The history of DFA (Don Fillers & Associates) starts with its founder, Don Fillers. Don operated Mountain Sound in the 1970’s and revolutionized the concert business by being the first to contract an independently owned sound system to a rock band for an entire tour. Today, this is standard operating procedure for the sound and lighting systems used in almost every concert around the world. He went on to run sound for the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band, and many others, eventually working his way up to be the tour manager with Reba McEntire. After over a decade on the road, Don began working in Nashville studios (including a project with Paul McCartney producing an album by the Crickets, of Buddy Holly fame) and was in charge of sound for the 1982 World’s Fair. His life really took an interesting turn when in 1985 he was contacted to install the sound system in the Celebrity Theater in Dollywood. Don realized there was a significant business opportunity to install sound systems, instead of renting and leasing systems, and a contracting business was born. Don continued to be involved with live sound by promoting a live concert series on the lawn of the World’s Fair Park with Ashley Capps and providing front-of-house engineering for the Knoxville Symphony’s 4th of July concerts throughout the 1990’s.
Don has had many key employees over the years who went on to “bigger and better” things including Dr. Chris Barber, professor at Penn State University and Audio Engineering Society faculty advisor. Eric Rochelson, Associate Principal, Vantage Technology Consulting Group left to work with an international audio/visual consulting company and has been responsible for the design and implementation of audiovisual projects around the world including the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. It was Eric’s departure that led to Don hiring Mark Midyett, BSEE, upon his graduation from the University of Tennessee.
Because it was the first audio-video contracting company in town, (then named) Don Fillers Contracting became the market leader in audio-video installations. DFA installed the first Crestron® control system in East Tennessee in the Knoxville Museum of Art in 1990 to provide simple control of the auditorium. DFA installed the first multi-room audio system in Knoxville by adapting commercial distributed audio components for home use. In 1995, DFA became the first Residential Systems Provider authorized by Lutron® in the region and completed the largest Lutron® lighting control project in the United States until Bill Gates finished his “home”. DFA installed the first home control system in a Knoxville residence by offering installed touchpanels that could operate lights, security, heating and air conditioning, and audio and video systems throughout the house.
It was during this period of phenomenal growth in residential electronic systems that Mark Midyett came to work for DFA. During his early years, Mike DeFreece (Vice President of Operations at the time) taught Mark the technical, design, and project documentation skills used on DFA’s commercial projects which Mark then adapted for use on residential projects. Mark became the staff expert on the design, implementation, and programming of these systems, eventually becoming the senior design engineer and project manager for all residential projects. When Mike DeFreece left DFA, Mark was promoted to Vice President, Engineering and Operations, overseeing all (residential, commercial, and worship) electronic systems designs and began managing the day-to-day operations of DFA. In 2004, C. Jay Bodiford joined DFA with a background in professional audio system design and project management having worked on such projects as teleconferencing boardrooms at Perot Systems in Richardson, TX, and professional audio/video systems for Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX.
Upon Don Fillers’ retirement in 2006, Mark Midyett, along with his brother Brent Midyett, put together a deal to buy the company under its new name, DFA.