“It’s a Cop!”

Today’s writing prompt actually made me laugh: “Have you ever had an encounter with the police?” Yes. Yes, I have. I have had a few …. as a matter of fact …..

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My First Ticket

It was probably my junior or senior year and there was a very cool record store in Ferndale called “Sam’s Jams.” They had everything, including some very hard to find vinyl albums. I remember finding old Soupy Sales albums, rare Tom Lerer albums, and stuff I didn’t even know existed on vinyl there. I spent many hours there before they closed their doors.

I was driving in my dad’s 1979 Caprice Classic (I loved that car!) through Royal Oak and Steve was with me. It was in November, so it was already dark out. The speed limit was like 30 and I was going a little faster than that. I remember when the flashers went on behind me – I was terrified! I had never been pulled over before. There were butterflies in my stomach and I was sweating as the policeman approached the car.

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He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and if I knew what the speed limit was. I didn’t know either. He said he’d be back. I became more and more nervous the longer he was in his car. When he returned, he asked, “Do you know you are driving on expired plates?” My dad’s birthday is the first of November, and my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew. I told the cop this and he said very sternly, “You’re dad is wrong. Are you aware that I can impound this vehicle? Where are you heading?” I told him we were going to Sam’s Jams. He told me, “No you are not. You are going home. I would recommend that you not do any driving until your dad gets these plates renewed.” He then handed me my ticket, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t impounding the vehicle. I turned around and drove home (where my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew those tags!).

No stranger to tickets

Don’t take that heading the wrong way, I just have had a few tickets here and there in my 30+ years of driving. One of them came on Thanksgiving.

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We were leaving my dad’s house and heading to my ex’s family’s house for dinner. We hadn’t been driving very long, because we were technically still in my dad’s neighborhood when I got pulled over. If my memory serves me correctly, we had stayed a bit longer than my ex wanted to at my folks house. When we left, she was angry and we were arguing in the car. I was driving in a 25 and probably doing 40-45. She was telling me that we were going to be “so late” and the more she yelled, the angrier I got.

The cop was going the other way and he swung around quick and turned on the flashers. This, of course, led to more of an argument. The cop walked up and asked for my information and I believe my ex said, “I knew he was going too fast, sir.” My son asked the cop if I was going to jail – LOL. I got a ticket and an earful that continued all the way to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

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One ticket I got was while driving to work one night. There was an accident at the intersection of 12 and Woodward. I took Woodward to work every night and had to turn right onto 12 Mile. Driving toward 12 Mile, there was a wrecker with a vehicle already on it just before you reached 12 mile. The cop was on the other side of 12 mile and his flashers were on. There were cars going the opposite way on 12 mile, so when I got to 12 mile, I turned right. (So the cop is on my left on one side of 12 on Woodward, and the wrecker is on the right side of 12 mile on Woodward). As I pull into our parking lot at work, he zips in behind me and turns on the lights.

Keep in mind, there are no flares or cones or anything on the street AND there was nothing blocking me from making the turn, so I figured I was ok to do so. Nope. I was informed by the officer that I had drove through “an accident scene” which I guess is a TON of points. He wrote me up instead for “impeding traffic”, which was a little less points, but still a few more than I ever wanted on my record.

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I am a creature of habit. I take the same way to work every day. I like to travel familiar roads. When the GPS has me take another way, or I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I start to get nervous. Especially when the roads are back roads that twist, turn and wind all over the place.

Friday, I was driving to an appointment and the GPS tells me that the road ahead is closed and has me get off and take another route. The roads are twisting and turning all over the place and before I know it, I am in a construction zone. The GPS is yelling at me to turn in like .2 miles and because I am not paying attention to my speed, you guessed it – here comes the Oakland County Sheriff.

He had every right to cop the attitude that he did. “Do you realize you are in a construction zone?” “You do see that there are workers present and that there is no concrete barrier, right?” My heart was pounding. I am always careful – especially in construction zones. My wife can tell you, I usually have the cruise control on. She even jokes about how slow I drive. I was given a break (thankfully) because I had no points on my record. I was told to slow down and he wrote me up for 5 over. I am one lucky guy!

My favorite encounter with the police – October 1987

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I have probably blogged about this before, but when I was a senior in high school the big thing to do was toilet paper houses. There were many groups that went out together – the cheerleaders, the football players, the choir members, and of course, us band people. The band was large and there were three or four groups that went out and TP’d. My group was the TP Bandits.

One of my best friends, Steve (the same Steve who was with me when I got my first ticket) had a birthday in October. He was dating a gal at the time and for his birthday, we decided that we were going to TP his house. When did our “drive by,” we could see him upstairs in his room watching TV with the gal. We parked the car just a bit down from his driveway and Margaret, Ronnie, and I went to work. The three of us used a ton of TP on this huge tree in front of his house, wrapped bushes, the mailbox, etc…. it was a beautiful job!

Once everything was finished, we stood in the middle of his lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs. He came to his bedroom window and laughed. After the last note was sung, we turned and ran to our car … but we didn’t get far. As we sung Happy Birthday, a cop car had pulled up in front of the house. Ronnie and Margaret ran away first and I was probably making faces at Steve or giving him the finger or something. All I remember hearing is Ronnie yelling, “It’s a cop!” I then felt a very firm grip on my shoulder and was told to get in the back of the Warren Police Cruiser.

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As the officer closed the door of the cruiser, I could see Steve’s mom running outside yelling, “It’s a prank! It’s ok! They’re ok! It’s just a prank!” Margaret, Ronnie and I sat in the back of this cop car and I kept thinking, “We’re never going to get to go to graduation!” “We’re being arrested for TPing!” “What the hell am I gonna tell my folks?!”

The cop in the car went one by one and asked us our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and probably a bunch of other things. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I laughed when he got to Ronnie, because he totally started rattling off all his info as fast as I have ever heard him talk! The cop told us that we could go to jail because of vandalism or something and I thought, “It’s TP! Are you serious!?” When the other cop returned the vehicle, he played “good cop.” He told us that he had all our information. He wanted us to go out and clean up as much as we possible could. They were going to drive back by the house later and if it wasn’t cleaned up “we know where to find you!”

Steve got quite a laugh out of the whole thing. I think the cops asked if they wanted us to clean it up and he probably told them yes. It was a huge birthday backfire. I also remember coming to school the next day and waiting for people to razz us. A few people had heard what happened, but surprisingly, no one really said anything. I thought we were totally in the clear. During band class, we were in the middle of a song and all of a sudden, our band director, Mr. Shaner, cut us all off and proudly yelled, “Hey! Did everyone hear what happened to our TP Bandits last night?!” The band erupted with laughter and Margaret, Ronnie and I were red with embarrassment!

