Sad to report the passing of David Van Koevering, notable to this site as the man behind Vako, who adopted the Optigan and transformed it into the Orchestron in an attempt to market the technology to professional musicians. Pea only talked to David a couple of times via telephone, years ago. He was a character, with a quick mind, always looking for the next new thing. We’re glad to be continuing a small part of his legacy with our reissues of the original Orchestron discs, as well as our brand new line of discs. Here is an obituary from his family:
David Van Koevering (1940-2018) has passed away January 30th near his home in Tennessee following heart issues. He was 77, and is survived by his loving wife Becky, daughter Debbie and son Joe and their families.
Born into a family of evangelical musical travelers, young David Van Koevering toured with his parents as “Little David,” earning a widespread reputation for his energetic and motivational preaching. He began an interest in electronics and soon after, constructed his own robot. This began a lifelong hobby collecting robots of all kinds – a collection now numbering in the hundreds. Following in the footsteps of his family, he was a skilled performer on 23 instruments, performing on bells, violin, keyboards, the musical saw, and various exotic instruments he would add to the family collection.
His charm and musical talents brought him a wonderful wife, Becky, who shared his passions and talent. Based out of the Gulf Coast of Florida, David toured relentlessly, coming home only on holidays. His performances and lectures educated and entertained thousands of school students and local groups.
As their two children Debbie and Joe grew, they joined the family shows – touring as “The Swiss Bell Ringers.” The Van Koevering events demonstrated the long history of musical instruments for each audience, culminating in more modern designs – originally an electronic Theremin. Soon after, he found his theremin’s maker, Robert Moog, who was also producing a very new instrument – the first commercial synthesizer.
Excited by the vast promise of this Moog synthesizer, David became THE proponent of the instrument, showing and selling synthesizers to numerous musicians in North America and Europe. His concept for the “Island of Electronicus” in Tierra Verde, Florida was created with Glen Bell (of Taco Bell fame.) Their Island was a performance space showing the public this powerful technology. David also appeared at the early Taco Bell restaurants, demonstrating the new Minimoog synthesizer to the clientele as they ate. These appearances gave many their first experience with a music synthesizer. VanKoevering traveled across the country, selling the Minimoog synthesizers one by one, and single-handedly creating the first sales surge for what became Moog’s most-famous product.
His success in the field brought him to work for the Moog company itself, helping them realize their instruments could be marketed to the general public. He spearheaded Moog’s sales techniques in the brand-new concept of “a commercial synthesizer” – an idea previously thought impossible.David’s methods proved otherwise and became the standard for the industry, creating a model for selling what was previously considered unsellable. He requested and co-created a simpler, more accessible synthesizer, the Moog Satellite, designed for the non-technical working player.
Next, working with EML Synthesizers of Connecticut, he brought their affordable designs to the stores and working musicians in the Florida territory. Not long after, he started his own company (VAKO) – inventing his own “Orchestron” keyboard, which was a favorite of major groups like Kraftwerk and Foreigner. Van Koevering’s Orchestron was accepted as the cutting-edge in sample-playback technology – a process that eventually found its way to NASA for space exploration missions.
Moog Music brought VanKoevering back to guide their marketing efforts when the company had developed a stronger national presence. David worked with local church groups to find a unique marketing outlet for a custom-named set of Moog instruments (the Sanctuary and Joyful Noise designs,) re-branded versions of Moog instruments designed and programmed to appeal to more traditional church markets. Japanese synthesizer giant Roland then utilized David’s knowledge of the working musicians’ needs when they developed his namesake line (the VK keyboard series) of professional synthesizers, organs, and string keyboards.
In the 1990s, David was among the first to realize the power of digital “workstation” systems for education and music in the home and schools. Working again with Bob Moog, they designed and marketed the innovative VanKoevering piano line, which was the first to combine a visual touch-screen interface and a traditional piano action. During this period he was honored at The Smithsonian during their “Piano 300” exhibition, as the VanKoevering Piano model was considered the future of the piano. David pursued his interests in spiritual aspects and healing, exploring new technologies for Elsewhen, his non-profit project to combine scientific progress with scriptural concepts. His lectures on “Sound, Light, Matter” and “Quantum Healing” are available on YouTube, showing clearly the persuasive and enthusiastic persona that has charmed thousands of people internationally.
Most recently, David was honored with recognition for his efforts in the musical instrument industry. The Bob Moog Foundation dedicated their entire 2016 calendar to his story in photographs and anecdotes. The calendar, “Moog Is Now: The Moog Legacy Through the Lens of David Van Koevering” recognizes the decades of connection between the lives of Robert Moog and DavidVan Koevering. The EMEAPP (Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project) of Pennsylvania honored Van Koevering this year with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
Throughout a long and active life, the perseverance and unique ideas of David VanKoevering changed the worlds of ministry and musical electronics.