Long before they were seasoned veterans of the live entertainment industry, Alan Fackler ’88 A&A and Tricia Giblin Fackler ’88 A&A were theater majors working behind the scenes at Penn State. They met as undergrads at the Pavilion Theatre, where they were crew members—Alan was technical director, Tricia was part of the set crew—on a 1986 University Resident Theatre Company production of Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class. Married for 35 years, they’ve spent their careers in live event production, and for the past decade they have shared space on another Pennsylvania campus—this one producing shows of a slightly different scale than the ones they helped bring to life during their days at University Park.

Think Super Bowl halftime shows. Packed houses at WWE’s WrestleMania. Billy Joel’s iconic residency at Madison Square Garden. And yes, even THON.

The place is Rock Lititz, the 150-acre campus in Lancaster County, Pa., where pros like the Facklers and about 1,600 others across more than 40 companies provide the materials, technical expertise, artistic vision, and creative solutions that power nearly every epic live event you can think of, from the extravaganzas listed above to the planet’s biggest concert tours, including Taylor Swift’s world-conquering 2023-24 Eras Tour. Like many at Rock Lititz, the Facklers were part of the industry before Rock Lititz itself existed; when Tricia started as a producer and production coordinator at Atomic Design in 2005, she says, “the campus was a cornfield.” Rock Lititz opened in 2014, but it owes its location—indeed, its existence—to a few companies whose outsized influence on the industry goes back nearly 60 years. And from the beginning, Penn Staters have been a big part of the story.


photo of main Rock Lititz entrance by Michael Lewis


Today, the Facklers are among dozens of Penn State alumni working at Rock Lititz in every conceivable role, a mix of artists, engineers, technicians, producers, project managers, executives, and others. Some have deep roots in the industry and local community, while others are relatively new to both, drawn by an atmosphere of innovation and collaboration. There’s also an appreciation for the shared passion on campus that reminds at least one alum of her alma mater.

“I think there’s a connection between the type of person who would gravitate toward Penn State and gravitate here,” says Rock Lititz conference director Emily Cassidy ’10 Edu. “We’re huge, we’re loud, we’re spread out around the country, but we also build these smaller communities within this large environment. You see that here.”

A decade after opening its doors, the enterprise is expanding on multiple fronts: Visitors can’t miss the multiple large-scale construction projects looming over those former cornfields, and in April the company broke ground on Rock Nashville, an 82-acre campus that will serve the live entertainment community in the country music capital. For those doing the work, the future promises an ever more central role in the industry, powered by the hustle, ingenuity, and work ethic that echo Rock Lititz’s unlikely origin story: a tale of two entrepreneurially minded brothers and one traveling pop band desperate for better sound.


corn field that turned into Rock Lititz campus, photo by Michael Lewis

FROM CORNFIELD TO GLOBAL DESTINATION: Covering 150 acres, the Rock Lititz campus in Lancaster County, Pa., includes space for more than 40 tenants, three massive production studios, a hotel, and an array of amenities—including a gym and a brewery—to make both employees and high-profile visitors feel at home. Photos by Michael Lewis.

side by side photos of main Rock Lititz entrance and Hotel Rock Lititz front by Michael Lewis



It all started with the Clair brothers, both the company—Clair Bros. Audio Enterprises Inc., as it was known when the business was formalized—and its founders, Roy and Gene Clair ’60 Eng, siblings and native sons of Lititz, Pa. When they were young, their parents bought the brothers a small PA system; the boys—Gene was then in high school—rented out their services for local events and reinvested their earnings in additional equipment. They maintained the hobby as Gene earned a two-year engineering degree from Penn State York, then took a job at a local electronics firm, where he met the grounds superintendent at nearby Franklin & Marshall College. The super was in need of supplemental sound for concerts at Mayser Gymnasium. He hired the Clair brothers for the job.