Yeah … I’ve had a few encounters with the police …. some were more fun than others!

Recurring Dreams

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As someone who works as a sleep technologist, I am often asked about dreams. Why do we dream? Can dreams really tell the future? What do dreams mean? The list of questions I get asked about dreams is a long one. There are many schools of thought about dreams. Take a psychology class and just the thoughts of famous psychologists alone could fill a book! The most common question I get asked about dreams is in regards to recurring dreams. “Do you ever have recurring dreams?” Yes. Yes, I do. “Why do we have those?” I have no idea. I wish I did.

I’ve never been one to put too much faith into “dream interpretation.” To me, it seems like it is often just someone’s opinion. Sometimes they make sense, but most of the time they just seem like some generic thing – like a horoscope. I may be wrong, and maybe there is something to it, but I really haven’t found it to be that way.

Recurring Dream #1

I have been having this one dream off and on for years, probably since I was about 10 years old. My brother and I are out in the backyard. Sometimes it is at our first house (at least I think that’s where it is), most of the time, however, we’re at my mom and dad’s. The old dog house that was there when we moved in is still in the back corner. The swing set is in the middle of the yard. It is no bigger than an average backyard.

While we are outside, the wind begins to pick up and dark clouds roll in. My mother will stick her head out the sliding glass door and call for us to come in because of storms. As I look up in the sky, a funnel cloud begins to form. (FYI: My grandmother told me all kinds of stories about tornadoes, which left me forever terrified of them) It is at this point that my brother and I begin to run toward the house. As we run, the yard begins to get bigger and bigger. It is like I am running and the house is moving farther and farther away.

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My brother is running behind me and I am holding his hand. I keep looking behind us as the funnel cloud begins to turn into a tornado. It is windier and we are fighting to get to the house. We get to the swing set and we are being pulled off the ground by the funnel. We are literally hanging on to the bars of the swing set so we won’t get sucked away by the tornado. My mom is screaming to us, but cannot get to us. As I lose my grip on the swing set – I wake up.

Recurring Dream #2

This is one that I have a bit more frequently than the tornado dream. I mentioned it on Facebook once and was surprised that I wasn’t the only one to have this kind of dream. This one is the “band dream.”

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While there are many variations of it, they are always very similar in nature: (1) I forgot my instrument at home and my band director is going down the line making every one play individually. (2) I have my instrument, but didn’t practice the piece and the band director is going down the line making everyone play individually. (3) I have my instrument, but don’t have my music folder. (4) I have my music folder and my instrument, but I suddenly cannot play the song we are working on.

The variations can also take place in different places: (1) Sometimes we are rehearsing in the band room. (2) Sometimes we are on stage at a concert. (3)Sometimes we are playing at band festival. (4) Sometimes we are on the football field and we are in marching band. (5) Sometimes we are marching in a parade.

Our band director was a man who I had great respect for. I think we all did. He was a good leader and taught us many lessons. He was strict and stern. You always tried to be prepared for class. Sometimes you weren’t and he knew it. I remember this one song that had a simple chromatic scale at the beginning of it. It was a fast tempo song, so if you didn’t practice it, you could easily blow it. We all started the song, started it again, and again until finally he pulled out the grade book and made every one of us play it. You either played it right and passed or played it wrong and failed. I failed it.

In the dream, all the old band classmates are there. I can’t really look at them and say what year it is. Many times its just all the people who were in band at one time or another. There is often things going on that are just weird – like bubbles coming out of clarinets or water coming out of the tuba. Many times we are rehearsing songs I remember playing while in band. Other times we are working up songs I have never heard. Sometimes famous people are in the dream rehearsing with us. There is no specific or common ending to the dream.

While this dream can often cause me to feel anxiety, I usually wake up from the “band dream” chuckling at the absurdity of what was in it. I also wake wishing that I could go back to those days when I still played well. I can barely make a sound on my trumpet today. I miss playing in band. It was, one of my favorite things about high school.

Sweet Dreams

I probably have one or two other recurring dreams, I just forgot them right now. I’ll remember them after I have them. I don’t know what makes me dream these same dreams. I don’t know what prompts them. I have always found dreams to be very cool. They can be very real! They can make you feel real emotions. Every once in awhile, they can be a little too real.

Other times, a dream, which you can’t explain, can make you look back at it and wonder. I had one of those too. When I was going through my divorce, I had a ton of stress. I woke up crying one night after having a dream. I dreamt my mom was talking to me. I was upset. She looked at me and said, “It’s going to be alright, honey. You are going to come out of this and things will be just fine.”

She was right!

What are your thoughts on dreams? I’d love to hear them.

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The Comics

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While prepping for my weekend shift on the radio, I was going through some old prep to see if there was anything that I could recycle or update.  In that prep was a line about a paperboy delivering papers.  At first I laughed, because, are there even paperboys anymore?!  Second, does anyone read the paper physically today?  I mean, most newspapers are all online today – some of which you have to pay for!

I was a paperboy for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I remember as a kid reading my horoscope, the Names and Faces column, Bob Talbert, and all about the Detroit Tigers.  The thing I loved about getting the paper was reading the comics page!  There were so many great comic strips over the years.  I could always count on a good laugh from some of my favorite characters.  Off the top of my head, here are just some of my favorite strips (past and present)…..

The Far Side

From 1980 to 1995, Gary Larson provided a daily laugh for me and so many others!  At one time, I owned all the books and every year I bought the wall calendar.  The cartoons are like a good movie, or TV show – you have seen it hundreds of times, but they are still funny!  I miss this comic so much!

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The Argyle Sweater

This is the closest thing to The Far Side that I have found.  I love how Scott Hilburn incorporates puns almost daily.  Since there is no more Far Side wall calendar, I get the Argyle Sweater one for 365 laughs a year!

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Peanuts

This seemed to be the first comic on every comics page for as long as I can remember.  Charles Schulz created some very memorable characters.  I related to Charlie Brown in so many ways growing up.

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Calvin and Hobbes

LONG before Toy Story showed us what toys do when we aren’t around, there was Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin was a kid with a big imagination.  He had many adventures with his stuffed friend, Hobbes.  The strip only lasted 10 years (1985-1995), but still remains one of the best!

