Michael Laiacona

Class of 2020
Michael Laiacona (Photo: Jean-Paul Cirre)

Whirlwind Music Distributors has kept the biggest rock tours and major events worldwide wired for 45 years — all from its headquarters in Greece, N.Y. The hometown company, founded and owned by Michael Laiacona, manufactures the world’s largest range of professional audio lighting and AC power interfacing products. In short, they are the guys that connect everything — from the guitar cord to the splitter snakes to the broadcast truck to the road cases they’re truck-packed in, to the portable power distribution that makes it all possible.

Clients using Whirlwind cables and connectors include The Pentagon, the White House, NASA, Disney World, major league sports stadiums and arenas, and rockers like Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Laiacona started Whirlwind in 1975 after helping launch MXR, a company that made effects pedals for guitars, creating a variety of new and altered sounds heard on nearly every album recorded in the 1970s. Among Laiacona’s customers was John Lennon, who thanked him personally for the inventive product.

Laiacona is a musician himself, playing bass as a kid in a garage band and today as a member of local band Black Rabbit. Through his own work as a musician and traversing the country for MXR, he witnessed musicians and crews trying to build their own snakes and guitar cords, struggling to safely, and dependably, connect the amps, instruments, and speakers on the stage and to the sound booth stationed in the audience. He saw a need and launched his new business, first with guitar cables and grew it from there.

As the audio and visual business has evolved, so has Whirlwind, which is widely known in the music industry for quality and innovation. Laiacona and his team strategize with each client to provide a package of American-made Whirlwind products to meet their needs. Whirlwind’s equipment has a reputation for reliability and sturdiness, as the products are intentionally overbuilt, and designed to perform night after night, tour after tour, year after year.

Laiacona formed Whirlwind with his late wife, Bonnie Gardner in the early 1970s. The company started on Boxart Street in Rochester and moved their ever-expanding factory to Ling Road about 20 years ago. Today the company has more than 130 employees and for several decades Laiacona has employed hundreds of working Rochester musicians at Whirlwind.

Performance at the ceremony: A musical tribute to Laiacona’s legacy will be performed by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robin Zander, lead singer of Cheap Trick, and Grammy®-winning guitarist, Steve Stevens, who is the lead guitarist for Billy Idol.

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