Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Here’s a scenario:

So you’re new on the job, leading an organization with a certain amount of history and tradition; and of all the members of the organization, you’re the only new person. Everybody else all know each other; they all know how things have been done before; and the organization’s past successes have only cemented the feeling that the main job of the new leadership should be … just keeping things going exactly as they have been going for a very long time, and everything will be fine.

And of course as the new person you’re just looking to survive, never mind thrive.

Naturally you will wish to prove you’re the best person for the job.

Starred Thought: Prove you’re the best person for the job.

And also, if you are any kind of strong personality, or if you are the kind of person that possesses even a tiny bit of confidence, you will wish to demonstrate that you have a vision for the future direction of the organization.

And through all this you are walking a tightrope: I want to prove myself! And I don’t want to alienate people.

Starred Thought: It takes ten years to build a program; it takes just one to destroy it.

Starred Thought: Be a builder, not a wrecker.

So you look around, keep your eyes and ears open, make an effort to listen carefully to all the stakeholders and all the constituencies (or at least give that impression!), learn as much as you can about the history of the organization.

Starred Thought: Look for past traditions to uphold.

And you discover that, for weal or for woe, the members of your organization are really really fond of the previous leadership. You also discover that some of them are a little bit more passionate about this fondness, and about expressing this fondness, than is sometimes comfortable. You do your best to reconcile this enthusiasm with your interest in moving the organization forward, Toward The Future.

It is a hard tightrope to walk. A ridiculously hard tightrope. Especially if your predecessor happens to be seen as legendary.

So, at least at the outset, you play the game.

Starred Thought: If you act the part long enough, you become it.

In those first few moments of your time as the leader of this organization, what you don’t do is – in private or in public – dump on those that came before you. Whether you’re firmly confident in your abilities, or you quietly think to yourself, “what in the world kind of bear trap have I gotten myself into?” You don’t take shots at the people who have done your job before you … whether they’re legendary for good reasons or bad.

Starred Thought: The easiest way to mask insecurity is to cut other people down.

And so, you don’t. Especially in the very early stages of your time there, you make sure to go out of your way to publicly appreciate the foundation that previous leaders have laid, so that you can have this amazing opportunity to contribute to the long line of successes that have characterized the organization.

Starred Thought: Support people before they’ve demonstrated support for you.

So, you give credit where credit is due.

 

Here’s a new wrinkle to this scenario:

You are now several years into your time as leader of this organization. You’ve begun to find successes that you can call your own. Some of them are very, very significant – feathers in the cap, to say the least.

You might consider (or you might not) that now, finally, the time may have come when you don’t need to trumpet the accomplishments and the legacy of the leadership that came before you. After all, living in the past isn’t always a great strategy for moving Toward The Future. Appreciating and recognizing the past, yes, but not getting mired in it.

And yet the membership of the organization still hangs on to the legacy. Not in such a way that they’re dumping on you, no indeed … they’re just remembering fondly … but very very often there are references, remembrances, big and small, that continue to canonize the leadership that came before you.

Starred Thought: You can’t do this job without a LITTLE bit of ego.

Be honest. After five or six or eight years, wouldn’t you start to get a bit weary of it? No matter how much the remembrances emphasize the wonderful foundation that you are now getting to build upon. Can you honestly say you absolutely would never even think, quietly, in the most tucked-away corner of yourself, “…can we just ease up about that?” We’re five or six or eight years on now, after all. Is it not time to turn our eyes Toward The Future?

And is it unreasonable for people to allow you (the not-really-so-new-anymore leadership) to have this tiny thought? To allow you, with your growing record of leadership, to begin to shift the focus back in your direction? Or at least not to focus quite so hard on your predecessor’s?

I think it’s probably not unreasonable.

With all this in mind: I’ve become impressed with a particular gentleman’s willingness and ability to play this complicated game, to play it well … and to play it with respect for so many members of an organization, some of whom may not always have responded entirely in kind.

Starred Thought: To be a leader is to do the uncomfortable thing.

And one event in the last couple of days suddenly stood out to me: both as an example of this willingness and ability to play a very tough game, and as evidence that this gentleman all along has had the confidence to play it very well.

 

Two afternoons ago was the last weekday rehearsal of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band before the eighth anniversary of its previous leader’s passing. There have been eight September 16ths during which the current Minuteman Band leader has had to navigate those potentially treacherous waters.