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Crankshaft

Ed Crankshaft was a former minor league baseball player for the Toledo Mud Hens, who now is a school bus driver.  One of the running gags was how he destroyed his neighbor’s mailbox on a daily basis.  At times, this strip had some serious story lines, and remains a favorite.

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Funky Winkerbean

Crankshaft was actually a “spin-off” of this strip.  One of the reasons I loved this strip so much, was that it would occasionally focus on Harry Dinkle, the band director and his marching band.  Our band director could be strict, but hardly as strict as Dinkle.  It was not uncommon for strips about band camp to appear the same week we were doing band camp in high school.  As a band geek, I loved this strip!

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Drabble

There are so many things I love about this comic by Kevin Fagan!  The relationship between the father (Ralph) and his son (Norman) reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my dad.  I can relate to the constant dieting struggles that Ralph endures.  There are funny story lines about their dog (Wally), their duck (Bob), and their cay (Oogie).  Ralph’s friend is named No-Neck!  This reminds me of my dad and my grandma – they had nick names for everyone!  The strip has been going since 1979 and Kevin is still drawing it!  GREAT strip that always makes me laugh!

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Overboard

Chip Dunham started drawing this in 1990.  How can you go wrong with a bunch of incompetent pirates?!  The adventures of Captain Crow and the crew of The Revenge range from battles with their enemy (the Green ship), golf, pet care (thanks to Louie, the captain’s dog), and gardening.  One of the things I love about this strip is the occasional breaking of the “fourth wall”.  Often, the “cartoonist” plays a character in the strip he is drawing….

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Foxtrot

Another great strip that follows a very funny family – the Fox’s.  Bill Amend began this strip in 1988 and up until December of 2006, it ran 7 days a week.  Since then, it’s been running only on Sundays.  Many of the funny situations involved their 3 kids, Peter, Paige, and Jason.

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Zits

I was almost 30 when this strip debuted in 1997, but found it very funny.  Jeremy is a teenager struggling with typical teenager stuff: girls, school, etc.  There were many times where I could picture myself in his shoes.

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Honorable Mentions

There were so many comics that I read each day.  The ones mentioned above are just a few favorites that I enjoyed.  Others include: The Wizard of ID, Mother Goose and Grimm, Garfield, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Pearls Before Swine, and BC.  I am sure there are more, but without using Google, these are the ones that came to mind immediately.

While I don’t get a newspaper on a daily basis anymore, when I do, I still go straight to the comics page.  What comics did you enjoy reading in the paper?

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Monday Memory – Pranked

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It’s April Fool’s Day. In honor of this, I thought I would share a funny story in which I was the victim of a funny prank. It’s funny now, but at the time, I didn’t find it funny at all. My memory is a bit fuzzy on some of the details, but I am sure my friends will be more than happy to fill in details or correct me if I mess up details.

The TP Bandits

One of the highlights of my senior year of high school was going out toilet papering. We’d go to the store, buy 12-24 rolls of toilet paper and go out and hit some friend’s house. I don’t know how or why this became the “thing” to do, but we did it. If it was your birthday, you could almost count on your house being hit.

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There were groups that went out together: 1) The Cheerleaders, 2) The Jocks, 3) The Choir Kids, and 4) The Band Kids (and there were sometimes groups within the groups). We belonged to a sub-group of Band kids. We called our group The TP Bandits. There was never a doubt that we were the ones who hit your house. We had printed up (on a crappy dot matrix printer) signs that read “You have just been TP’d by the TP Bandits.” There was a cheesy and terrible graphic of two cowboys on it. We usually left it in the mailbox. I got a megaphone for Christmas one year, and it was not odd for us to yell something like “Love ya, Babes!” to whoever’s house we hit.

I am sure that Toilet Paper stocks went up that year. It was completely out of control! My dad would always wake up the next morning and come in to wake me up by saying something like, “So, your friends were here again last night. Looks like you’ve got some cleaning up to do!” Because we went out a lot, I got TP’d a lot. It was like that scene in The Godfather where Sonny is explaining how “they killed Luca, so we hit them back and killed ….” If you went out and TP’d – you could expect to get it back.

It wasn’t just houses, either. There were plenty of times where we TP’d cars. Many times, we’d do it when the friend was at work. My friend Diana always reminds me of the time we got her car while she was working at Frank’s Nursery. She’ll have to remind me, but I think she had left her car unlocked and I think we TP’d INSIDE it! I am almost positive I remember TPing around her rearview mirror.

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The Prank

As best as I can remember, we went to one of the colleges (I think it was CMU) to watch a football game. It was an optional trip and the whole reason we went was so we could watch the band’s half-time show. I don’t remember if it was something that you had to pay to go to, but that was probably the case. Because of that, I remember that not all of my friends were going on the trip. I would soon learn why.

I remember the buses turning into the parking lot at the high school (and here is where my friends may need to refresh my memory) and noticing something on my car. My memory is not clear here, but as I remember it, there were empty toilet paper rolls on my radio antenna (I do not think they had TP’d the car). It was at that moment that I knew that I was in for it when I got home.

I am not 100% positive on this, but I think my friend Joe was the mastermind of the whole thing. I remember getting in the car and heading home. As I turned onto my street, I could see the streams of TP waving from the tree in front of my house. The closer I got, the more I realized that it was MUCH more than that! The lawn was white – like it had been covered with a layer of snow. Branches were wrapped completely and so was the tree trunk. The front yard and back yard had been covered in toilet paper.

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As I drove by, there were friends sitting up on the roof awaiting my arrival. They were waving and smiling and I was furious! I called my mom from an ancient Nokia cell phone and she answered with a smile, “Hi, baby. Where are you?! You have guests here!” I remember asking if they had gone into my bedroom and she told me I’d have to come home to find out. I had lots of memorabilia in there and I was worried that something might get broke. I couldn’t believe that she had let them in my room.

Joe had asked my mother if they could come over while I was away to “decorate”. My mom must have thought this was a hilarious idea, because she let it happen. I am guessing if he had asked my dad, he would have told him to get lost along with some words of profanity. I am sure my mom probably helped string some toilet paper around, too that day!

When I finally got up the courage to return home, my friends were still up on the roof. There was one of those contruction barriers with the flashing light on it. They had painted it all white and in big black letters painted “Love Ya, Babes!” I am sure that Derek was solely responsible for that!

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I got out of my car and looked around as I walked into the house. I gotta tell you, it was a masterpiece! I was impressed at their work. It was beautiful. It was the kind of TP job you wish you had time to do! Word is that the police stopped at the house more than one time and my mom was right out there to tell them it was totally fine with her! I can only imagine the talk back at the police station that day.

