Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

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.”

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

It Isn’t Enough To Be the Guy Who Doesn’t Do That

This morning, my friend Daniel Katz wrote, eloquently:

“… ‘me too’ isn’t just about survivors speaking up. It is about the sheer universality of the experience for women. Every woman. Every woman you know. Every woman you care about. Every woman has experienced either sexual assault or sexual harassment at some time in her life. Possibly a lot more than that. We live in a world where this is a universal experience for women, and even if you already knew that in your mind, the gut punch of seeing it everywhere you look in the context of people you love is supposed to be the wake up call.”

That’s exactly, *exactly* what it was. A gut punch. And another and another. All day yesterday. Post after post.

I was not unaware of the problem … I thought. But I hadn’t taken time to consciously consider that it could be so many people that I knew personally.

Which means I was unaware of the problem. Which means I’m some part of the problem.

And me writing about how I felt like I’d been punched in the gut … is fine, but does it recognize that women who have experienced assault or harassment feel that gut punch, over and over?

I didn’t consciously consider that, yesterday. Which means I’m another part of the problem.

And then, this Tweet from the writer Alexis Benveniste, yesterday:

Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.”

Or, as my friend Daniel continued:

If any woman in your life does not say ‘me too’ it is not because her life has been free from assault or harassment — it is because she is choosing to not share or because our society taught her that her experiences ‘don’t count’ because other women have had it worse. … Our homes, our social spaces, our public spaces, and our workplaces are dumpster fires of men who think they can objectify, commodify, and own women’s bodies without fear of legal, social, or professional consequences. It isn’t enough to be the guy who doesn’t do that. We have to be the guys who see it and demand that other men change.”

Which I thought I was doing, with a blog post or two in the past … writing well-intentioned things that still made the issue about me, to some degree …

From 2014:

“In thinking about this topic, I first wondered if perhaps the people who are most prone to saying hideous things about (or to) and doing hideous things to women … just lacked any previous interactions with strong women that might have caused them to view women differently.”

As if being a “strong woman” (as assessed by someone else) (someone male, natch) means that one is more deserving of basic respect. As if there were a scale of deserving to not-deserving. Um, no. Care to backtrack, Rob?…

What I was thinking of, I believe … was the sheer number of women I have known, throughout my life, that shaped my understanding of how women were just as worthy of respect as men. To put it bluntly, I have indeed known women who either [1] were exceptionally good at whatever they did, [2] had personalities that included the almost cheerful disinclination to take crap from other people, [3] were wonderful, kind and decent people, or [4] all of the above.”

Fine to appreciate these features, but –really? As if, again, there were characteristics beyond Being A Human Female that qualified one for decent treatment. Not the most effective backtracking, there, Rob.

This list would include my mother [and sister, hello?!] … all of my elementary school teachers … friends from high school … people from that summer arts program I have occasionally referred to … people I met in college … numerous professional colleagues …”

Nice. Better still, would this list not include every woman I ever met, and every one I never met?

By 2016, when there was talk — a specific, out-in-the-open monologue in fact — about unsolicited grabbing and such … I hope I got closer to the target. You can be the judge:

“… I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!’.”

It was easy to speak of wonderful people whom I have known, who are deserving of basic human decency because they are themselves humans … in the abstract.

I created that list. (See? All about me, still.)

Yesterday’s torrent of #MeToo posts was very, very concrete.

Those posts made up that list.

And with every new addition to that list, throughout the day, my heart sank further.

Holy hell.

What’s worse than having no idea? Thinking you had enough of an idea, and then finding out that you didn’t, really.

I’m sorry.

There’s a lot of work left to do. I want to try to do it better.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | current events, social media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playing the Hand You’re Dealt

This is a follow-up, non-chronological, postscript of sorts to an article posted earlier today on a friend’s blog.

In that article, my friend remarked on the stress she feels at this time of year: when she’s auditioning, interviewing, and accepting some of her university marching band students into student-leadership positions. And not accepting others. And empathizing with their disappointment … at the same time as she’s reminding herself that it’s not a bad thing for college students to learn to deal with disappointments before they leave college and go out into the big scary unfeeling world.

And reminding the world that: you can make a difference in a band, or any group, even if you don’t have a title. Even if you’re not a Rank Leader, or a Uniform Manager, or a Drum Major.

She wrote, specifically:

The students wait with baited breath for the Facebook post to hit. They get worked up, filled with anxiety, desperate for the results of auditions and interviews. I, however, sit and stare at the list for days on end. No matter what I do I am going to disappoint some of my students. Some will take a deep breath when they don’t see their name on the list and are ok. Some will become so angry they will throw a chair through a glass door (yes, this happened once). Some will be furious with me – they think I hate them, or at the very least, don’t like them. Some will quit band altogether.”