Friday afternoon, the current director of the Band carved out a few minutes at the end of rehearsal so that the band could play “My Way”, the song that the Band’s previous director had established as a UMass band tradition.

Band members and alumni know that in general, they don’t really rehearse “My Way” after band camp is over; they just play it. At the end of most every public performance. Which means they play it a lot, but don’t use rehearsal time during the regular semester on it. (There’s too much else to spend that valuable time on.) So when they do break it out during the week, it’s at least as rare an occurrence as them not playing it after a gig.

The current band director sent his associate director to the podium to conduct the song. Which is now standard practice – the current director yielded that duty to that associate director almost immediately after his arrival at UMass. I imagine that his logic was something like, “that associate director, having been at UMass for more than three decades, can easily be seen as a comforting link to the past, through taking over the reins of this particular band tradition”.

There are people who, in that situation, might not have had that thought.

More publicly than a weekday band rehearsal, right from his first home football game at UMass, the current leader of the Minuteman Band has gone out of his way to acknowledge and appreciate that associate director in public performance settings. He’s pointed out to many, many audiences how important this new (now not-so-new) colleague of his has been, and is, to the Band.

Starred Thought: Saying “thank you” to someone else makes them feel like a million bucks, but it doesn’t cost you a penny.

And the current director of the Minuteman Band has made it a point to recognize and appreciate the legacy of his predecessor. Not just at Homecoming, when band alumni are all around and it would be politically expedient to do so … but consistently, time after time, opportunity after opportunity.

Giving credit where credit is due.

He could have decided not to do so at all.

He could have decided to do so for awhile, and then decrescendo, because after all, it’s been five or six or eight years now.

Instead, he decided to do so … and keep on doing so. Whether by invoking the name of his predecessor specifically … or by acknowledging the associate director gentleman who was at his predecessor’s side for three decades and more … or by putting in the effort, caring and love required to move the organization forward, Toward The Future – and preserving that legacy in the process.

Starred Thought: Go out of your way to treat people kindly.

If you’ve seen and heard the Minuteman Marching Band at the Rose Parade this past January, or at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City a few years ago, or at Gillette Stadium last weekend, or at any relatively mundane home football gig since autumn 2011, you’ve seen a band that plays and moves in an entirely familiar way. The Band’s sound and look, its style, its personality, its impact(!!) still carries with it the spirit of George Parks.

 

It’s a credit to the legions of band alumni that they’re devoted enough to the George Parks legacy that they have been willing to be vocal about not wanting to just push that legacy, that history, those traditions, aside.

It’s a credit to George Parks, and to associate director Thom Hannum, that their effort and caring and love for the Minuteman Band organization was more than fervent enough to inspire reciprocal effort and caring and love from their alumni.

And: it’s a credit to Timothy Todd Anderson that he has been willing to face more than a few slings and arrows, has walked that ridiculous tightrope, and has still doggedly, consistently, genuinely acknowledged and recognized the Minuteman Band’s past leadership, in the persons of George Parks and Thom Hannum especially, that has laid the foundation … so that he can maintain and continue the Band’s success, in an entirely recognizable form, out here In The Future.

Gotta give the guy credit.

Credit where credit is due.

September 16, 2018 Posted by | band, GNP, marching band, Starred Thoughts, Thom Hannum, UMMB | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worthwhile

‘Twould be hypocritical of me to crack on someone who seemed to be writing about topics about which they weren’t exactly experts.

Exhibit A: … this Blogge, hello!

Talk about not staying in my lane.

So with that in mind, I shall tread carefully.

 

Seems like almost every year at this time, someone leaps onto social media to say some intemperate thing about that curious activity about which I swoon, namely, The Marching Band. Makes sense: if you watch TV on New Year’s Day, you may be subjected to more sights and sounds of the marching arts than on any other TV day, what with the Rose Parade and various college football bowl games and all.

So it makes sense that people who are apt to be critical or prone to mockery, regarding this activity, are going to be that way right around the New Year.

And so it was, yesterday, with a fellow called Bill James.

Honestly, if I wanted to save time … I could just direct you to a piece I posted here three years ago; you could read it and every time you read the words “Jim Rome” you could replace them mentally with “Bill James” and be just as far ahead. You would be forgiven if you did this. Or if you didn’t.