The “piece de resistance” of the job was what they did to my bedroom. As I turned the corner to go into my room, I looked into my doorway and saw nothing but newpapers! There was literally a pile of newspaper coming out the door! They had blown up hundreds of balloons, laid those down first, and then crumbled up newspapers and put them in the room to make it look like they had filled the room floor to ceiling with newspapers!

As angry as I was at my mom for letting it happen, I smile about it now. That was the way she was. She knew that I had done more than my fair share of TPing around the city, and this was the ultimate payback! I am sure she was filled with excitement at the thought of having a bunch of the gang over to do it and probably laughed the entire time. That’s one of the reasons so many people loved her – she loved a good joke and this certainly was one!

I came to find out that more people were in on the joke than I thought. Even kids who were on the trip were aware that it was happening while we were there! I was the brunt of many jokes that following school day! I was red-faced, but not because of sunburn. I carried the embarrassment with me throughout the day. It seemed like every one, even those who weren’t in band, knew of the prank and were talking about how cool my mom was for letting it happen!

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It is the best prank that has ever been pulled on me to date – and it wasn’t even done on April Fool’s Day! For my friends who were there: What details did I leave out? For my friends who weren’t: What was the best prank ever pulled on you?

FYI – these pictures are NOT of the job they did. I’m sure someone has some, but I sadly, do not.

The Benefits of Music Education

Introduction

The following is a research paper that I wrote for one of my college classes in November of 2010.  Eight years later, it still remains one of my favorite writings.  If you have ever wondered about why music is SO important in school – please read on.

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The Benefits of Music Education (2010)

In 1988, my high school band director told our class about an international concert. For one month, high school students from all over the world rehearsed the same three pieces of music.  At the end of that month, they all came together in one place and performed those three pieces flawlessly in front of an audience with no rehearsal.  The point of his story was to show that in music – there are no language barriers.    Hans Christian Anderson said, “Where words fail, music speaks.”  Yes, music speaks, but it does so much more.  For the purpose of this paper, I’d like to examine the benefits of music education in school and how they prepare students for life.

Think for a moment about how music can affect us. An up-tempo march played by a marching band in a parade can bring happiness, while a song about a lost love can bring sadness and tears.  Some modern rock music is an expression of the composer’s anger, while smooth jazz is the expression of its composer’s “coolness”.  What would a movie be without the soundtrack or orchestral underscore?  It is hard for me to imagine a horror movie without suspenseful music that builds you up to that moment of sudden shock!  Music stimulates and enhances our emotions.

Music can also help a person think more clearly.   Did you know that music helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence?  “When he could not figure out the right wording for a certain part, he would play his violin to help him.  The music helped him get the words from his brain onto paper” (O’Donnell, 1999).  One of the world’s smartest men and greatest thinkers also used music to help him think.  Albert Einstein said that the reason he was so smart was because he, too, played the violin.  “A friend of Einstein, G.J. Withrow, said that the way Einstein figured out his problems and equations was by improvising on the violin” (O’Donnell, 1999).

There is plenty of research that implies that children have an incredible capacity to learn from the day that they are born. Music and melody can play a key role in helping a child learn.  A prime example of this would be the “Alphabet Song”.  Set to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, countless children are able to learn their ABC’s by singing them to this familiar tune.  Educational television shows like “Sesame Street” have been using music to teach not only numbers and letters to children, but also the concepts of sharing, colors, and good manners.  Music and learning seem to work quite well together.

Why then, is music education one of the first things that are cut in public schools when a school district is trying to save money? I, personally, do not have an answer to that question, but former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had this to say about it:

“When I hear people asking how we fix the education system, I tell them we need to do the opposite of what is happening, cutting budgets by cutting music programs.  Nothing could be stupider than removing the ability for left and right brains to function.  Ask a CEO what they are looking for in an employee and they say they need people who understand teamwork, people who are disciplined, people who understand the big picture. You know what they need?  They need musicians.” (Huckabee, as cited in “The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.)

What I hope to present to the reader in the next few pages, is enough information to prove that there are many benefits to music education in school. Let us examine those benefits and how they remain with students long after graduation and help them through life.

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Music and Life

Consider the words of General Norman Schwartzkopf, who led the coalition forces that defeated Iraq and liberated Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm: “During the Gulf War, the few opportunities I had for relaxation I always listened to music and it brought me great peace of mind”. He adds that his love for music started “with the music appreciation course that I was taught in a third-grade elementary class.  What a tragedy it would be if we lived in a world where music was not taught to children” (Schwartzkopf, as cited in “Music Advocacy’s Top Ten Quotes”, 2006).  Jim Henson, creator of “The Muppet Show” says, “Music is an essential part of everything we do.  Like puppetry, music has an abstract quality which speaks to a worldwide audience in a wonderful way that nourishes the soul” (Henson, as cited in “Music Advocacy’s Top Ten Quotes”, 2006).  Finally, singer, songwriter, Jewel, says, “Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it is essential to being human” (Jewel, as cited in “Music Advocacy’s Top Ten Quotes”, 2006).  It is indeed.

As children grow, they have a natural desire to sing and play with the only goal being their own enjoyment. Studies have shown a connection between music and play and brain development.  In her book, “Music and the Young Mind”, Maureen Harris says that research “clearly demonstrates that the first years in a child’s life constitute an extremely important time when music can stimulate the development of nerve connections among brain cells for optimal cognitive development” (Harris, 2009).  A 1997 study by Whitwell found that simply discussing music uses the left side of the brain, while making music uses the right side (Harris, 2009).  Activities like playing a musical instrument or singing, which engage both sides of the brain at the same time, cause the brain to be more capable of processing information (O’Donnell, 1999).

Brain plasticity is the brain’s unique ability to constantly change, grow, and basically remap itself over the course of a lifetime. Dr. Frederick Tims says, “Just as music involves all aspects of learning (memory, recognition, emotion, motor control and perception), music education can work to stimulate brain nerve resources that might otherwise be left untapped” (Tims, as cited in “The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.).  According to German professor Eckhardt Altenmüller, music making “turns out to be the behavior which probably most effectively induces short-term and long-term brain plasticity” (Altenmüller, n.d.).  He adds that in professional pianists and violinists, who started their training before 7 years of age, “the anterior portion of the corpus callosum – the most important interhemispheric connection – is larger compared to non-musicians or to musicians with later onset of practice” (Altenmüller, n.d.).

