Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Not the Point

The following thoughts have a point.

That point is not that ABC’s decision to include former White House press secretary Sean Spicer in the cast of the upcoming season of “Dancing With the Stars” has rubbed a great many people the wrong way.

I have my own feelings about Mr. Spicer’s time as press secretary, but they’re not the point either.

I have my own feelings about the suits in the ivory-tower offices that thought it would be a great idea to reward Mr. Spicer with pop culture celebrity status, when his single claim to fame was accepting a White House paycheck to defend the indefensible … but those feelings aren’t the point either.

The point has to do with Spicer’s own assessment of his likely success, or lack thereof, on the dancing competition show.

Spicer admitted Wednesday [August 21, the day his gig was announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program] that he’s not much of a dancer. He revealed that he was kicked out of the school band in sixth grade for having ‘the sense of beat of a steamroller.’”

I don’t know Spicer’s sixth-grade band director. I’ve never seen that teacher teach. I have no idea whether this quote is even accurate, although during this attempt at self-deprecation, Spicer insisted that the steamroller metaphor was indeed a direct quote from his teacher.

(The point of this blog post isn’t even to raise an eyebrow at the steamroller metaphor, since I’ve heard steamrollers that chug along quite steadily; maybe this band director said or meant some other piece of construction equipment, or some other noun entirely. I guess I get the gist, nonetheless; but man, the English language has taken a beating lately.)

But over the course of my time as a public-school music teacher and church choir director, I’ve heard more stories about music teachers of a bygone era dissuading students from continuing their musical interests on account of their alleged musical liabilities than I care to.

Just move your mouth along with the words,” said the elementary school chorus teacher in stories told by church choir members or (worse) wistful grown adults who subsequently never participated in any musical activities again because a music teacher told them they couldn’t sing.

As a high school band director, I encountered students at lots of different levels of musical ability. Some were truly spectacular natural talents; and some worked really hard just to keep pace with “average”. I can think of one or two whose contribution to our high school music program was one part musical skill to about seven eight parts hard work and (occasionally reckless-abandon-level) enthusiasm. They probably know who they are; they might be surprised to know how important they were to my experience as a teacher. I learned more from them than they might have learned from me.

For a truly inspiring concert experience, I will revel in the relatively humble achievements of a pack of music students who are not all Wynton Marsalis or Kathleen Battle and never will be … but who find some success and decide they want to experience it again and so they keep after it.

For all I know, Sean Spicer might not have been a troublemaker, a misbehaver, a disrupter, a hindrance. For all we know, he might have been an earnest “good kid” who tried his hardest and wanted to be a band musician so badly it hurt.

Who knows where Sean Spicer could have ended up, how different his life might have been, had his band director understood that “band is a place for everyone”, and figured out how to keep him around and get him a taste of success … rather than just badmouthing him and then “firing” him at the first sign of weakness.

Hmm. Ain’t that a familiar tale … I can think of another guy who treated Spicer that same way …

but again, that’s not the point.

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August 26, 2019 Posted by | band, celebrity, current events, education, entertainment, Famous Persons, music, news, Starred Thoughts, teachers, television | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take a Cup of Kindness -or- 2018, Your Performance Review is Today

Because I marinate in politics (news roundups, editorials, podcasts, the shootin’ works), I could very easily think that 2018 had been a ridiculous, corrupt, are-we-in-the-Matrix-or-something?, disaster of a year.

But if I just look over this way … perhaps a different story.

[] This year, my church gig is full (to overflowing) of interested and available brass and woodwind and string and guitarhead folks … not to mention a choir that became increasingly affable and chuckly as 2018 progressed. Not to be taken for granted.

[] This year, my work situation … well, let’s just say: not long after the date of the company holiday party was announced, more than one person asked me, “so, is your Mom coming to the party again this year?” — genuinely, without a shred of snark. Not to be taken for granted.

[] This year, in both of the aforementioned arenas, I work for grand and decent (manager-type) people. NOT to be taken for granted.

[] This year, I celebrated my 20th summer of (1) helping to make some quality children’s theatre happen, and (2) helping to teach drum majors how to flap their arms and such. In both cases, I feel like I’ve received far more benefit than I’ve offered. Great times had, great friends made. In a world where nothing lasts forever, these are a couple of activities which I’m starting to mindfully NOT take for granted, in the moments when I’m participating in them.

[] This year, two of the college marching bands with whom I am pleased to be associated in some way made themselves a big ol’ splash in Major Holiday Parades On Live Television this past year. One was celebrating Roses, and the other was celebrating … well, Deep-Frozen Philly Cheese Steak, I suppose.

[] This year, the good people who host my professional website and my blog have not closed either operation down for utter embarrassing lack of activity, even though they definitely should have. (At least the blog don’t cost money!)

[] This year, the house has not sprung a leak. The car has not pooped out. NOT to be taken for granted.