In 1966, their enterprising spirit got a boost from fate when Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came to F&M for a show. As the story goes, the pop vocal group was impressed by the quality of the Clairs’ system, particularly when compared to the poor sound they had endured at other venues. The group’s management hired the brothers to run sound for the rest of their tour; it marked one of the first times a musical act traveled with a dedicated sound team.


side by side black and white photos of The 4 Seasons concert poster and brothers Roy and Gene Clair, founders of Rock Lititz, courtesy
SOUND DECISIONS: Ingenuity and hard work helped brothers Roy (left) and Gene Clair build a childhood hobby into Clair Global, the audio company that made Lititz a hotbed for major players in the concert industry. Photos courtesy Rock Lititz.

black and white photo of a man maneuvering a large piece of sound equipment, courtesy


The decades since have seen sometimes steady, occasionally explosive periods of growth and innovation for the company now known as Clair Global. Nearly every major advancement in delivering better and more consistent sound for touring musicians—think of the giant hanging arrays of speakers suspended above the audience in arenas and auditoriums around the world, now an industry standard—traces back to the work done by Gene, Roy, and their team. The company expanded through acquisition and internal growth, as loyal clients such as Elton John, Michael Jackson, U2, and countless other rock and pop titans reaffirmed the Clairs’ ability to make them sound great every night.

Industry peers were paying attention. In 1978, a colorful Australian named Michael Tait set up his new company, Tait Towers, in Lititz for the sole reason that the Clair brothers were already there. A former tour manager for the prog-rock band Yes, Tait had built a reputation for creative and tech-savvy innovations—revolving stages, elaborate light displays—to enhance the concert experience. Tait’s creations were increasingly popular with big-name artists looking to ramp up their stage shows. Just like that, a small Pennsylvania town was home to two of the most important companies—and some of the most inventive minds—in live music.

It took a few decades before Lititz’s role as an essential destination for the concert industry—what The Wall Street Journal called “Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Company Town”—was formalized. The goal of Rock Lititz, says Clair Global’s Shaun Clair ’06 Eng, “was about colocating the best in the industry. It’s all about people. So how do we create spaces that bring these people together?” There was a vision, and there was available land nearby; funding and execution for the project came from Clair Global president and CEO Troy Clair (Gene’s son and Shaun’s dad) and Tait Towers CEO Adam Davis. Clair Global and Tait Towers remain the anchors; as Clair’s business management director, Henry Hissrich ’01 MBA Bus, puts it, “The whole campus concept was, if you build it, they will come.”


Shaun Clair standing with large Rock Lititz equipment vaults, photo by Micheal Lewis
FUTURE-FOCUSED: Shaun Clair earned a Penn State engineering degree with his eventual career in the family business fully in mind. Photo by Michael Lewis.


Ten years later, there’s a waiting list of companies interested in securing a spot, and construction is underway to make room for more. The centerpiece of campus, known as Pod 2, is a multi-use space that houses Rock Lititz’s small executive team and most of its tenants. Lighting and rigging? Stage design and set construction? Film and video? Custom audio? Safety training? Equipment rental? Pyrotechnics and special effects? Crowd control solutions? International shipping? A place to tune your guitar, repair your amp, or replenish your supply of gaffer tape? If there’s a product or service that can be bought, rented, or contracted for use in the live event industry, there’s a company at Rock Lititz ready to help.

“We went from a few businesses in Lititz focused on live entertainment to a place that is really an industry hub,” says Suzi Maresco Meyer ’92 Lib, Rock Lititz’s campus general manager. “We’re a community all about live events, and it’s better when we have multiple businesses collaborating together. It’s made everything more purposeful.”