Mr. James leapt onto Twitter and, as you do, Tweeted:

Does the world really need marching bands? I know I am [in] trouble for even asking this question, but what do you think?”

And offered Twitter followers a poll, the results of which happened to end up 88 to 12 in favor of “Yes, we need bands”.

A futile poll, as it happened, but 7 to 1 in any sport constitutes a convincing win, I should think.

Myself? Rather than losing my ever-lovin’ mind – as a couple of my colleagues have done – trying to change Bill James’ ever-lovin’ mind – which is futile because anyone who posts an opinion online and is then pushed back against … digs in that much harder and We Shall, We Shall Not Be Moved – I merely sighed, “ah, he’ll never understand, and it’s his loss.”

True enough, at least to me – a fellow who understands that the marching arts can be dreadful if done poorly, BUT if they’re designed and done with a certain amount of skill and caring can be positively transcendent, even if the purveyors do wear feathers on their heads. So there’s that bias built-in.

 

My curiosity got the better of me, though; and so I peeked at the replies to Mr. James’ Tweet. The replies were predictably – how dare you, sir – but it turns out that Mr. James felt the need to engage with many of the aggrieved respondents. And in the process, he revealed a couple of interesting things about himself.

First, I guess maybe I should have known who Bill James even was.

Not that jazz composer who wrote the theme from “Taxi”.

Not that fellow who co-starred with Will Smith in that romantic comedy movie of a few years back.

He’s a baseball writer. Who invented “Sabermetrics”.

Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. … Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.”

Mm’-kay.

See, I knew I should have recognized that name right away. But I guess I didn’t.

And, more importantly and with less needless snark … something else that Mr. James revealed about himself was this: it turns out that he wasn’t, after all, violating the rule of “only write about what you know”.

One Twitter respondent noted, “That’s a funny question coming from the ultimate sports nerd. Let the music folks have their fun.” Mr. James shot back:

I was in the Marching Band in high school. I was on the field at the halftime of many football games. In retrospect, I’d like to have those 500 hours back.”

In retrospect, it was a shame that there wasn’t one of the Drum Major Academy drum majors in charge of that band, as that student leader might have been able to get to Mr. James before his attitude went all toxic and he either quit the band or destroyed it. (I know; that drum major would have needed a time machine, since Mr. James’ age is closer to seventy than seventeen; you get my point, I trust.)

Sorry! I’m sorry. That was not how I meant this to go. I really wasn’t going to be all snarky about this. I was going to let all it roll off my back. I was going to stay positive.

 

I know a good way to stay positive. It’s this angle:

When another Twitter respondent wished Mr. James would respect the amount of work that goes into being in a marching band, Mr. James shot back:

I respect their work. I just think I would respect if more if they worked on something more worthwhile.”

Mm’-kay.

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to marching in a band?

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to being a Sabermetrician?

Is it worthwhile to make solar panels?

Is it worthwhile to paint sunsets?

Is it worthwhile to learn how to play chess? To play autoharp?

Is it worthwhile to create computer graphics software that will allow more realistic renderings of video-game backgrounds?

Is it worthwhile to write a blog?

Is it worthwhile to commit ridiculous amounts of time and effort to activities that other people don’t understand, and can’t understand, and sometimes even mock?

Sure it is.

Because the alternative is having a population full of people who aren’t curious, aren’t creative, don’t know how to commit time and effort to something … but instead are just drones who only know enough to be “prepared for the 21st century workforce”. Or who would rather mock the people who are curious, creative, and willing to sweat a little – because throwing Internet snark is just easier. Far less risky. Much easier to get attention any which way one can. Look at me and my disdain for people whose activity I think isn’t worthwhile. I made you respond. I win.

Unless, apparently, you get under the skin of the band people, some of whom Tweet things at you like..

It appears the father of Sabermetrics has not found a new audience amongst band members.”

…or…

We used to be awfully quiet about you, because we had no idea who you were. Must suck to be insignificant, until the bandos come after you.”

 

Then it doesn’t make you come out looking like that much of a winner.

At which point it doesn’t seem as worthwhile, I guess.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | arts, band, baseball, DMA, Internet, marching band, music, social media, sports, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It Pains Me

It pains me to have to use this topic for the 300th essay to be published on this blog.  Which this is.

It pains me to have to give the alleged human being, of whom I’m thinking, any publicity at all, honestly. So I won’t even invoke his name.

This has to be done, though.

Essay #301 will have to be the happy-clappy one.

 

The man lives for publicity. He lives for the getting of attention, even more than he lives for the acquisition of money or things.

In a previously published piece, I referred to him as a “circus act”.  A nationally-published columnist on his side of the political spectrum has referred to him as a “bloviating ignoramus”.

Too kind, by exponential values, I think.

With regard only to his campaign for President: to the extent that he ever even had me, he lost me almost immediately. Mexican immigrants all being rapists, or some such.

He and his campaign seemed to survive that.

Then it was the mocking of a sitting US Senator, based on the fact that he’d been a prisoner of war (which branded him a “loser”, or some such).

The man, remarkably, seemed to survive that too. In fact, he has survived the utterance and subsequent worldwide reporting of a startling number of startling statements that, in another era, would each singly have summarily ended their author’s campaign for elected office. At least.

Not in this era, though.

Somehow, amazingly, there appear to be a sizable number of Americans for whom this isn’t even a criterion anymore. So this man is still considered a viable candidate for the highest elected office in the land.

A friend and colleague of mine, who has often constructed creative ways of expressing the thought “ugh”, put it this way, this week:

The willingness to ‘speak one’s mind’ is only a virtue to the extent that the content of one’s mind is of any value.”

 

So, with a sigh, we ask: what’d he say now?

In spite of the great probability that we will all look back upon this blog post, shake our heads, and murmur, “we had no idea how much lower it could go” …

This one ought to do it. It should do it. In another, saner universe, it would do it.

I will admit that I didn’t watch Thursday night’s Republican presidential-candidate debate live. I was in a movie theater watching high school and college kids run around on a football field, tooting horns, banging drums, waving flags, and sweating a lot – an activity which was a whole lot more dignified (and constructive) than the replayed debate exchanges I watched the next day.

But during the debate, Fox News personality Megyn Kelly seemed to have been assigned, or perhaps she actively sought, the role of designated inquisitor of the multimillionaire businessman and television-reality-show star who is running for President this time around. And she applied herself to it most doggedly, and with a look in her eye and an edge in her voice which suggested that she wanted to take him down, and not just because her employer probably wished this. Among the questions she put to him were a couple of references to the ways in which he has previously referred to women, and whether he thought anyone who was willing to say such things belonged anywhere near the Oval Office on a regular basis.

I’m not Ms. Kelly’s biggest fan. As has been chronicled hereabouts, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the cable channel that employs her; and I have been unimpressed with many of Ms. Kelly’s performances upon it.  She’s appeared to want to take a number of other people down, and I haven’t appreciated it.

But that doesn’t mean I think she deserves the treatment she got from the multimillionaire businessman, during and immediately following the debate.

Because when this particular multimillionaire businessman thinks that you’ve disrespected him, or that you’ve questioned his sagacity or his cleverness or his qualifications for being President, or that you’ve questioned anything about him all.

He insults you on Twitter.

In such a way that it makes one genuinely wonder if he’s subcontracted out his Twitter feed to a fifth-grader.

…She is totally overrated and angry. She really bombed tonite”

Wow, @megynkelly really bombed tonight. People are going wild on Twitter! Funny to watch.”

I really enjoyed the debate tonight even though the @FoxNews trio, especially @megynkelly, was not very good or professional!”

Well, ya know, sticks and stones and all that. If American politics – heck, if American discourse – has been anything over the last two hundred-plus years, it’s been laden with insult. Anywhere from H.L. Mencken and Mark Twain to verbal pies in the face, if you’re looking for the sublime or the subhuman, you can find it.

And if you’re a public figure … or even a public blogger! … you should be prepared for the occasional verbal jab, deserved or not. Kinda comes with the turf.

 

This multimillionaire businessman, though.

Time Magazine tried to remain calmly journalistic:

In a call-in interview on CNN Friday, the real estate mogul said Fox News host Megyn Kelly was ‘off base’ when she asked him about derogatory comments he has made about women, his past support for abortion and his criticism of his Republican opponents.

