Archive for March, 2012

MUSIC: Staying Out of the Way

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I recently saw the wonderful movie "Midnight In Paris" by Woody Allen.  I recommend it highly to anyone who is involved in any sort of creative field…which will be anyone reading this blog, most likely!  So put this film at the top of your Netflix Queue and watch it ASAP!

In the "extras" on the DVD was an interview with Woody Allen and many of the stars in the film which was recorded at the Cannes Film Festival.  In this interview, Woody said something that I have heard many times, and which we keep hearing over and over in Roundtable interviews.   The actors were talking about the amount of space and latitude they were given by Woody, and how little he actually told them about how to play their part.  Woody said that he felt his role was to hire the right actors and then let them do their job.  He stayed out of their way, and then "took credit for their great work later"…something Woody said that all great directors do!

So Woody Allen, one of the great film directors and writers of his generation, made the point that he hires the right people with right skills and talents, and then stays out of their way and lets them do their job.

There is a great lesson here for all of us in the creative world of marching arts.  Over and over we have had VERY successful directors and managers and creators say on the Marching Roundtable podcast that they hire good people and then let them do their job.

Many nervous and insecure directors can find this extremely difficult, but it never serves them well.  I cannot tell you how many times a director has second-guessed and MICRO-MANAGED my work, and almost every time this fearful over-managing has sucked all the life and originality out of my work.  Of course, I'm not always perfect and not every idea I've ever had has turned out to be a home run.  But my percentage of success is pretty darn good, and most of my best work has come when I was given the freedom to run with my vision and implement it fully.

Of course this all assumes that you hire good people who know what they are doing.  Make sure they have a track record of success and intregrity.  If you want to give a new designer a chance, have them work WITH another seasoned veteran for the first few projects to help to guide them.  And don't let this newbie run the show alone.  I've been through that train wreck scenario before, too!

So take a note from Woody Allen…or any number of successful people….and let the people you hire do their job.  Many times, staying out of their way can be the greatest gift you can give to them, and to your program.

MUSIC: In It Together

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I am dismayed that one of the trends in today's society is the tendency to isolate oneself in a bubble.  People walk around with their head down, looking at their phone, and not interacting with the environment they are passing through…or others they may meet.  Everyone at the gym has on headphones, which cuts interaction by members at least in half, if not more.

It seems self-evident to me that my life benefits if those around me are happy and prospering, and that our society benefits if we help each other out.  Somehow many people today feel that we should cut all spending and eliminate social programs to keep more money in our own pockets (and pay less taxes.)  Even as I'd love to have more money in my pocket, I know that my life benefits in MANY ways, not just by the size of my bank account.  And living in a prosperous world with happy citizens enhances my life experience astronomically.  I can worry less about crime and hardship around me as others are successful and contribute to our society and economy.

We all need life experiences that teach us these lessons about our society.  I do believe we are truly "All in this together."  It is my wish that every young person has experiences in a group setting, as part of some exciting organization, that show them the great benefits of working together for common goals, and helping those who are less talented or less fortunate to be valuable contributing members of the group.

Some students are on sports teams, or in civic groups.  Some belong to church groups, where many types of people can gather to accomplish good things.  In my life, I was very fortunate to spend many years in all types of performing ensembles.  My time in the band showed me that we can all succeed only when we work together.  Only by being tolerant and patient and helping those who are struggling can any performing group succeed. 

So please support your local music organizations when possible, and encourage young people to be involved.  Sure, a high school student can get a job instead and make some money, getting a head start into our mania for capitalism, but how much more might they grow as a person, as a member of our society, if they learn valuable lessons as part of a musical group, working together for the common good.

FITNESS: Use Your Instincts

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Each day as I'm working, my animal companions Gus and Sophia patiently wait for the time when we will go for our walk.  It's usually the highlight of their day, and often happens around the same time.  Since I work at home, there are clear signs to them that "it's time" for the walk.  The first clue is usually when I go into my bedroom and get some socks out of the drawer.  This is usually enough to let them know that shoes are next and then "we're off!"

What I always find fascinating about this process is that as soon as the dogs realize what's happening and that a walk is about to happen, they do the same thing each day.  Gus immediately begins to stretch, and Sophia runs into the kitchen for a quick drink of water.   They instinctively know what they will need to be successful and healthy on their upcoming bit of exercise.

So let's take a lesson from our instinctive animal friends and follow their lead.  Before we are about to exercise, or be active in any way, take a moment to stretch and have a drink of water!  Your instincts know it's just what you need!

FITNESS: Gym of Oddities

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

The new year at the gym always brings new members trying to accomplish their New Year's Resolutions.  This year at our little LA Fitness, we also added a slew of members from a Bally's Gym that LA Fitness bought, dumping all those members at our gym.  It's been a bit of a double whammy, which we could likely navigate except for one point…. Our gym has always been full of "unusual characters" (what gym is not, actually), but the recent crop of new members has taken the cake.

It's a real "Believe it or Not" kind of crowd.  Exhibit A?  The guy doing cardio while wearing a full-out gas mask.  Yes, like the one in the picture.  In fact, the next time he showed up I snuck a picture.  It's grainy, but there he is doing bench presses while breathing like Darth Vader.  Supposedly there is some concept of restricting air, possibly for working in high altitudes??!!??

The main problem with gas mask guy is the impact on the rest of the gym.  We seem to acquire a shared case of the willies.  It's just unnerving to have someone working out near you in this get-up.

So hopefully we will not see this guy much, and we can continue to try to live with all the other strange behaviors that we have to put up with.  One this is for sure, it's never boring!

FITNESS: Childhood Obesity is Not Okay

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


Once again, an attempt to do something helpful has gotten people in an uproar.  It seems that in this world we live in, this happens more often than not.  

Today there was an interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel (click HERE to see the article) about a new exhibit at Epcot at Walt Disney World.  The exhibit was about Childhood Obesity and  was full of colorful and entertaining exhibits encouraging children to exercise and make smart food choices.

Unfortunately, this was all perceived as an attack on fat children, and the exhibit is now closed for "retooling."

So let me get this straight…we have a well-documented EPIDEMIC of childhood obesity, but if we even point this out, or make someone aware that maybe they need to lose a few pounds, eat right, or exercise, we are attacking them for being fat?  I am dizzy from all the eye rolling.


Surely, no one thinks it's okay to purposefully hurt someone's feelings or denigrate them.  However, is it now NOT okay to make suggestions to someone to improve their health and lifestyle?  Is ANY recommendation now seen as an affront?  Apparently the "National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance" thinks so.  I'm okay with acceptance, or tolerance.  But when kids are getting sick and dying because our culture coddles them, or no longer asks them to move, or eat anything beyond McDonald's…then something is out of whack.

It's time we looked this epidemic in the eye and made some hard choices.  It's not fun to hear that one is out of shape or in danger of getting a serious illness because of the extra pounds that they carry.  But if we can't even have a conversation about it, something's amiss.  And if a cartoon character named "Callie Stenics" is the bad guy for asking someone to maybe exercise just a smidgen, then I think our culture is in a world of trouble.