Meyer came to Penn State with plans to be a child psychologist,  but her time as a resident assistant steered her instead toward a career in student affairs. She spent a few years in residence life at Ursinus College before deciding that “I didn’t want to be breaking up parties in the middle of the night anymore.” She once again reset her career path and ended up working at Atomic Lighting, part of Atomic Design, the production design firm that would go on to be an original campus tenant. She joined Rock Lititz in 2016; in her current role, she’s focused on “making connections among tenants, talking through leases, trying to keep everybody happy and make sure the businesses on campus are successful.”


photo of Suzi Meyer seated cross-legged on a Rock Lititz equipment vault, by Michael Lewis
ROOM TO ROAR: Campus general manager Suzi Meyer oversees Rock Lititz facilities, including the massive production studios where the world's biggest tours are born. Photo by Michael Lewis.


That task is helped by the nonindustry tenants whose presence emphasizes the sense of community: a café, a bike shop, a fitness center complete with a giant rock-climbing wall, a craft brewery, a coworking space, even an urgent care facility. (Rock Lititz also operates its own 140-room hotel on the campus.) Those businesses cater to fellow campus tenants and are open to the public; Rock Lititz’s most prominent facilities are limited to a more exclusive clientele.

Towering over the surrounding farmland, the Rock Lititz Studios—the tallest of the three stands 100 feet high—look from the outside like out-of-place aircraft hangars. In fact, the massive side-by-side structures are the primary reason why folks around town have spotted Justin Bieber at a nearby diner or Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler picking up a shower head at the local hardware store. The studios, boasting staggering square footage and accounting for every technical consideration, are where the world’s biggest tours are staged and tested, and help explain the occasional superstar sighting—or more often, rumors that anyone working on such projects is obligated not to confirm.

“There’s a saying among everybody who works in this industry: All my best work is covered under NDA,” says Ben Gasper ’07 A&A, technical sales manager at Tait. “All the cool stuff, we can’t talk about.”

Keeping the presence of the planet’s biggest musicians a secret—and making sure they’re comfortable while on campus—is something Meyer and her colleagues take seriously. Stars like Lizzo and Shawn Mendes are among those who’ve confirmed their own presence at Rock Lititz in interviews or via their own social media. “There’s usually somebody on campus; friends always text to ask, and you say, ‘You know I can’t talk about that,’” Meyer says. “We’re here to support people like that and stay in the background. I think the small town serves us well; part of the reason artists come here is because of the privacy; people are curious, but respectful.”

The stars come to Lititz to perfect their globe-circling, arena- or stadium-sized stage shows without big-city distractions. Eventually they leave the campus behind to head out on the road. But even then, they’re bringing some of Rock Lititz with them.


black and white photo of soundboard with Egyptian pyramid from a Jean-Michel Jarre show in background, courtesy Clair Global

SOUNDBOARD VIEWS: From Jean-Michel Jarre’s show in the shadow of the Egyptian pyramids to Billy Joel's recent Madison Square Garden residency, Clair Global has handled the sound for countless iconic concerts. Photos courtesy Clair Global.

color photo of sound board view of stage for Billy Joel show in Madison Square Garden, courtesy Clair Global



When we spoke in April, Sam Donatelli ’16 A&A was “home on break” from the world tour of a major artist whose identity, per nondisclosure agreement, she can’t name. (A hint: Think huge.) Her role on this particular tour involves operating an element of the show—again, per NDA, she has to be vague—from a small console near the stage, at every show, every night. Being part of Tait’s front-line touring department often means short trips home followed by weeks on the road. In this case, she says, “I’m about to be away from home for the entire summer.”

Like Alan and Tricia Fackler, Donatelli started out working stage crew as a Penn State theater design and technology major. She credits Curtis Craig, associate professor of sound design, with helping configure her Penn State experience to align with her strengths and interests. “I had a passion for art, but at the same time I’m very science-minded, and I loved tech. My goal was never to be on Broadway, and he saw that before I did,” she says. “I took music theory, material science, all stuff I thought would help down the road. And then we did a haunted house every couple of years, and he had me work programming on that, which got me interested in being able to control multiple aspects of a show from one location.”

