrumental in the acoustic design of the Cosmopolitan Cabaret on K Street as it was being retrofitted for Broadway Sacramento use. He was also a musician who played various woodwinds and led a jazz ensemble called the Bob Sereno Trio and the band Ensemble in the late 1970s.
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He was born July 11, 1954, in Rochester, N.Y., graduating from Ben Franklin High School there in 1972. He attended Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, studying music history, theory and performance. He came west in 1974 and attended San Francisco City College that year studying music and drama. He then busked on the streets of San Francisco before forming the band Enterprise in 1976 and touring with it across the country for a year playing saxophone.
Sereno was working for Fruitridge Sound in 1982 and sound engineering at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee when he met Marsha Clark, a volunteer. He asked her to go out with him and the single mother of two young children said she would if he called her in a month. He did and they became a couple, marrying in 1998.
Sereno also worked at Delta College, supervising live sound production at campus events there from 1987 to 2008. Leland Ball and Richard Lewis interviewed Sereno for the vacant Music Circus sound designer position in summer 1987 and hired him that season. He worked every Music Circus summer until his illness wouldn’t allow him to finish the 2014 season. Sereno was the sound consultant for touring Broadway productions that came into the Community Center Theatre and created sound design for numerous artists and live productions.
Lewis, the California Musical Theatre CEO, said, “Bob worked very, very hard. When he started, the technology was not supportive of the goals we were trying to achieve.” Lewis said the then-short one-week rehearsal periods were a “continual battle” for everyone involved with putting the shows together.
“He absolutely rose to the challenge and continued to do so,” Lewis said.
Lewis said Sereno was responsible for much of the sound design equipment choices at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.
Music Circus trumpeter and musical coordinator Larry Lunetta said Sereno had the hardest job at Music Circus.
“He had to pull all of it together for the audience, it’s an incredibly complex job,” Lunetta said.
“He had to pull all the departments together – the acting, the music and bring it all alive. The sound there was a version of what his ears heard – the sound of that theater had a lot to do with his concept how to produce it, and he was very, very good at it,” he said.
Marsha Sereno remembered her husband as “a man with a big heart who loved people.”
“He could tell the worst jokes and get people to laugh,” she said. “He was so passionate about his work. He lived for that, and it gave him much joy.”
Sereno is survived by his wife and stepchildren Ed Clark and Angelia Clark.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Sereno at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento. The public is invited.