The Nine 2023: Mel Baglio

Mel Baglio, The Nine 2023
(Image credit: Future)

Title: Director of Operations

Company: AV Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Overtime: When she's not spending time with her husband and pets, Baglio enjoys architecture and landscape photography.

Why You Need to Know Her: Don't tell Mel Baglio, 36, she can't do something. She might just make a career out of proving you wrong.

Baglio was a theater kid in high school, roughly until the moment she realized she had horrible stage fright. That’s when she noticed a large A-frame ladder and a bunch of guys hanging lights in the auditorium. She wanted to give it a try, but was promptly dismissed, because girls don’t do lighting or tech work.

Today, Baglio is a seasoned master electrician with a bachelor of fine arts degree in lighting design from the University of Oklahoma. Oh, and she happens to be the director of operations for AV Chicago, a leading events production services provider.

[Mel Baglio Talks About Her Love of Lighting]

Her career has been a steady diet of creativity mixed with professional challenges. Although Baglio enjoyed working in local theater, she decided to put her skills to the test on the road, lighting Broadway shows on tour. During her time on the My Fair Lady national tour, she met her husband, who was a stage carpenter at the time.

"Living on a tour bus is only glamorous for so long," she joked, so she moved to Chicago as a freelancer, eventually leading stage operations and lighting for regional theaters. Another move, this time to Colorado, saw her establish a team as director of production for the Ent Center for the Arts, a new $90 million venue in Colorado Springs. However, AV Chicago was able to lure Baglio back to the Windy City almost two years ago.

When she joined the company, there was a skeleton crew of five employees. Like so many other companies, AV Chicago had been ravaged during the pandemic. Along with the general manager, she helped develop a plan to rebuild the entire company.

"I really like a challenge—fixing things, putting in new processes, creating new ways for us to be successful in the long term," Baglio explained. "And finding ways to do things—not just because it's how they've always done it, but because it works for us."

Under Baglio’s leadership, AV Chicago is significantly healthier these days, with a team of 31 employees, including 17 in operations. The company produced more than 650 events in 2022, from music festivals to galas to store openings. Baglio said business is probably busier than ever; AV Chicago has welcomed several returning clients as well as an influx of new clients.

However, labor is at a premium these days, with many techs choosing not to work full time. As a result, to schedule the company’s “inside circle of outside help,” events require more planning and coordination.

“In the ‘before times’ as we call it, there were 20 full-time techs that worked for AV Chicago, and right now we have four,” she said. “People don't realize there's a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes to make just one event happen—and we have 15 or 20 at the same time. It’s just a little bit different than it used to be.”

Meet the rest of The Nine.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television.