Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Texas and The Big Beat

Drummer Liberty DeVitto was my special guest on this morning’s show, with talk about the music business and a project in which he’s involved to promote music education above and beyond what’s available in public schools.

DeVitto wanted to be a drummer the moment he saw The Beatles perform on Ed Sullivan's show. I was similarly moved, but had already been bitten by the beat-bug at an earlier age through exposure to music by my father, a high school band director.

Our lives took different paths:
Liberty DeVitto played gigs as a teenager all over his region, eventually running into a singing piano player by the name of Billy Joel. The rest is musical history.
I drummed my way through the public school music programs, but set my sights on becoming a Radio broadcaster.
In both of our lives, the beat goes on.

Despite pooh-pooh’s from jocks and the more physically adroit, music provides some very direct, demonstrable benefits to participants in organized band, orchestra and choir performance programs. (By the way, jocks, strap a bass-drum to your carcass and briskly walk up and down a football field with that extra weight for 12-minutes, and then let’s talk about being physically adroit. And staying on the beat. And keeping in step with the rest of the group. Seriously. It’s harder than it looks.)

Arts students outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board. The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts noted that in 2005, SAT takers experienced in music performance scored 56 points higher on the verbal portion of the test, and 39 points higher on the math portion, than students with no exposure or participation in the arts.

Teachers know that Music is one of the seven intelligences identified in the brain, and the only one that utilizes all of them simultaneously. Music participants, therefore, exercise more of their brain than in any other course they take in school.

You can boil-down the benefits from music education into four key areas:

Greater success in school
Greater success in society
Greater success in developing intelligence
Greater success in life

I have three corollaries for life from my humble experiences in the school band programs:

The Show Must Go On
This has applied directly to my career in broadcasting.
When an ensemble is rehearsed, and the audience is in place, the show must go on.
If you’re sick, suck it up.
If you’re delayed, hurry it up.
Once the commitment to perform has been made, nothing should come between you and your contract with the public.

We run a Radio network.
We attract listeners with the content we produce and provide, and there is a reasonable expectation on the part of that audience that we will deliver each day, without fail. Showing up for shifts is essential. The Show must go on.

The Beat goes on
Regardless of your role in any organization, you make a mark.
It can be a good mark, or a not so good one. But which ever way you pass, it will be forever changed by you having been there.
People will remember.

The High School bands in which I participated were amazing little subcultures; social microcosms with function, and purpose, and whether we knew it or not, a heritage. Over three decades later, that heritage of excellence in performance, of belonging to a whole, and genuine appreciation for group effort, still exists in that high school band program.

Part of the credit goes to the wonderful music educators who worked their labors of love with those band kids over the years. The other half of the equation consists of the students themselves, who even as teenagers recognized the importance of being a part of that organization.The beat is alive and pounding mightily in that band program even today, and thousands of kids are better citizens in their communities because they were part of that rich experience.

You’re only as Good as Your Last Performance
In my Freshman year of High School, our marching band completely lost it on the field during a half time performance. It was a mess. The films we watched the following Monday were even worse than we feared: lines and columns and diagonals crisply lined up, in an instant disintegrated into chaos and embarrassment. We tracked it back to one horn player, missing a counter-march by one beat, and the domino effect took over. For the Seniors in the band, it was particularly humiliating. Underclassmen had another chance to redeem their reputations.

In Radio, each day is another opportunity to prove we’ve got the chops to present quality content to you. It’s also another chance to fail. I’m sure it’s that way in your profession, too, regardless of what you do. You’re only as good as your last sale, your most recent presentation, the latest deal you closed.

That’s why the Show Must Go On.
That’s why the Beat Goes On.
And that is why music education was such an important part of my life.

Coda: Special thanks to my son, Adam Clanton, for preparing the stellar music beds for this morning's interview with Liberty DeVitto. Adam is an accomplished drummer, as well.

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