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"Bud’s Jam” is an annual event that celebrates the musical talents shared by so many Bose employees. Bands made up of employees from all across the company come together to jam and perform for an enthusiastic crowd.

To commemorate the Jam’s recent 25th anniversary, founder Don “Bud” MacLellan, Bose Automotive Engineering Support Group Manager, shared his perspective on the event that has become such a tradition and symbolic of a culture that employee-musicians appreciate.  

What do you do at Bose?

Bud: I am a sound engineer and group manager for Bose Automotive. I work in a very hands-on role managing a team of people who build concept and prototype sound systems into new vehicles. As part of our advanced research, I experiment with new audio systems and technologies. I also manage our critical listening rooms used by Bose engineers to evaluate recorded music and to do system evaluations.

What is your background?

Bud: I grew up in a very musical family. My father was an avid drummer, and my mother was a big band singer. At a young age, I played piano and later became a drummer. I’m also a recording sound engineer and have a recording studio in my house. Music is my life—at work and at home.  

My education is in engineering, technology and music. I’ve been at Bose for 30 years and have worked in many roles. My first job was as EQ designer for our early automotive business, which entailed working with the component designer and tuning the systems for optimum sound performance. Eventually, I worked my way up to become a system engineer. This involves more complete ownership of the whole sound system and working with carmakers to integrate everything into the vehicle.

What inspired you to create Bud’s Jam?

Bud: When I first came to Bose, I couldn’t help but notice that so many Bose employees are also passionate musicians. Because I grew up in a very musical family, it was normal for me to jam with different bands in my free time. So, I thought, “We should have a Bose jam!” But, I had no idea how to start.

I had just bought a house with a decent-sized basement, so I figured, “Why not have a Bose jam there?” I put up a sign-up sheet at work, but only got about five people. It was a little disappointing. But I figured we’d just have a small jam, and that would be fine. The night of the jam, I was ready for a small, pot-luck gathering at my house. Next thing I knew, I had about 150 Bose musicians at my house, ready to jam!

How has Bud’s Jam evolved over the years?

Bud: Since that first Bud’s Jam, the event has completely exploded and grown beyond what I could’ve ever imagined. As much as I loved having it at my house, there was no way I was going to host 150 people again! So, we now hold the event at a local function hall where there’s much more space.

With each passing year, Bud’s Jam becomes a bit more sophisticated. We are constantly making improvements to everything from lighting and sound to more recently bringing in catered food. The event has become so popular with Bose employees and their families that we now have to cap it at 18 bands. And there’s a lot of variety in the music — everything from classic rock to James Taylor cover bands to jazz and folk music. Even with short sets, the session goes for over five hours.

What kinds of moments stand out for you?

Bud: It is truly thrilling for me to re-awaken the musical passion of my co-workers who may have been out of the music scene for a while. These are people who love playing music, but who have gotten away from it because of work and family obligations. It’s inspiring to see their genuine love of music coming back to life when they join in and play on stage.

I also really enjoy working with kids’ bands when we have them. Occasionally, the children of some Bose employees have come together to jam at the event. This is truly incredible to experience!

Working with all the jam volunteers is another favorite piece for me. I always say that it takes a village to put on a jam. I could never do this on my own. There are so many Bose employees who come together to make Bud’s Jam a reality every year. That camaraderie is like nothing else.

It sounds like there’s a lot of talented musicians at Bose. In addition to the fun aspect, do you think it influences the workplace in other ways?

Bud: Definitely. Engineers who are also musicians can make special contributions. We’ve been trained in the art of listening — really listening — to all the finer musical details. We understand all those little, but crucial nuances. I believe that in our business, having that kind of knowledge and training gives people a great foundation, and allows them to approach their work more creatively and freely. And, of course, we also have a deep emotional connection to our work that helps feed our passion for it.

Another cool outcome of the jam are the personal connections it creates. Bud’s Jam draws people from all corners of Bose. Employees who might never cross paths through their normal work roles meet and connect through the jam. They get recruited into bands and rehearse together before the show. And of course, everyone likes to see everyone else perform at the Jam. I love how a band can bring people together.