‘She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,’ he told CNN host Don Lemon. ‘You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.’”

The online philosopher Uproxx.com, on the other hand, cut right to the chase:

When talking to Don Lemon about the debate, The Donald said that Megyn Kelly had ‘blood coming out of her…whatever’ during the debate. He might have meant eyes (because he’d just been talking about eyes), but it’s possible (nay, likely!) that our future president was letting everyone know that Kelly was on her period.”

Sorry. I got nothin’.

I thought I’d be able to dredge up a smart remark in response to this jaw-dropper. But my jaw hasn’t finished dropping yet.

So, dear reader, you’ll just have to deal with multiple ellipses – the blog equivalent of dead air (and a radio producer scrambling for a pre-recorded anything to play instead).

Anyway, let’s be quite clear about this.

This crosses a line, back over which the multimillionaire should not, logically, be able to retreat.

I know; the line has not only been crossed over the last few months, it’s been trampled upon, had dirt kicked on top of it, been taken out behind the shed and subjected to enhanced interrogation, and been thrown off a cliff into the raging rapids below, likely never to be seen again unless they make a sequel.

But man!

Megyn Kelly was a bad debate moderator (open for argument) and asked disrespectful questions (again, open for argument) because it’s that time of the month?

 

Maybe it’s because (again, as has been chronicled hereabouts) I spent my childhood, youth, college years, and all the years directly following, surrounded by women who unquestionably earned my respect – not that they needed to do any specific things in order to deserve that respect, as they are, you know, humans.

Not to mention surrounded by women who possess various versions, loud and soft, of the knack for handing it back to those who need it handed back to them.

[On a related note: a little tiny part of me would love to see the multimillionaire get involved in a nationally-televised debate with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as I suspect that the only thing left of him afterward might be his hairpiece. But until Presidential primary voting is complete, I can only create this glorious tableau inside my head. Mmmmmmmmm. Ah well.]

Maybe it’s because there are subjects upon which people on the male side of the gender line will never ever be competent to comment.

Maybe it’s because this multimillionaire businessman (in the same way as many many others) is accustomed to operating in an environment within which he’s allowed to say any old damn-fool thing he wants. Because he’s perceived to have all the power. And because his yes-men will always and forever help him to believe that he and his ideas are funny or wise or smart or clever or right (because if those poor saps don’t … well, you know what they say to people who are about to lose their jobs).

(My Lord, once upon a time this man even judged that he’d date his own daughter, if she weren’t actually his own daughter. He made that judgment on her physical merits. Out loud. Near a microphone.)

But in what rational world does anyone even think this sort of thing, let alone broadcast it to the world and identify it as one’s own, in the midst of a national television interview?

This one, I guess.

“…You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.”

Holy frak. He really went there. With only a slight pause to choose his terminology, presumably for the benefit of the faint of heart at Broadcast Standards.

Guy didn’t even have the balls to say “vagina”.

[Editor’s Note: Dear Reader, the Blogger didn’t seriously imagine that he would write that last sentence. Not even as it became clear that he was going to have to write about this subject, even in the wider context of modern political discourse. The word just appeared, and appealed, in the moment.

[The Blogger is not accustomed to accessing that sort of anatomical vocabulary. … You will perhaps recall the trepidation with which he wrote about underinflated footballs, some time ago.

[Those who prefer that the Blogger would have used the term “testicles” may register your dismay in the comment section.

[Balls. Really.]

 

We ought to be done with this man.

We ought to be done with ever having to deal with him ever again.

We certainly ought to be done talking about him as a candidate for Leader of the Free World and/or Dignified Representative of Our Government and Our Country in That World Which Will Judge Us Based On Our Leadership.

But we’re not. And we won’t be. For reasons that entirely escape me. (The guy isn’t even dependent upon billionaire donors to keep his candidacy afloat, like other governors, senators and neurosurgeons are – but that’s not among the reasons that escape me.)

So, a note to my Future Self:

As you look back at Ye Olde Blogge, and come upon this essay, and shake your head in wonderment at your Past Self’s naivete … please take pity on this poor soul. In his current location in the space-time continuum, he frankly can’t fathom the knowledge that you now possess … the answer that you hold in your mind to the question:

What could possibly top this?

August 8, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, current events, government, news, politics, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments