Trust Your Design Team

April 29th, 2018

pexels-photo-164821Every year as I'm busy writing music arrangements and helping make design decisions for Fall shows, I bump up against directors or staff members who feel they need to micro-manage the process.  I understand how this happens.  The stakes are high for everyone.  But I want to remind you that if you have gone to the trouble to hire good people who you trust to do good work for you, then please TRUST them to do that work!

I explain to every client that I am willing to work within their comfort zone.  They need to be honest and tell me how must creative freedom they are comfortable giving me.  Some directors will say "I want a show based on 'Wicked'…go do your thing" and others will give me a recording of the exact cuts of the exact songs they want in the exact format, down to the second.  Thankfully, there are few of these second type, because I can do my best work with as much creative freedom as possible.  But the staff needs to figure out what they are comfortable with.

There's no doubt that for me, I do my best work with as much lattitude given as possible.  Recently I was working on a show and I realized that "Hall of the Mt. King" worked perfectly with the song I was arranging.  It also was perfect for the tone and theme of the show.  So I was able to include some snippets of that song, hoping that judges and audiences will "get" the clever moments when it occurs to support the mood of the moment.  (I always say that I like to feel SMART when I watch a show, and I love to include things like this that an educated audience member can enjoy.)

I never could have created this clever musical moment if I had not been given a lot of flexibility. This director trusts me to do my work, and he understands that I can do my BEST work with the flexibility to be creative and follow an idea that comes to me as I'm working.  So I encourage you to remember that you spent the money to hire certain people because you love what they do, what they create, and how their shows turn out.  So trust them and leave them alone to DO that work.  You'll have plenty of time to weigh in, I promise.  It's YOUR show.  But allow me and my fellow designers to do our best work, be creative, and this will allow you to have moments and ideas in your show that no one would ever expect!  And we all want that for our band.

Kindness and Generosity Wrapped in Music

August 14th, 2016

Bluecoats 1I have spent the last 3 days at the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis and I have returned home exhausted and yet inspired.  While there, I said hello to countless smiling people, from "celebrities" in the activity to average fans.  I shook many hands, took lots of pictures, shot videos on my phone, posted to social media, saw life-long friends, and recorded many, many conversations which we'll turn into podcast releases.  

Through all of this, I find myself inspired and full of hope.

Dan Acheson with Tim

The main takeaway from the entire experience is that the people I met were incredibly kind and generous.  Of course, I had already said this about all of the guests we’ve talked to on the podcast, now in the mid-500’s in releases!  Everyone has always been willing to talk and share and help.  But I heard this from others this week, and saw this in action, in person.

Thrower and RarickMeeting so many of our podcast guests in person highlighted this generosity and kindness in a way I didn’t expect.  Many designers and instructors, at the height of their season, would stop and say hello, perhaps record a short interview, and always thank me for what the podcast is trying to do.  Hearing that “celebrities” were listening to podcasts was gratifying and astounding.

CaitlinTalking to marchers was perhaps most powerful.  It’s so easy while sitting in the stands to get angry or have strong opinions, but in this day and age it’s also easy to broadcast those negative ideas to the world with the click of a button.  But I challenge ANYONE to spend one minute talking to an actual marcher, standing in the lot after their performance, and be able to post a single callous remark.  We so easily forget that these are kids and they are so full of love for the activity and so excited for the opportunity that DCI has given them!

I think about talking to The Academy guard captain, in full make-up and uniform after her show, and experiencing the thrill of the way our community has embraced their show!  Or talking to drum majors who are so proud they can hardly contain it.  One expects the buttons to fly off their uniforms.

Regiment MomI also had podcast conversations with many of the unsung heroes of drum corps, from cooks to seamstresses to souvie volunteers.  I'll never forget talking with Barb, the Phantom Regiment Corps Mom, and both of us with tears in our eyes as she shared the story of the corps playing "Elsa's" for her and her husband in honor of her 45th wedding anniversary.

Perhaps most memorable, I had the privilege of being on the field Saturday night after the Bluecoats won their championship, and had the opportunity to talk to Doug Thrower and Tom Rarick and Jon Vanderkolff and thank them in person for the gift they gave us this season with that show.  But far beyond this was standing just behind the corps staff as the corps did their final encore performance.  In front of me was the Bluecoats family and staff, so proud, so excited, and struggling knowing they had to, as Doug Thrower said, “Let the show go forever” after such a season.  Behind me were fans so excited and so in love with a show and an activity that I wondered how they could contain themselves, cheering for every note, every slide down a prop, and for every wink from a soloist.

Bluecoats Encore

But I will never forget, as long as I live, the gigantic smiles on the faces of the performers as they performed that last show.  So in love with music and marching and performing and their friends and their corps!  It was all about hugging and smiling and loving and being thankful.  I dare anyone to grouse meanly about a designer’s show choice in the face of such love.

So thank you to DCI for allowing me to be a part of this experience.  We live in a time when our leaders can be mean and thoughtless for their own gain, and some of our fellow citizens forget themselves and follow that lead.  But after three days surrounded by such generosity and kindness…and excellence, I am inspired and reminded of really WHY we all do all of this.  


June 27th, 2016

“Kindness is the water that puts out the fire.”  I awoke today to this quote from Lady Gaga and I found myself moved by it.  We live in a time of unrest and unease and many people are responding with fire….with meanness and intolerance and divisiveness and fear.  But “Kindness is the water that puts out the fire.”

CinderellaThis is the cousin to my other favorite quote from the movie “Cinderella,” Have Courage and Be Kind.  Both of these quotes remind me of the tone and focus that I strive for in my life.  We can all impact the world, starting with our own little corner of it.  So I’m striving to respond with kindness.

We have a responsibility now to speak up when we hear someone spreading a blanket statement of meanness or intolerance.  We must be the water that puts out the fire, for the fire is not the truth.

If someone says that all Muslims are evil, we must speak up.  This is not true, and this is not kind.  I have many Muslim friends who are wonderful and caring and have the same values that we all share.

If someone says that gays will destory the fabric of society, we must speak up.  This is not true, and this is not kind.  And this kind of rhetoric just feeds the fear, feeds the fire.  How many tragedies do we have to endure before we decide to choose kindness instead of fear?

If we hear someone disparage Mexicans, or women, or African-American, or any other group, we must respond with kindness and bring the water to put out this fire.  Solutions to problems will not come from divisiveness or meanness or intolerance or hate.

So have courage and be kind.  Be the water that puts out the fire.  If we all bring the kindness to our own world, we can create a wave of love.  


July 28th, 2015

Trophy smallerIn this day and age of instant celebrity online, many people seem to have forgotten that in order to achieve anything, you must sacrifice.  It’s human nature to look for the easy way out, the shortcut to achieving your dream, the silver bullet to give you the edge.  But ultimately it all comes down to hard work and lots of sacrifice.

Want to get into shape?  You’ll have to sacrifice.  You’ll have to eat less of foods you like.  You’ll need to make different food choices.  Free time will be sacrificed so that you can spend time exercising.  Sweat, pain, hard work.

Want to make a lot of money?  Hours of hard work are in your future.  Less free time for fun, more time to concentrate on the new business venture.

Want that vacation?  Perhaps you have to wait a year.

Want to compete at a high level?  Hours of practice await you.

Want to overcome an addiction or problem?  Money and time and hard work await you in therapy or recovery.

But with this sacrifice comes great rewards, wonderful achievements, fantastic accomplishments, pride in self, feelings of great self-worth.  The thrill of reaching a long desired goal.  It’s all worth it!  Just know that you’ll have to sacrifice!  Some things will have to go so you can give your time and attention to your goals and dreams.

But so totally worth it!

Oh, and I must say that if you want to have a family and have small children, you’ll likely need to sacrifice eating in certain restaurants for a while.  It’s part of the job of being a parent.  So don’t think you can just go ahead and live the life you want.  You’re going to have to sacrifice for your kids, your body, your career, your dreams.  But boy can it be worth it!

Gym Etiquette: Big Boys Should Know Better

July 4th, 2015

indexWe all share the gym, so I'm often frustrated when my fellow gym members don't follow the most basic rules of gym etiquette.  This includes putting your weights back where they belong, removing weights from machines when you're finished, cleaning up a bench if you leave it sweaty, and not leaving used Band-Aids lying around on machines.  (Really, Band-Aids – ICK but we see it often….there's a trash can really near by, people!)

But I get especially frustrated when the folks not following these rules are obviously long-time lifters. If a guy with lots of muscles walks into a gym, we all know that he is not showing up for the first time…and thus assume that he will follow basic rules of being a good gym citizen.  So when these muscular folks let us down, I find it especially disappointing.

Yesterday a man in his early 20’s walked out of the locker room in a “hand-cut” tank top which showed off his hard-earned muscles well.  The fact that he had this tank tucked into his gym shorts AND was sporting black socks with this tennis shoes gave me pause.  I was even willing to overlook his displays of poses in the mirror between each set.  He was working hard and had a lot of size.

It was not long, however, before he started “the show.”  This is something that we sometimes see with members who want to make sure everyone knows how hard they are working and how huge they are becoming.  For this fellow, it meant doing a set of deadlifts with the heaviest dumbbells while groaning loudly during the exertion phase.  This fellow would bend all the ways down until the dumbbells touched the floor, then back up to standing position.  This is impressive when holding the 100 lb. weights….until he reached the end of the rep and DROPPED the weights all the way to the floor with a giant thud!  This was on a concrete floor, not part of the gym with pads on the floor.  And we wonder why our weights are loose and get beat up!

What was so maddening is that he had just shown he could bend ALL THE WAY to the ground with these weights, so there’s no reason he could not bend down one more time to set them on the ground.  The drop of the weights from waist level was clearly “for the show.”  Make a lot of noise to top off your set so everyone will see you and be impressed.

But impressed we were not.  Someone who has obviously spent many years in the gym should know how to treat the equipment.  When the giant thuds started to happen, the “gym regulars” started to look his way and then talk among ourselves about how long we should wait before we went over to talk to this knucklehead.  Fortunately, his gym workout partner seemed to notice our looks of disgust so after a few sets of this nonsense they moved on to something else and I was spared the confrontation.

Sadly it seems that the biggest boys sometimes are the laziest, or feel they are special and don’t need to follow the rules.  This always makes me scratch my head, so I share this post to encourage everyone, no matter young or old, new or long-time member, huge or not, to be a good gym citizen.  And consider white athletic socks with those short shorts!  Thanks.

The world is grey, and this is not easy.

March 5th, 2015

Facebook, Internet News, and TV News have become exhausting to me because they see to be full of people screaming at each other. Rather than having thoughtful discussions about difficult topics, we seem to have reduced things to two talking heads yelling their opinions and not listening to each other.

The problem is that the world is grey, not black and white. Oh, it would be so much easier if it WAS black and white. How fun and comforting it is to have the man in the black hat who is the bad guy, and the man in the white hat who swoops in to save the day. We know exactly who to root for. The morals and choices are clear.

But in the real world, everything is actually grey. This is harder, this is not as easy or comforting, this requires careful THOUGHT and CONSIDERATION. But most people take the easy way, take their position, and then hold on for dear life.

Nothing is more dangerous than a person who is absolutely certain that they are right. This really stems from fear. I find I can have some compassion for people if I see this fearful place they are coming from. If you are fearful about something then you tend to hole up and fight, AND decide that you have to convince as many people as possible to agree with you, since this makes you feel better about your position.

Sadly, it seems that these fearful folk have convinced themselves it’s okay to lie and make things up to get others to agree….as long as a bunch of us all feel the same way. Then they can feel less unsure and fearful, and can allow themselves to overlook those who may be trampled or damaged in the wake of their fearful crusade.  And our brain actually is wired for this "cognitivie dissonance" so that we can overlook or rationalize away facts to protect our position.

But of course having many who agree with you does not mean you are right, though the numbers who agree make us feel better. Most issues are grey. So thinkers will be less certain and will move slower to form an opinion. But this is hard and takes time. Our culture seems to have less tolerance for those things every day.

I’m always happy to learn that I’ve been wrong about something. I DO like to be right and to know better, and I’m ready to find out the nuances of a subject and expand my understanding. I’m no pushover, and I won’t suffer fools, but I will hear what you have to say. Changing my opinion can be scary to many, but I do enjoy getting things right.

But nothing is more dangerous than the half-informed man who has an opinion and is fearful and is absolutely CERTAIN about something.  Then logic is closed and battle lines are drawn.

So I try to see through all the politicians and news shows and religious extremists who make things up or deny facts to buffer their positions. I see their fear, I know our brains like to be certain and can lead us into this denial, and I try to know better. And I try to be thoughtful and patient and live in the grey of our world. It takes more effort and is less comforting, but it’s what an educated man of society should do. And I encourage all those around me to try to do the same. This is the hope of our society for the future, and the kind of world I want to live in.

Improving My Health through Martial Arts Training

November 7th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 8.15.56 PMToday I was excited and honored to pass my evaluation and reach Section Three of Black Belt Training at the Martial Arts Center for Health.  This achievement came at the six month mark in my training.  But my day started sitting across from a doctor.

My doctor asks to check my bloodwork every six months, and it just so happened that I had my last check-up at the same time I started my martial arts training.  Now six months later, I had the coincidence of having my doctor’s check-up appointment on the same day as my Section Three Evaluation.  So I started my morning at the doctor’s office getting the results of my blood test, and then traveled in the afternoon for my martial arts test.

Here’s what’s so interesting: Every single marker of my health in the bloodwork testing showed an improvement!  My blood pressure was down, cholesterol was down, PSA’s were down….every marker that was tested was better than 6 months ago.  And good things were up, like testosterone level and good cholesterol!  Every single aspect of my health that was tested was improved.

And at the same time, I feel better than I have in a long time.  I can move better, I get less sore, am less tight, my shoulder issue is monumentally improved, my body fat is down and I’m more defined….in fact I think I look and feel better in every way.

There is no question in my mind that I must attribute all of these improvements in my health to my training at the Martial Arts Center for Health.  The dedicated (and infinitely patient) instructors there have guided me through a process of transformation, and I have the medical, scientific tests to prove it!

Of course, the doctor only announced to me exactly what I already knew.  I feel and look better, and I know that my health is greatly improved.  So my hat goes off to Instructors Matt, Scott, Eva, and Jim for their work with me in martial arts class.  And I’m proud of myself for the resolve and commitment I have been able to give.  Of course, when you are having fun AND know you’re transforming your life and health….such resolve is easy to find!

I’m ready to fly forward over the next 6 months toward my Section Four evaluation, knowing that with the guidance of my martial arts mentors, my life and my body will be moving forward with grace, strength, flexibility, and joy.

Martial Arts Center for Health Website

Letter to Bob Iger

October 12th, 2014

I mailed this letter to Bob Iger about how the new FastPass Plus system has ruined the park experience for me.

October 12, 2014

To Bob Iger:

logoYesterday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios I walked up to a FastPass Plus location and asked if I could get a FastPass for “Toy Story Mania.”  The cast member looked me dead in the eye and said “Oh no, those are reserved months in advance and only online.”  This is when I knew the Disney park experience had been ruined for me.

I love Disney, I love the Disney Parks, and I should be your dream demographic.  I love the parks so much that I moved to Orlando so I could be near them and visit often.  It used to be at least once a week, but no more. 

The new “Fast Pass Plus Magic Band” debacle has ruined the parks for me.  When I complain to my Disney cast member friends, they are quick to point out that guest satisfaction is UP because of this new service.  And this surely is true for those rich families who spend years planning an extravagant vacation, can stay in a Disney Resort, and spend lots of money.  AND plan way in advance!  The best times and attractions are reserved for them!  I’m sure they have a fantastic vacation.

But you’ve ruined the experience for everyone else.  You’ve certainly ruined it for me.  I don’t think the optimum theme park experience is running from planned event to planned event trying to get it all done.  Where’s the joy of slowing down and just enjoy being there? 

And I wonder about the guest who just shows up at the front gate and wants to have a terrific day.  The game is now so rigged that if you don’t plan weeks (or months) in advance, you can’t just walk in and do all the great things that are offered.  Imagine a guest who drives to the park, pays $100 (ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!) for a one day ticket, and then finds out inside that every major attraction has a two hour wait and no fast pass tickets available.  They’ve all been reserved way in advance, and this paying guest spends their day standing in long lines and seeing very little.

For an annual passholder like myself, the odds are even more sad.  I used to visit a Disney park at least once a week and spend lots of money on meals and souvenirs.  Now I rarely go at all.  My passholder discount has been cut to nothing, all fastpasses are gone, and anything available is usually HOURS later in the day.  I can’t just show up for a couple of hours and have a nice time, or at least expect to ride anything.  My trips now consist of enjoying the atmosphere and riding nothing.

When I complained to a friend who works at the park he did some research and admitted that, yes, all FastPasses for the new Seven Dwarfs Coaster are gone each morning by 9:15.   Only fifteen minutes after the park has opened.  And surely if I was able to grab one of these rare passes, they would likely be for very late in the day.  At this point I fully expect to never get to ride this new attraction.  How can I justify standing in the hot Florida sun for two hours (or more) just to ride a 3 minute kiddie coaster?  I’d love to experience this new bit of Disney magic, but apparently Disney magic is now reserved for rich families spending LOTS of money.   The day guest paying $100….too bad!  In the old Fast Pass system, each guest could only reserve one at a time, so even though wait times were longer, it still seemed somewhat fair.  Everyone was in the same boat.  But now the deck is stacked for the rich, and the rest of us are out of luck.

As for me, I now find myself spending my time and money at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where I can walk up to Hogwarts castle and get on a ride with NO fastpass, or jump on a train and then relax in Diagon Alley where the location and atmosphere are the greatest attraction.  There is where I now spend my time and money.

I don’t think this situation is beyond saving, but it seems the cynics are right when they say that Disney is only about the rich and no longer cares about the average guest experience.  I’m hoping this could change, as I miss the wonderful Disney Park experience.  It’s a terrible loss.


Tim Hinton

Being Brave

September 1st, 2014

michael sam rams

Currently in the news, Michael Sam was not signed by any NFL team.  A GM of an NFL franchise admitted that he wanted to sign Michael but "was afraid of the media attention."  So my thought was that these big bad football types are really acting like a bunch of cowards.  This is all the more apparent because Michael Sam's story is one of such raw courage in the face of fear and ignorance.  Could the contrast be more stark here?

This reminds me of my own career in music and show design.  I feel I can say with confidence that every time I've had a really big success and a show has been a huge hit, it always was a show where we took a risk.  A lot of courage was on display by the director and his staff, the marchers, and the designer.

Nothing great ever comes from playing it safe.  Even if you win with the safe production, will you really look back on it as a special moment in your life or career?  Many times a monumental failure can be a great accomplishment and something to be proud of. At least you "went for it" and tried something.  

This Fall I've created two marching productions which are probably two of the most daring of my career.  Both shows are taking a risk, and the directors have taken a "leap of faith" with both concepts.  Time will tell if these shows work, if they are successful, or even if people like them.  I certainly hope that audiences are buzzing and talking after seeing these shows, and hopefully out of excitement and not horror!  But either way, everyone involved in both shows will have AN EXPERIENCE!  Something to tell their kids about!  Something to be proud of.  

There's something to be said for trying, for blazing a new trail, for sticking your neck out!  It's boring to be normal and do what's expected.  

So hopefully an NFL team will grow a pair, do the right thing, and bring Michael Sam on to sack quarterbacks every Sunday.  And hopefully this Fall we'll see designers and marchers taking risks.  I feel confident that if they do, they'll have a great adventure, have a great time, and learn that being brave IS worth the risk.

Quiet Down Already!

July 30th, 2014

We have three new guys in our gym who have started showing up at our afternoon workout time.  They seem nice enough, work hard, and have decent physiques.  But they are incredibly annoying.  Why?  They are loud!

Not loud in a friendly “say hi” and share your energy kind of way.  They are loud in a “workout show” kind of way.

o-GYM-ANNOYED-facebookSome people in the gym have to get ego strokes by being loud and making lots of noise while they lift.  There’s a constant element of “HEY, Look over here and notice how hard I’m working” to everything they do.  Believe me, we can all tell if you’re working hard—you don’t have to bang the weights around for us to notice.

Apparently, you want us to see how hard you’re working by being loud and dropping weights, grunting, and yelling at each other. But what we see are “posers” who are looking for some validation and desperate for ego strokes.

Superman Men Alter Ego Compression Shirt By Under ArmourYesterday at the gym this new loud crew arrived in their tank tops and bright head bands (??) and started yelling and dropping weights and banging things around as they did their deadlifts.  After sharing lots of looks of disgust, I noticed something very telling.  Near us, on a bench doing bicep curls, was the biggest guy in our gym.  This man is just enormous, with curves everywhere.  He often wears skin tight superhero shirts, which he fills perfectly, and he’s one of those guys who could win any local contest but is just not interested in competing.  He just loves being in the gym and being big.

And one other thing….he’s perfectly quiet.  I’ve never heard him make a sound.  He never draws attention to himself, whether squatting or benching or curling huge poundages.

So here’s hoping the new loud crew “catches a clue” and pulls out of their self-absorbed screamfest long enough to notice that this monster of a man is quietly working his way around the room getting much bigger than they could ever dream of being.

Now hush, and lift already.  Save that energy you’re wasting with your noise and redirect it to your workout.  You’ll make better progress and we’ll all enjoy a bit of quiet.