A few years after graduation, Donatelli landed at Tait, where her early work with the integration team—applying creative solutions to actual production—segued naturally to her current role on the touring team. The work she does now, she says, “aligns with my itch to be part of the design process but still be hands-on and carry it through to the end. I get to make it a part of the story the artist or client is trying to tell.”

Ben Gasper fills a decidedly different role at Tait, but he affirms the value of broad industry experience built on a theater tech foundation. “After Penn State, I ran away to the circus,” he says—not a joke, since he started his career in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil. After five years there working on the automation side, he moved to Lititz, where he put his experience working with trapeze artists to good use: Among his early roles at Tait was overseeing what he refers to on LinkedIn as “performer flying.” His current title at Tait is North American technical sales manager, which he says “doesn’t really encapsulate what I do. My job is taking a customer’s idea and figuring out how to make it come to life.”

From his more hands-on work in rigging and automation to project management roles and on to his current gig, Gasper has had a hand in many of Tait’s biggest projects over the past 12 years. One that sticks out: Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour, for which Tait implemented an aerial camera system—best known from the cams that zip above the field at NFL and major college football games—for the first time on a concert tour. Increasingly, his memories run to events that have nothing to do with live music—a fact that speaks to the expansion of the Rock Lititz enterprise as a whole.

When he arrived at Tait in 2012, Gasper says, “it was a rock ’n’ roll company.” But the market for Tait’s expertise has since expanded to focus on theme parks, cruise ships, theaters, and architectural installations. Gasper can rattle off highlights: a show launch for the Nat Geo series Mars that featured a “6D flight” simulator of a Martian capsule landing in midtown Manhattan, a kinetic architecture piece at the Bristol Myers Squibb building in Boston, on which various components move based on live customer satisfaction data.

And then there’s Rihanna’s halftime performance at Super Bowl LVII, a stunning production in which the then-pregnant superstar stood and sang on panels—think the rough dimensions of an iPhone, at about 20 times the scale—that hovered and shifted over the field. From the fabrication of the flying platforms to the rigging to the software controlling all those moving parts—including the swooping camera systems—Tait was instrumental in making sure it looked amazing for everyone in the stadium and the 120 million or so watching on TV. (Should you ever manage a tour of Tait’s current headquarters, located a short drive from the Rock Lititz campus, you might notice a few of those Rihanna panels suspended above the desks of the engineering team.)


wide stage shot of Rock Lititz-produced Super Bowl halftime show featuring a pregnant Rihanna, by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
SUPER SHOW: The expertise of Penn Staters at Tait Towers, one of the anchor tenants at Rock Lititz, helped Rihanna wow a global audience at Super Bowl LVII. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.


Being the lead engineer on an epic Super Bowl halftime production was not on Ryan Kunkel’s radar when he finished college and started his career at a local engineering firm in York, Pa. “We did warehouses, apartment buildings, K–12 schools, things like that,” says Kunkel ’11 Eng, now a principal mechanical engineer at Tait. “Most of the people at Tait come from the entertainment side. Coming from a very nerdy engineering background, I was unsure how I would fit it.”

He found he fit precisely because everyone did. “The best part is getting to interact with so many different departments,” he says. “I’m sitting in a meeting with a seamstress, someone carving set designs from foam, someone who was on the road in Australia three weeks ago. It’s pretty rare to have all that different expertise under one roof. At my last job, there were 10 people sitting around the table who all did the same thing.”

In that way, Tait’s expansive portfolio parallels the coalition that makes up the Rock Lititz community as a whole. Which makes it all the more fascinating to watch as that community, so rooted in small-town Pennsylvania, looks to take over the world.


For all its growth, Clair Global remains very much a family business. Founding brother Gene, who died in 2013, passed on his involvement to his son, Troy, who continues as the company’s president and CEO. (Gene’s brother Roy retired from the business in 2008.) Today, Troy’s sons Shaun and Matt are both members of the executive team, with Shaun serving as executive vice president of sales.