When I read her words, it kicked loose a memory from my senior year in college, during which I got to be one of the Drum Majors of my college band.

Regular readers of the Blogge may recall a stretch of time several years ago wherein I was inspired to inflict many memories of that memorable autumn in the late 1980s upon them. Well … so here’s a memory that didn’t make that cut (in part because it didn’t have a whole lot to do with the topic of that moment, namely, how great our late great band director was).

When I auditioned for one of the three drum major positions, during the prior spring semester, so did nearly a dozen other band members: soon-to-be seniors, juniors and sophomores were in the mix … the brass, woodwinds and color guard were represented … there were people with drum-major experience and people without … there were people who thought it was important to be able to chuck a mace, and people who didn’t. Within those dozen people, a lot of different skill sets and personalities.

And our director could only take three of them as drum majors. Traditionally, he would then draw two or three or four names from the list of those whom he had not chosen as drum majors, and install them on the student field instructional staff as Drill Instructors. The DIs were a bit higher in the field staff hierarchy than Rank Leaders, who each were in charge of one group of eight marchers; but a bit lower than the Drum Majors. DI responsibilities tended to differ a bit from year to year, depending either upon the Drum Majors’ skill sets or upon a new idea our director had had since the end of the previous season. Mostly, when field drill was being taught, DIs jumped out of the form and assisted with teaching a subset of the band near them, when asked.

During that spring’s audition process, I got into a conversation with one of my fellow auditioners, a newer but pretty good friend of mine (we’ll call her Robin), that went along the lines of: “If we BOTH make Drum Major, great! Fun! If one of us gets to be a Drum Major, the other will still stay in band. If we NEITHER of us are accepted, we still have to be in band. Because at the end of the day, being in the band is more important.” The best thing you can ever do, etc. Robin and I felt like we saw eye-to-eye on that, and we also wanted to be adults about this. Dealing with disappointment is hard; but we would do it.

One of the other auditioners had in fact been one of the Drum Majors during the previous season – the only one of the three DMs who wasn’t graduating. That particular year, our director had decided not to “grandfather” Drum Majors from one season to the next; instead everyone would re-audition. So okay; this former Drum Major … we’ll call her Dana … re-auditioned. Cheerfully, which not everyone in the world might have managed. So, give Dana points for that.

Audition and interview days came and went … the student field staff was not announced … the semester ended, finals were taken, the mid-May commencement happened, everyone cleared out of the dorms … and finally the student field staff was announced, albeit in the second week of June.

I was one of the three applicants who made Drum Major.

Robin and Dana each were not.

If you were someone who had been a high school drum major, and were a very competent marcher and musician, and had performed very well as a Rank Leader the season before, but weren’t selected for Drum Major, you might well be very disappointed.

Now, if you had been a Drum Major of that college band before … and then suddenly were no longer Drum Major … how would you take the news?

I would like to think that I would play the part of good person and loyal bando, and be in the band again, regardless.

I would like to think this.

I don’t know for sure, though.

Here, meanwhile, is the part that taught me a lot:

All season long, Dana, our former Drum Major, was nothing but enthusiastic and professional and fun and friendly and helpful as a DI, and had (within my hearing, at least) nary a down-in-the-mouth thing to say about the whole experience. (There was a time or two wherein she genuinely helped this Drum Major look better than he really was, as it happened.)

We never saw Robin again.

And I was genuinely surprised.

Now, I don’t say all this in order to dump on Robin; or to suggest that she was a horrible disloyal immature person. At all.

Again, in her shoes, I would like to hope that I would have played the hand I was dealt, cheerfully, enthusiastically … but I genuinely don’t know. I didn’t have to find out … but it would have been instructive to have to find out.

I don’t know how much time Dana spent, in private, throwing things at the wall, after the student field staff was announced. And I wouldn’t blame her for doing so. (Smile in public, and grouse in private, goes the Starred Thought, approximately; something many public figures could stand to get better at.)

But Dana made a difference, without the title of Drum Major. (Most remarkably, again, she did so after having previously held the title of Drum Major.)

So it can be done.

Easy to say that, either from the safe perspective of thirty elapsed years, or from the comfortable position of having made Drum Major and therefore having weaseled out of experiencing all this. Or, um, both. I admit this freely.

But there is proof that it can be done.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | band, drum major, marching band, UMMB | , , , , | Leave a comment