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Jack Renner, Grammy-Winning Engineer/Label Founder, Dead at 84

By Clive Young. Music teacher-turned-Grammy winning engineer Jack Renner co-founded Telarc in 1977.

Portsmouth, RI (July 10, 2019)—Jack Renner, 11-time Grammy winner and co-founder of audiophile classical music label Telarc, died of cancer in his Rhode Island home on June 19, 2019. He was 84.

Born in Barnesville, OH, Renner took up the trumpet at age 10 and attended Ohio State. Becoming a Cleveland music teacher in the 1960s, he learned music engineering as a side business, recording local choruses and the like to create private-press vanity albums.

Teaming with Robert Woods, a vocalist who sang at regional churches, the pair founded Telarc in 1977; aiming for it to be an audiophile label, they employed direct-to-disc recording methods from the get-go with their first release, Direct From Cleveland, by Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra.

The label made its mark the following year as an early adopter of digital recording, when it released an album by Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds, said to be the first symphonic music digital recording to be released in the U.S. Hand in hand with that, Telarc jumped on the Compact Disc bandwagon early, releasing its first CD in 1983, just a year after the format’s commercial introduction.

Renner, as the label’s chief engineer, won his first Grammy award for best engineered classical recording two years later, for capturing the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performing Berlioz; he would go on to win 10 more over the years, and Telarc, which expanded into jazz releases, too, in the mid-80s, has won dozens of Grammys as well. He shared the engineering knowledge that went into those and countless other releases as an audio teacher for 30 years at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

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Telarc merged with indie label Heads Up in 1996, and in 2005, Renner retired from the music business after both labels were acquired by Concord Music Group. He is survived by his third wife, Barbara Pease Renner, and three children.