Ask for his earliest memories of the family business, and Shaun Clair isn’t sure where to start. “It was so ingrained in the family, it could’ve been conversations around the dinner table, or when my brother and I were in like fourth grade and we used to do all the landscaping around the building—all the things we did at home, we did there,” he says. Like his grandfather, Clair helped set up speakers at local events, though by this time the company was a local institution.

He says it started to mean something more when he was old enough to start appreciating music on his own terms. He remembers his cool teenage babysitter going to see U2 on their early ’90s Zoo TV tour, and later mentioning the grunge era and punk bands that he was listening to and hearing his father respond, “Oh, yeah, we’re working with them.”

“That’s when it really started to connect,” Clair says.

Knowing that he planned to join the family business helped him choose his major, engineering science. He credits Christine Masters ’87, ’97 PhD Eng, his adviser and a professor and assistant dean in the College of Engineering, with steering him to a major that allowed him to customize his studies with that path in mind. With her help, he built a foundation in electrical and mechanical engineering and added courses in acoustics and theater tech; today, he says, “Every bit of that has been a building block for the rest of my career.”

Clair considered starting at another company—“Google was hiring almost any engineer with a pulse,” he says—but his dad convinced him otherwise. “He said, ‘The relationships you build and on-the-ground knowledge you’ll get in our industry, you’re not going to build that elsewhere.’ He was absolutely right.” Within a few years of graduation, Clair had toured the world with rock legends The Police and helped lead the company’s work on the 2010 Winter Olympics.


photo of Taylor Swift onstage at a Rock Lititz-produced concert by Paolo Villanueva
TAYLOR'S VERSION: Taylor Swift grew up about 45 minutes from the future Rock Lititz campus. She's since perfected multiple stage shows at the campus. Above and main photos by Paolo Villanueva.


Clair has since spent time in nearly every part of the business, a path he says naturally led him to sales; his primary focus is business development, which means lots of travel and lots of thought about where Clair Global and Rock Lititz can expand their shared footprint. The goal, he says, is “campuses all across the world that allow us to set up the most aspirational entertainment in the world.”

That doesn’t mean replicating Rock Lititz—where Clair Global’s new headquarters is under construction, and where Tait Towers has a sizable presence—at least not exactly. At Rock Nashville, for example, there’s less need for giant production studios catering to traveling artists than there is for spaces that meet the needs of an existing ecosystem of locally based artists; hence, the Nashville campus features a dozen smaller rehearsal spaces geared toward bands looking to fine-tune their sound. What does translate, says Clair, is the presence of anchor tenants who buy into the collective vision of success that has helped Rock Lititz thrive.

Alan and Tricia Fackler can speak to that. Tricia had worked at Atomic for 15 years when the COVID-19 pandemic—which brought the live event industry to a grinding halt—put her out of a job. Her first gig back took advantage of her production management skills: She was deputy site director for a countywide mass vaccination effort, co-organized by several Rock Lititz companies, that provided more than 250,000 shots in 2021. Not long after, she was back on campus as director of live events production at 4Wall Entertainment, another Rock Lititz tenant specializing in lighting, rigging, and video.

The 4Wall exec who hired her? He’s a former colleague of Tricia’s at Atomic Lighting, sister company of Atomic Design, where Alan, who had previously worked at Tait, is now the shop floor manager for the road and power departments.

There’s a joke among plugged-in locals that you can ask anyone in the world who works in the live event industry where Rock Lititz is, and they’ll tell you in two seconds; but ask someone who lives two hours away and they’ll have no clue. That odd mix of fame and anonymity works perfectly for the industry heavyweights who call Rock Lititz home. Even as they work to ensure their collective brand becomes ever more prominent internationally, the folks in Lancaster County are happy to do what they do in relative obscurity.

“This community exists because people who are the best at what they do can work together, get better together, and make the industry better,” says Clair Global’s Hissrich. “That’s really the essence of who we are.”