As little as one year of music training can have a positive impact on your brain that will last the rest of your life (Hawkins, 2009). Tom Shaner, retired band director for Van Dyke Public Schools in Warren, MI told me “Research now supports the theory that we (music teachers) have felt for many years – that the study of music is helpful in brain development. Observation over many years of teaching gave us support of that theory” (Shaner, personal communication, October 2010). Altenmüller admits that research on the effects of music education on the brain is still in the infancy stages.  He elaborates, “I suspect that we have not yet found the right tests or done the necessary studies for demonstrating the long term impact of music education for daily life in reasoning and feeling” (Altenmüller, n.d.). This, however, does not mean that there is a shortage of research to show positive benefits of music education, as we will see.

Music and Intelligence

Let us consider how the study of music helps students develop intelligence. According to a 2007 article in Nature Neuroscience, “playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds.  This relates to encoding skills involved with music and language.  Experience with music at a young age can ‘fine-tune’ the brain’s auditory system” (“The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.).  In his book “A User’s Guide to the Brain”, Dr. John Ratley says:

“The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling – training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once.  Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifetime attentional skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression.” (Ratley, as cited in “the benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.)

Spatial reasoning is the ability to interpret and make drawings, form mental images, and visualize movement or change in those images. Spatial reasoning is especially important in mathematics. “A University of California (Irving) study showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers showed a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ” (Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky, and Wright, as cited in “The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.).

We have seen the effects of music education on the brain and how it factors in developing intelligence. It is interesting to note that according to a 1996 Harris poll, schools that have music programs have significantly higher graduation rates than those without programs (90.2% as compared to 72.9%).  Let us continue to move forward and see the benefits of music education on learning in school and specific subjects.

Music and Learning

In the Journal of Research in Music Education, Christopher Johnson and Jenny Memmott found that students in high-quality music programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs.  “Students in top-quality music programs scored 22% better in English and 20% better in math than students in deficient music programs” (Johnson & Memmont, as cited in The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.).  A 1996 Nature magazine article states that “the scores of elementary instrumental music students on standardized math tests increased with each year they participated in the instrumental music program” (Music Advocacy for Directors, 2000).  According to the California Council of the Fine Arts Deans, research shows when the arts are included in a student’s curriculum, reading, writing, and math scores improve.  A 1999 article in Neurological Research magazine showed that second and third grade students who were taught fractions through musical rhythms scored 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.  It should not be surprising that those students who study the arts wind up having more success on tests like the SAT and achieve higher grades in high school.

Music education also has an influence on a student’s behavior. In “Arts With the Brain in Mind”, Eric Jensen shows that “with music in schools, students connect to each other better” and that there is “greater camaraderie, fewer fights, less racism, and reduced use of harmful sarcasm” (Jensen, as cited in “Music Education Statistics and Facts, n.d.).  A 2003 Gallup Poll showed that 71% of Americans believed that teenagers who play a musical instrument were less likely to have disciplinary problems. (“Music Education Statistics and Facts, n.d.). Music students also demonstrate less test anxiety and performance anxiety than those students who do not study music.

Music Prepares for Life

So just how does music education prepare students for life “after school”? What benefits from having been a part of music education do students take with them into “real life”?  Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, President of “Attitude Concepts for Today”, says that there are many “indirect” benefits of music education.  He claims that there is more to making music than just the rewards that are experienced while in school.  He says, “Being a musician maps the human mind for success; success in all avenues of life” (Lautzenheiser, personal communication, October 2010).

Dr. Tim, as he is affectionately known to band directors and students all across the country, presented me with five key things that are learned through music that apply to personal and professional challenges that students will face after graduating from school. First, he says, “Through music learning we teach an understanding of quality as well as the rewards of quantity” (October 2010). In other words, a student will experience facts and figures involved with making music, but also will gain an appreciation for the arts.  Unlike standard tests, in which the final evaluation is the reward, a music student gains their reward as a result of making the music.

Second, Lautzenheiser says, students learn “behavior based on ethics as well as the importance of obeying the rules” (October 2010). In the music setting, each musician needs to be ethical and follow certain rules and regulations.  They execute self-discipline in order to contribute and achieve the goal of the group.  Lautzenheiser says that music education programs are “shaping the lives of our ‘leaders of tomorrow’” because of the habits and discipline formed in the rehearsal setting (October 2010).

Third, Dr. Tim says that music education teaches “respect for authority as opposed to fear of domination” (October 2010). Members of a band must learn to execute the instructions of the band director.  Band members do not have time to discuss or argue with the choices of the band director, they trust his or her decisions and follow them.  They must trust that those instructions are what is best for the group as a whole.  Dr. Tim says that “domination discourages creative thinking”, while authority encourages it.  This also helps individuals to learn the importance of cooperation.

The fourth thing that a music program teaches students according to Lautzenheiser, is “a working wisdom as well as a solid transcript of achievement” (October 2010). What is achievement? It is a measurable set of discipline and guidelines. What is wisdom?  It is learning that will support a positive and purposeful lifestyle.  Dr. Tim elaborates that music “makes better human beings and makes human beings better” (October 2010).

Finally, Lautzenheiser says that music education teaches students “an ongoing development of inner peace as well as a workable plan for personal security” (October 2010). Music is deeply rooted in emotion.  Music is thought to link all of the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements of the universe (O’Donnell, 1999).  The criteria for personal happiness are determined solely by each individual.  Nobody can tell someone what brings them pleasure or joy.  Music education is a way for students to express their inner thoughts or feelings through music.  It encourages creative expression, which is a foundational component of self-satisfaction.  With band, Lautzenheiser says, “The music is the reason, the music is the reward, the music is the substance, and the music is the payoff” (October 2010).

We are encouraged throughout out life to be creative. Music education and music in general, plays a key role to a person’s creativity.  Tom Shaner says it this way, “The study of music develops an understanding, participation in, and enjoyment of the creative side of the human mind and existence. This happens through active music making, listening and recreational enjoyment” (October 2010).

To further illustrate how music education prepares students for life, I must reference the Children’s Music Workshop.  They list numerous benefits of music education on their website.  For example, “students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions” (Twelve Benefits of Music Education, n.d.).  “Music study develops skills that are necessary in the workplace.  It focuses on ‘doing’ as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally anywhere in the world” (Twelve Benefits of Music Education, n.d.).  Ask any employer and they will tell you that they are looking for workers who are well rounded individuals who are flexible.  Music education produces people who fit that description.  “Music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline” (Twelve Benefits of Music Education, n.d.).  Those skills and disciplines are taught in the rehearsal setting each and every day. Gregory Anrig, president of Educational Testing Service says, “The things I learned from my experience in music in school are discipline, perseverance, dependability, composure, courage and pride in results.  Not a bad preparation for the workforce!” (Anrig, as cited in “Music Benefits Children in Important and Substantial Ways”, n.d.).