[] I have grand and glorious friends, both newly-made and lifelong. My social media feed is the sort that more people ought to have … calm, cool, collected, and thoughtful. (I do need to see more of them live and in-person, though. So, a New Year’s Resolution.)

[] Number One Niece and Nephew continue to become the kind of people who make a fella thrilled to be the Uncle. Talented, hard-working, smaht … and very, VERY funny.

[] Number One Sister remains the kind of sister you want to have. And I’m one of the lucky folks in the world who thinks that Number One Brother-in-Law is indeed Number One.

[] Mom’s still making a very strong case for Most Agile Octogenarian, and still has not only all her marbles but a few other people’s as well.

[] Oh, and a couple of projects began to develop this year that I will talk about some other time, when it’s appropriate. Vaguebooking is alive and well.

So, at least within my little echo-chamber-y bubble: this year, plenty good stuff, after all.

I do freely admit that as a straight white male, my in-built privilege makes it that much easier to think that life is that much easier. I may well be the last demographic that they come for.

Outside my bubble, there’s still a huge amount of work to do, before life is made that much easier for a great many people in the world. So … time to go get after it in 2019.

But worthwhile to recognize what’s going well, and try to amplify it. Hope you can say some version of the same, in this clearly insane world.

As the good Col. Potter said: “Here’s to the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one, and may we all be home before she’s over.”

January 1, 2019 Posted by | current events | , , , | Leave a comment

Send A Message

[Ed. Note: I published this on my Facebook page tonight. I’ve heard too many cable-TV-news pundits gleefully point to polls which suggest that only a small percentage of young Americans will actually vote in the midterm elections tomorrow. I’d like to hope – after Parkland, after Kavanaugh, after children in cages, after a host of awful current events that seemed to awaken a great many American high-school and college students, over the last two years – that there are indeed a great wave of new voters who will end-run the corporate media’s bleatings and the various pollsters that only contact landline-based Americans, and give American representative government a well-deserved kick in the rear. May it be so.

[So here’s that Facebook piece, which I wrote while thinking of all the fine folks who have been students at the public schools and colleges and drum major clinics where I’ve taught, all of whom I’ve been able to watch, via social media, turn into people whom I’d trust to run this country.]

 

All right, my fine FB younger friends — a legion of wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a music classroom, or a rehearsal stage, or a high school or college football field, or a DMA parking lot: pull up a chair while I do my Wise Old Sage Of The Desert act.

I beg you. I mean it: I beg you — prove the pundits wrong tomorrow. There are people who go on the TV and pontificate because they’re paid to convince you that they know something about the world, who say that only a handful of young voters will actually engage in the political process. MAKE THEM EAT THEIR WORDS.

Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that tomorrow’s election — at the all levels, federal, state and local — boils down to a very simple idea:

Empathy vs. selfishness.

Regarding virtually every important issue facing our country right now — climate change, health care, gun violence, public education, women’s health and rights, rights of people of color, LGBTQ and transgender rights, freedom of (or from) religion, immigration (CHILDREN ARE STILL IN CAGES), the Supreme Court, simple human decency, and oh by the way Congressional oversight of this corrupt bunch of pirates masquerading as an executive branch …

… the current Congressional majority and many Republican-held state legislatures have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated BY THEIR ACTIONS an utter lack of human decency and empathy.

So vote them out tomorrow (if you haven’t early-voted already). Vote in such overwhelming numbers that Russian meddlers won’t matter, that voter-suppression schemes won’t matter, that the corporate media’s obsession with pretending that “both sides are equally horrible” … JUST WON’T MATTER.

And at this moment in history, I’m sorry, but it’s more important to vote within the context of the political system as it is, rather than as we wish it were. Which means, I’m sorry again, that independent candidates can’t help us in this election. Down the road, perhaps; but not tomorrow.

Mark Twain once said, not without cause, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

BUT … this time around, Democratic Party majorities in the US House and Senate are the only way to throw the brakes on this miserable Republican-Party-led executive branch (yeah, That Guy). The current Republican Party majorities in the House and Senate have, through their actions, proven themselves willfully incompetent at governmental oversight, and indeed at representative government at all.

So go to the polls. Stand in the lines when you have to. Send a message … to our elected officials, and to the rest of the world (most of which has quite honestly been watching us for the last two years with horror) — that we’re not going to just sit here and take it. That we’re not going to let selfishness win out over empathy.

If you ask me: vote blue. Vote Democratic. But in any case: vote.

My young friends, all of whom I’ve held in very high regard whenever I’ve had the privilege of enjoying your company … this is your golden opportunity, TOMORROW: to take this country back from the (mostly) rich old white guys who have used their control of the government to gather all the riches to themselves, right now — AND to work diligently to make life harder for everybody but themselves, both now and into the future.

Make the Women’s March and the Science March and the March For Our Lives and the Families Belong Together March seem like mere whispering tiny preludes.

VOTE.

November 5, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment