MS-Based Consulting Firms Find Synergy in Merger

MS-Based Consulting Firms Find Synergy in Merger

Announcements of mergers and acquisitions often highlight synergies between two organizations, while the inside scoop can sometimes be less rosy. But that’s exactly what happened between Gracenote Consulting and Oxford Acoustics, a pair of Mississippi-based consultancies that complemented each other much more than they competed.

Differences in expertise brought together principals Will Roland and David Woolworth. After years of subcontracting each other on projects, the two Southern transplants brought their combined 50 years of experience together to form Roland, Woolworth & Associates.

Principal David Woolworth, consultant Amanda Higbie, and principal Will Roland of RWA, at the MSU Riley Center for the Performing Arts in Meridian, MS. The new partnership aims to provide comprehensive design services in architectural acoustics, noise control, and integrated systems to compete nationally while also filling a crucial void between the larger markets of Dallas and Atlanta.

“We had very little overlap in our services,” Roland said. “Dave is a world-class acoustician, and he is nationally recognized in environmental noise control, while my background is electro-acoustics, with AV coming later as a subset of systems design. But we both have extensive experience in stagecraft and performing arts.”

After working in systems integration and design for 20 years in California, Roland came to Meridian, MS, to help launch the industry’s first configurable audio DSP platform, Peavey’s MediaMatrix, before founding Gracenote Consulting.

Woolworth—an acoustician hailing from the New York tri-state area whose work includes helping New Orleans mediate the noise war between Bourbon Street revelers and French Quarter residents— founded Oxford Acoustics in its namesake upstate town after moving south to conduct research at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Physical Acoustics.

The duo’s vision for the merger began to take shape while they worked together on projects in Mississippi, and fully blossomed while collaborating on the Jazz & Heritage Museum in New Orleans.

Situated in a 100-year-old building mere blocks from the city’s Congo Square, the museum chronicles the history and impact of jazz at the epicenter of its birthplace. The challenge of preserving the historic architecture while providing a fully modern system for a mix of performance and classroom spaces required a combination of their strengths.

“I could see that in order to grow, I had to look into building a larger firm, with multiple principals and associates,” Roland said. “Ironically, my original vision when I launched Gracenote Consulting in May of 2005 was to build this larger firm, centered around the New Orleans metro market.”

Hurricane Katrina, which arrived just a few months after he founded Gracenote, forced his original business plan into the circular file, as he recounted. Roland turned his focus closer to home and found steady work in Mississippi, but kept his eyes on the area’s recovery over the next decade.

“I’m basically getting back to my original business plan, except that I have a partner who brings a whole additional level of experience to the table,” he said. “With our cumulative experience, we will be in a stronger position to expand regionally, land larger projects, and expand our client base to major markets.”

The new firm’s specialties begin at architectural-based acoustics, including listening environments, speech intelligibility, privacy, and the elimination of unwanted sounds. The specialties extend to planning, designing, and documenting advanced systems integration for sound reinforcement, AV, communications, digital signage, production, and related disciplines.

“I have been very fortunate to team with Will—he is flexible and sensible in our collaboration, and his documentation and drawings are first class,” said Woolworth. “In our overlap of knowledge in different areas, we can trade ideas and dovetail the AV and acoustics for optimized and integrated design.”

Performance spaces such as The Lyric in Oxford, MS, a 90-yearold former horse stable turned top-rated live music venue, and the nineteenth-century Grand Opera House at the Mississippi State University Riley Center for the Performing Arts in Meridian, are capstones in the duo’s historic restoration AV portfolio.

New construction such as Holy Family Parish in Pass Christian, MS, a marriage of architecture and AV design that is part of the region’s resurgence from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, integrates noninvasive acoustical and audio design to provide high intelligibility and support for contemporary music performance during worship services.

“We enjoy the unique challenges afforded by historical buildings and performance spaces, and in optimizing work and living spaces,” said Woolworth. “We will continue to expand our services in field testing and commissioning, integrated design, and environmental and industrial applications.”

Jim Beaugez, APR, is a freelance writer and accredited communications professional with a decade of experience in the MI and pro audio industries. You can reach him at and follow @jimbeaugez on Twitter.

Jim Beaugez is a freelance writer and content creator for the AV, professional audio, and music industries. His work has been published by Systems Contractor News, Pro Sound News, Mix, Radio World, and The Recording Academy, as well as Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player, and other consumer publications. He previously worked in communications for the pro audio and musical instruments industries.