It is “through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work” (Twelve Benefits of Music Education, n.d.).  When a mistake is made in a performance, there is no way to stop and correct it.  It is a mistake and the show must go on.  A student either plays the notes well, or they do not.  If an entrance is missed, it is missed.  Hard work is the only thing that makes a successful performance possible.  It is through diligent practice and determination that a student can achieve excellence.

Students who study the arts learn empathy.  They get a look at other cultures and learn to be empathetic to them.  “This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to development of greed and a ‘me first’ attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age” (Twelve Benefits of Music Education, n.d.).  Empathy is one of life’s important lessons.  It is a rare find in society today.  Society seems to teach that we should only care about ourselves, but students who learn empathy can identify and understand the feelings of others.  Imagine how different the world would be if everyone showed empathy!

Closing Thoughts

Students who participate in a music education program reap many benefits from it.  They think better.  They solve problems more easily.   They have higher scores than those students who do not participate in a music program.  They are better prepared for life after school.  One study even shows that they live longer and healthier lives (Tims, as cited in “The Benefits of the Study of Music”, n.d.). With all of the information I have presented, it should come as no surprise that I am such an advocate for music education in schools.  We are often told that our children are our future.  With that in mind, I will close with a quote from former President of the United States, Gerald Ford, who said that music education “opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them – a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement.  The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music” (Ford, as cited in “Music Advocacy’s Top Ten Quotes”, 2006).

Thanks for reading!

Music Quotes I Love!

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“Without music, life would be a mistake” ― Friedrich Nietzsche.

“How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations?” ― Jane Swan

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ― Billy Joel

“Music is to the soul what words are to the mind.” ― Modest Mouse

“Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.” ― Johnny Depp

“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ― Leonard Bernstein

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” ― Bono

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” ― Sarah Dessen

“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” ― George Eliot

“To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?” ― Michael Jackson

“Love is friendship set to music.” ― Jackson Pollock

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” ― Leonard Bernstein

“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence” – Robert Fripp

 

 

 

Questions and Answers #1

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I have a blog that is totally ready to post, except that I was unable to figure out how to add audio (some friends have offered suggestions as to how to do that, and I will attempt that in the following day or two).  Since that blog was not ready, I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they would like me to answer.  I am pleased with their response, and with the questions they posed, and I have a feeling this is just the first of  many blogs like this.   Today’s blog contains the answers to those some of those questions.

Melody

Melody asked one of the easiest questions:  “What do you miss most about high school?”

I would say without a doubt – Band class.  It is no secret that I was what many refer to as a “band geek”.  When I look back at the people I have stayed in touch with, most of them are from band class.  Some of us spent hours after school practicing our instruments.  I was one of the band librarians, so I had access to the library of songs.  We would often go through the files and pull out music just to play it.  We spent hours after school playing (gee, you would have thought that would have made us better players… )!

As I have said before, I learned more about life from band class than any other class (see blog about thanking teachers). Performing a piece of music with others brings an amazing sense of accomplishment.  It also brings about the opportunity to learn about relationships.  Sure, as with most big groups, there were little “cliques”, but when it was time to play together as one, we did.  It truly was like a big family.

I remains one of those things I miss most.

Jeff

Jeff asked a particularly difficult , yet easy question.  “What sport do you absolutely love to watch, but you believe are terrible at participating?”

My first response was “define terrible” – LOL.  Seriously, though, I am someone who wishes I had been more active in sports growing up.  As much as we played baseball during our summer vacation, you would think I would have tried out for something like that.  Growing up, I thought I might be a good pitcher.  The fact that I always struggled with weight, and didn’t necessarily like the thought of rejection probably led me to not try out for things I may have been good at.

To answer the question, I would probably have to say football.  I love watching football.  Playing, however, I was never that good.  To this day, if a football leaves my hand it wobbles through the air.  I cannot through a spiral to save my life!  Catching a football is always a joke for me too.  I suppose I just never really learned how to reach up and pull it in.

Every Thanksgiving, we used to get family together and play a touch football game.  There is a lot of running involved in football, so you can only imagine what I had to look like trying to run down the field. The following day, after using muscles that I hadn’t used in years, you know exactly how bad the pain felt – and this was when I was much younger than I am today!

Great question!

James

James knows I currently work in the sleep field.  I deal with people who have sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.  His question is “Does MyPillow help with sleep problems?”

The question that comes to mind with your question, James:  What are your sleep problems?

Let me tell you what I have heard from patients regarding this and then give a few quick thoughts.  With the patients who I have seen who spent the money on this, the only real “review” they can give is that they are more comfortable.  The claims that this pillow can help give you more REM sleep, is something that no one can really say, unless a sleep lab is using them with their patients.

We check for REM sleep with all of the electrodes on a patient’s head and face.  Some of the home tests and sleep watches and such can ‘assume’ or “estimate” what REM sleep is based on heart rate, but without being able to see brainwaves, eye movements, and muscle tone, it is hard to determine.

REM sleep IS the important sleep – that is what the body needs to feel refreshed and what we need to function.  A typical human gets about three “REM cycles” cycles a night and this is based on the circadian rhythm.  Sleep apnea is always worse in REM sleep, and people who have apnea usually have this very important sleep stage cut short because of the apnea events.  In all honesty, I personally believe that a person’s pillow has nothing to do with “helping” a person’s sleep – but only helps – possibly – with comfort.

My advice – take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (you can find it online).  Answer it honestly and if your score is 9 or more, see a sleep specialist.

Jodi

My wonderful Aunt Jodi’s question is “Do you use wooden spoons?”  My aunt was often our babysitter.  The threat was that if misbehaved, she would spank us with the wooden spoon.  This is funny, because there are many T-shirts and posters out there about how Italian mothers used to use the wooden spoon to discipline their kids – Jodi isn’t Italian!

Yes.  I use them.  To stir things on the stove.  LOL

Kristine

Kristine and I were in anatomy class together in college.  We dissected a sheep brain together. She’s a CNA now.  Her question truly made me laugh.  “Why did we never meet under the stairs?”

If memory serves me, I believe there was some couple who were kissing each other goodbye before class or something and we both kinda rolled our eyes at this.  This led to us chatting about how in high school, couples always seemed to be making out under the stairs.  At any rate, this became a running gag throughout school “Meet me under the stairs”.

The answer – there was always some other couple there!  ROFL.  Seriously, Kristine is a good friend and she has some pretty talented kids!  I always enjoyed seeing how proud she was of her boys when she talked about their football games or wrestling matches.

Kathy

Kathy’s question was short and to the point, “Do you still TP houses on the side?”

Back in high school, toilet papering houses was the thing to do for some reason. Our band class alone probably helped Charmin stock rise!  I do not claim to be the one who started this trend, but I guess I was involved in more TP jobs than others.  At one point we printed signs (on a dot matrix printer – WOW) that said, “You have been TP’d by The TP Bandits” and left it at houses we hit.  Fair is fair – if we hit them, they could hit us back.  That was how they knew who to come after.   The real question was “who was with you?”  I was usually driving, but the accomplices often changed.  Sometimes, there would be 8-12 people out doing the jobs with me.  My house was a favorite target.

To answer your question, Kathy, no.  I have been retired from “the Bandits” for some time. 🙂

Dave

Dave writes “Why is Bernie Miller so awesome?”

Bernie and I also went to high school together.  Dave, this questions answer will take me many, many paragraphs to write.  I make you a promise now – Bernie Miller’s awesomeness warrants its own blog.  Watch for it in the days or weeks ahead.

At that time, I will also attempt to answer Bernie’s question about swimming in dry ice.  No promises on a correct answer on that.

Diana

Diana asks, “What is your biggest regret from high school; do you wish you had done anything differently?”

I think that as we get older, it becomes easier to look back on things from the past and find things we regret doing or not doing.  I also think that it is easy to look back and see how you could have handled things differently.  That being said, let me say this:  I am who I am today because of the decisions and choices that I have made and the people who were a part of my life.  There is nothing that I can do today, that can change that.  With all that being said, I do have some regrets, and there are things I wish I had done differently.

I really regret not being a better student.  I regret that I did not take school a bit more seriously.  I can think of two HUGE assignments that I waited until the last minute to throw together, that had I just followed directions and spent the time I should have on them, I would have gotten better grades.  I sucked at studying.  If I had spent as much time studying as I did TPing, well, lets just say I would have been a whole lot better off come report card time.

It’s easy to sit back and look at my sons and think “You gotta spend more time on this” or “You didn’t study enough on this” because that was me in high school.  It is different today because they spend their time on video games and electronics, where as I was out TPing and goofing around, but it really is the same thing.  I wish for my sons that they would spend more time focusing on school.  I don’t want them to wait until after 40 years old to go to college.  I want them to experience success and financial stability sooner than I did.

Not sure that  answers the question, and if not, there are plenty of other regrets I can dive into ….

Angie, Joe, Eric. and John

This “asking to answer your questions” blog has shown me that I have some really funny friends.  Their questions are asked in jest – and I love it.  Life needs more laughter, and here are three examples of friends I surround myself with because they are funny – or smart asses – one way or the other.

Angie asks, “Is that your real hair/hair color?”  Yes, what little there is.  Shaving it and polishing it up to a perfect shine is much easier than coloring the grey on the few hairs that are up there!

Joe asks, “When you throw your bowling ball do you inhale or exhale?” and Eric follows with “Do you cup your ball with delicate fingers or hold on tight before release?”  My answer to both of you will be as silly as your questions – It depends on whether or not I am at Pastime Lanes!

John asks, “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Kudos for a Monty Python reference!  I do believe the answer is 24 miles per hour or 11 meters a second.  Now take your coconuts and beat it!

Jason

Jason is a fellow band geek who poses the question “Do and/or can you still play your trumpet?”

If Tom Shaner were still teaching band, and if we were currently challenging for chairs … I would be guaranteed last chair!  The sounds that come out of it are no longer … quality sounds!  LOL

Now that Dante’ is no longer playing in band, my trumpet is back with me.  I still have a folder with copies of some of the music we played in band.  I still have my big ole Arban’s book for trumpet, and yes, occasionally, I pull out the horn and attempt to play.  I have been debating going back for lessons and perhaps joining a small group like the Salvation Army Band or something like that, just so I can still play.  It really is one of those things I miss a lot.

Vince

Vince asks a political question:  “How come Hilary Clinton blames everyone but herself and the Dems for losing the election?”

Well, Vince, I think that  (The following has been deleted by the US Government because it goes against policies or procedures that even we don’t understand.) …and that would be my best guess.

Chris

Chris wants to know “What was the best vacation you took with your parents and Christopher?”

I have blogged in the past about Caseville.  We went there often on weekends in the summer, but I don’t think that I would put those visits in the category of a vacation.  The only one that really stands out for me is a summer trip to Mackinaw.  I was probably about Dimitri’s age when we went, and I have some great photos to remind me of that trip.

I remember staying at this hotel in a second floor room, and there was a white, metal guard rail along the edge.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room to walk and there were chairs outside the rooms.  I have a picture of my mom and dad sitting outside the room that is one of my favorites.

I remember going to the Grand Hotel, and were were only allowed to stay for a minute or two because we were all dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and maybe there was a dress code or something, I don’t know.  I remember taking the boat to the Island and visiting the Fort.  That was one of my favorite things about the trip!  I remember the cannons and I remember mom taking a picture next to us in the stocks.

We went there when the Dukes of Hazzard was a huge TV hit.  How do I remember this?  Well, we used to ride bikes around the neighborhood and I would always pretend to be Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.  I had a blue cowboy had that I loved and while at a gift shop I found a sheriff’s badge.  That was one of the only things I remember bringing home from that trip.

I am in the process of scanning some pictures – I am sure some Mackinaw pictures will end up here or on Facebook.

Deb

My cousin, Deb, asks a simple, yet difficult question.  “What is your dream job?”

You know, I think I have been lucky enough to have done a couple of them, but at the same time, there are others that are appealing as well.  I love my current job as a sleep tech.  I get to help people.  That’s a very satisfying thing.  In some cases, what I do leads to life saving treatments for people who are on the verge of a heart attack or stroke.

Radio was a dream I had in high school  I was lucky enough to do almost immediately after graduation.  I had never done it before and I got to learn the ropes from some of the best!  I admit my first 5 years in radio were less than stellar, in that I was so new to the business that I really hadn’t learned how to use my creativity.

Radio is addictive.  The more I listened and learned, the better I got.  I got to meet so many great people, celebrities, and non-celebrities.  I got to shake hands with legendary radio people and producers.  I got to be creative and do things that I envisioned and put those things on the air.  I got to raise money for children with cancer, raise money for local neighbors who lost homes to fires, raise awareness for autism, breast cancer, heart disease and more.  Radio was a dream job come true! (more on this in a future blog).

I think if there were a dream job that I have yet to do – there would be two of them:  teaching and acting.  In a couple previous blogs, I mentioned the want to teach.  I wish I had gone to school for that.  There are so many things about teaching that would validate this as a dream job.

Acting.  I don’t know that anyone would ever want to see my ugly mug on a screen, but I would love to do it.  I worked with a guy, Jeff Kelly, who does it.  I’ve seen trailers for his films and am always amazed at his abilities.  He’s such a jovial and nice guy, yet I saw him in a trailer where he was a mean killer – he was totally convincing!  I think I could do it, but who knows.  I think it would be fun.  I already do some “acting” in regards to voice work, and I would love to try it once, just to say I did it.  I always laughed when people told me I remind them of Dom Deluise…I always liked him as an actor.  I think it would be pretty damn cool to act in a film or on TV.

Phyllis and Shelley

As I read the questions from these two friends, I felt that the answers to their questions would be enough to write separate blogs responses.  Phyllis wanted to know about famous people I have met and more specifically my “OMG moment”.  There are a few of them – and I will tell you all about them.

Shelley wanted to know about radio listeners who have become friends and how that evolves.  I have been lucky enough to have made life long friends through the radio.  Some of them have been friends with me since my first radio job 30 years ago.  Great stories to share…and I will.

Thanks for your questions!  We’ll do this again soon!

 

Things I Want To Do

I guess you could look at this blog as a “creative writing prompt”.  I was listening to something on the radio today and the voice guy said “What do YOU want to do, but just haven’t done it?”  Well, I jotted a few things down instantly and now I am listing them here.

1. Play my trumpet again

One of the things I truly wish I had time to do is play my horn.  I have often thought about going back and taking some lessons to get the chops back, but my worry would be finding the time to do it.  I miss playing it, even if it was just once or twice a year in Alumni Band.

I have friends who are still playing  their horns in various groups and play concerts.  There is something that was so satisfying playing in a group and making music together.  Third shift doesn’t really allow me to have time to practice, though, so I guess I’ll just pick it up every once in a while and play till my lips are numb – ha ha.

2. Teach

When I first went to college, they gave me some test.  The test was supposed to tell me what I’d be good at.  It said I’d be a good “special education teacher”.  I guess this made me mad, because while in high school, I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher.  I thought I could teach music or elementary school.  I regret not pursuing that.

Occasionally, I have had the opportunity to teach at the college for the Sleep Program I was in.  I found that doing it only made me want to teach more.  A radio guy I know teaches a speech class at one of the local colleges.  I could totally do that.  I ACED my speech class in college!  I have been public speaking for almost 30 years – I know that I could do that.  I doubt that there is anywhere that would let a guy who doesn’t have a teaching degree teach.

3. Visit Italy

I’m Italian after all.  Of course I want to do this!  I have seen Italy in pictures and have always wanted to go.  There is so much to see, though.  I want to see Rome and see the things that the Apostle Paul spoke of in his Biblical Epistles.  I want to see Venice.  I want to take the obligatory picture of me “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I want to visit Sicily and the town where my grandparents were from.  Definitely on my bucket list.

4. Learn another language

I guess this ties in with #3 – in that I’d really love to learn the Italian language.  I know that there are various dialects and such, but I think it is a beautiful language.  I’d love to be able to sit and listen to some of those great Italian songs – being sung in Italian – and know what they are saying.  I would love to learn Spanish, too.  It is very similar to Italian.  They are both very romantic languages and I think it would be cool to learn it.

5. Build a home studio

I still do a lot of voice over work.  I do most of it at the TV station or radio station.  It would be nice to build a small little studio in our home to be able to sit and cut whatever voice stuff I need to.  I think that this would give me the opportunity to do more auditions for voice work.  I think that it would also give me the chance to make a little bit more money with my voice.

I haven’t a clue what equipment I’d need to do this, and certainly don’t have the money to do it either.  I don’t want to invest in this and buy cheap equipment.  I want to be able to produce a good product.  I’d love to be “the voice” of a radio station, but I’d never be able to make that happen with sub-par equipment.

6. Learn to dance.

Oh sure, I can do the slow dance thing where you hold your beautiful woman and sway back and forth.  I, however, would love to be able to do some sort of real dance.  Swing dance, tango, ballroom dance, waltz, etc.  I’d probably be a huge klutz and step all over my partner, but I want to try it.  I’m no Arthur Murray, but give me a few lessons and I’ll try to be his non-coordinated step brother – LOL.

7.  Conduct a band

One of the coolest things I got to do in high school was conduct the band.  Its been awhile, but we learned how to read a score and I know I could do this.  I would, however, want to pick the songs I’d like to conduct.  There were songs we played when I was in band, that have stuck with me all these years later.  While at my son’s band festival a couple years ago, we watched one of the other bands play not one, but two of the songs I played in band.  I could still hear my part in my head.  I could hear counter-melodies and percussion parts.  It was amazing how it took me back.  I would love to be a guest conductor somewhere.

One of the biggest thrills for me was standing on the podium and conducting my high school band classmates at my senior graduation.  I’ll never forget the song:  Tin Pan Alley.  It was a medley of old standards and it was full of tempo changes and such.  There is such a feeling of awe as you stand in front of a group of talented musicians and they are following YOUR lead.  I think it would be cool to do that one more time.

8. Hear one of my “songs” recorded

I have written a few songs.  Some of them out of a lot of hurt, some of them out of love, and some of them because I woke up and heard the lyrics and melody in a dream.  I have written songs about my grandfather, my first love, my mom, and just life’s situations.  I am not the world’s best writer of songs, believe me.  There are people who can craft songs that run circles around my stuff.

What I wish is that a good songwriter would look at my stuff and say, “If we tweak this”, “What if you said this instead”, “How about we try this as a minor chord instead”, or whatever!  I truly think that it would be pretty damn cool to hear someone record it – even if it is just a crappy demo!

9. Write a book

As I have said in a previous blog, I guess I tend to look at my blog as “the book” I want to write, and these blogs are the chapters.  I don’t know what I’d write about.  I have a Facebook friend who suggested I write about an actor who appeared in old movies.  I have another friend who says I should write about classic movies or radio.  I’ve often thought that I could write a children’s book.  Who knows.  I guess first I need to find more than a few minutes at a time to actually figure out what to say.

What are some things YOU want to do?