Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?

 

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Service of Making the Best

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of a Famous Name: 21st Century Fundraising & Avery Fisher

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Avery Fisher

Avery Fisher

I’m terrible at remembering names of people and places although those I’ve heard for eons–like Avery Fisher Hall [photo right, below]–fall off my tongue. When I read about how Lincoln Center was planning to attract the mega funds it feels it needs to update the hall my keyboard beckoned.

avery fisher hallThe Broadway World news desk wrote: “In a milestone philanthropic agreement that will help ensure the future of one of the world’s iconic performing arts spaces, the children of the late Avery Fisher – Nancy Fisher, Charles Avery Fisher and Barbara Fisher Snow – today joined with the leadership of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to announce that they have entered into an agreement to enable the renaming of Avery Fisher Hall.”

Danika Fears wrote in the New York Post: “After threatening to sue, Avery Fisher’s heirs agreed to let the performing-arts organization drop his name in exchange for $4.5 million more than the original $10.5 million the Fisher Electronics founder donated back in 1973.”

Some colorful example of inflation, no?

fundraise 2Fears continued: “Now Lincoln Center can tempt another well-to-do donor willing to sink serious money into a planned $500 million overhaul in exchange for their name being emblazoned on the building.”

I wish someone with that kind of money would give it, ask the Fisher children to return the $15 million to Lincoln Center and leave the name as-is.

I have issues with the concept that to attract big bucks an institution must offer the naming option, though this is beside the point and a distraction to the current situation.

I wasn’t tickled with Avery’s children for accepting money in this regard. Plus I’m surprised that the Fisher lawyers didn’t make it clear, when the original donation was made, how long the hall would sport Avery’s name and/or under what circumstances it could be erased. This move doesn’t seem like such a great precedent for attracting the next big donor: “Give us multi-millions and we’ll chip off your name when we need another injection of cash.” And what about the loss of branding and cost of new stationery, new domain name and so on?

I like the idea of donating money in the name of someone else–a deceased relative, a good friend. I’ve done this myself.

How do you feel about Lincoln Center’s fundraising techniques? If you had the money, would you name an institution after yourself or, in the example of a performance space, the name of a worthy industry celebrity or maybe someone who isn’t famous like your wonderful Uncle Joe?

fundraise 1

Service of Beating the Odds: Paul Wittgenstein & Joe Biden

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein

These instances aren’t news. I became aware of them recently inspiring today’s post and me.

Musician

In NPR’s coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I this morning, Tom Huizenga focused on the “Music of Conflict and Remembrance.” He also covered Austrian-born pianist Paul Wittgenstein whose career was literally shaped by the war.

Wittgenstein [1887-1961], lost his right arm when he was shot in the elbow yet he was determined to perform and “commissioned composers including Maurice Ravel to write pieces for the left hand alone.” Huizenga reported that Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith and Sergei Prokofiev also wrote such pieces.

Politician

Vice President Joe Biden stuttered as a child. Evan Osnos wrote in “The Biden Agenda,” in The New Yorker: “When Biden reflects on his childhood, he lingers on the experience of having a stutter.” His nickname was Joe Impedimenta.

Biden told Osmos he overcame the stutter by anticipating “what you think you’re going to be confronted with.” He’d practice the response as in, “how ‘bout those Yankees?” And he “Took to reciting passages—Yeats, Emerson, the Declaration of Independence—and by his sophomore year in high school the stutter was giving way. He won a race for junior-class president and won again the next year.”

Today Biden doesn’t like reading aloud so he avoids teleprompters–and written speeches–and prefers to speak extemporaneously.

There are countless inspirational examples like these in which people pursue a goal regardless. Please share some of your favorites.

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

Service of Being Cut Off at the Pass

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

 

Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Last Sunday Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack mentioned on their radio program, “Religion on the Line,” that there were no clergy at the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication.

This was an unusual omission, they observed. They reminded listeners of the interfaith memorial service organized by clergy at Yankee Stadium a dozen days after the attack. It was meant to help heal. So what had changed since the citizens of the New York metro area–and the country–craved spiritual support?

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

I didn’t watch the museum’s opening ceremonies and wasn’t aware of this, though I was surprised to hear it, given that prayers or spiritual thoughts are often a part of memorials at a graveyard.

What came immediately to mind? This scene, a total conjecture: The event planners thought of everything and someone influential came in at the last minute, cut off at the pass their arrangements regarding clergy participation and made a crucial change based on a snap decision. It’s happened to me and to others all the time and in all sorts of ways—not just at events.

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo: Milkenarchives.org

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo: Milkenarchives.org

Leonard Bernstein did it to Aaron Copland. In the Bard College Conservatory of Music notes in Sunday’s program, Peter Laki, visiting associate professor of music, quoted Bernstein writing Copland about the latter’s Symphony No. 3: “Sweetie, the end is a sin. You’ve got to change [it].” Laki continued: “Bernstein proceeded to cut 10 measures from the concluding section.” Laki wrote that the cut version became standard, but that on Sunday the audience would hear the last movement as Copeland wrote it. It was glorious.

Lionel, a fictional character on the British comedy “As Time Goes By” suffers indignity and fits as his script–and life–are cut to shreds and then foolishly built up by a California TV production crew.

Back to real life when John McCain ran for President, Senator Joe Lieberman was his first choice of vice president but the Republican Party axed that plan. You know the rest.

Has something you’ve planned, written or designed been cut off at the pass? What was the result? Why do you think that the clergy of any stripe was omitted from the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication?

 9 11

Service of Lit Candles

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

One candle

Disasters, disease, misfortune, war, rampant selfishness and news of criminals in all industries are enough to turn the most passionate optimist into a cynic. It’s easy to get stuck in negativity and hopelessness. Fortunately there are talented, inspired people who tirelessly buck the deluge. Organizations such as The Christophers and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are two.

64th Annual Christopher AwardsI’ve written several times about The Christophers–I help promote its annual awards about this time of year. If at 5 a.m. you’re tuned to 710 WOR AM radio in NYC you hear Tony Rossi, the organization’s director of communications, share the Christopher Minute he writes. In addition to these segments, that also play around the country, and the awards, the charity’s publishing and leadership programs are inspired by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

This year 19 feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people won Christopher Awards. “The creative forces behind the projects we’re honoring are improving our culture by telling stories that awaken hope instead of despair, acknowledge the necessity of sacrifice in the service of a greater good,” said Rossi.

 

From the left are: Arthur Fleischmann, “Carly’s Voice,” Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president/COO, The Christophers, Colleen Carroll Campbell, “My Sisters the Saints,” and Nicole Lataif, “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body.” Photo Credit: Paul Schneck.

From the left are: Arthur Fleischmann, “Carly’s Voice,” Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president/COO, The Christophers, Colleen Carroll Campbell, “My Sisters the Saints,” and Nicole Lataif, “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body.” Photo Credit: Paul Schneck.

The books for children tackled sophisticated, tough, grownup subjects. In “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body,”  (Pauline Books and Media), Nicole Lataif tells children as young as pre Kindergarten what it means to be fully human and about building character. Jo S. Kittinger describes the loss and shock so many children face when they have to move to unsavory living quarters when their family has lost their home or a parent a job. In “House on Dirty-Third Street,” (Peachtree Publishers), the community helps the child and her mother rebuild. In another book a bullied fifth grader with a facial deformity learns to appreciate the gifts he brings to the world in R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder,” (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books). Palacio called it a “meditation on kindness.”

Three of the books in the adult category address autism, Alzheimer’s and drug abuse. “Carly’s Voice,” (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster), by Arthur Fleischmann and his autistic daughter Carly reveals their family’s astonishing journey from believing Carly would never develop intellectually beyond the abilities of a small child to her current status as a smart, perceptive and funny high school student. 

Eric Blehm shares the troubled life and heroic death of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, whose early life was derailed by drug abuse before family, faith and the U.S. military gave him the courage and strength to fight his inner demons. His book: “Fearless,” (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group/Random House).

While dealing with her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s, author/journalist and Catholic television network EWTN broadcaster Colleen Carroll Campbell demonstrates the modern relevance of saints like Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux in her quest to find personal fulfillment and professional success in her spiritual autobiography, “My Sisters the Saints,” (Image Books/Random House). Starting this summer Campbell will be anchor of “EWTN News Nightly with Colleen Carroll Campbell,” the global network’s first-ever daily newscast.

West-Eastern Divan OrchestraThe Christophers celebrate hope in books and film while the Argentinean-born Daniel Barenboim turns to music to shed light on peace. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra [photo right] that the Jewish conductor and pianist co-founded in 1999 with [the late] Edward Said, a Palestinian scholar, is scheduled for a seven city European tour starting in July.

Wrote Anthony Tomassini of the orchestra originally made up of young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East: “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra takes its name from a book of poetry by Goethe exploring the concept of world culture. In 2002 the orchestra, adopted by the Andalusian government in Spain and a private foundation, set up its summer headquarters in Seville. Since then a number of European players, especially from Spain, have taken part.” 

Continued The New York Times critic: “From the project’s start, Said, who died in 2003, and Mr. Barenboim made no great claims for the transformative potential of the orchestra. But dialogue is a precondition to understanding. And dialogue is unavoidable when young musicians play music and live together.”

Do you believe that light–as small as that shed by one candle or the synergy among musicians in a single orchestra–will overcome darkness? Can you share the names of other organizations in the business of hope?

 Hope2

 

 

Service of Live Performance Bonuses

Monday, March 4th, 2013

audience

We were at an American Symphony Orchestra concert at Bard College near Rhinebeck, NY on a recent weekend when a woman approached us from the row behind to tell us she was glad we were back in our original seats.

For a moment I felt I was in school where I knew kids in the grades ahead of me and almost nobody behind: I’d never before seen the woman, though I recognize many subscribers who sit in the seats in front of ours.

Leon Botstein, conductor and music director, American Symphony Orchestra

Leon Botstein, conductor and music director, American Symphony Orchestra

I was flattered that she noticed us and appreciated that she spoke. I forget sometimes that I’m not the only one who looks around.

The other week I went to see Monique Sanchez [below, right] in “Kennedy’s Children,” by Robert Patrick, on West 44th Street, inches from Times Square, in a space designed like a bar decorated for Valentine’s Day. Patrick’s play opened in 1973 to an audience fresh from the 1960s which he captured in his characters—one worshiper of JFK and one of Marilyn Monroe, a protest-follower, a Viet Nam soldier on drugs and an actor who accepted every role regardless of how outrageous [i.e. an underwater play].

 

Actor Monique Sanchez in red

Actor Monique Sanchez in red

The audience sat at tables around the room—we munched on popcorn refilled at intermission and sipped [free] soft drinks from the bar–and actors mingled as they spoke their lines, sitting in the chairs reserved for them, speaking with members of the audience.

There was open seating and the hostess sat me next to a woman who turned out to be an actor and acting instructor. We sipped ginger ale, learned a bit about each other, over intermission chatted about the actors and characters and again, as we gathered our things to leave, about the play. As a result I enjoyed the evening even more.

Sanchez, a 21st century actor to watch, was the Marilyn Monroe devotee stung by the star’s untimely death in 1962 who, like hundreds of others, hoped to take her place on the world stage. She transformed herself into a vamp increasingly sinking into an alcoholic stupor fed by disappointment and disillusionment–a character nothing like the solid, responsible person I know. [You can see Sanchez in a Belle Époque farce by Georges Feydeau, “Flea in Her Ear,” March 15-March 23 at the Producer’s Club.]

Have you made propitious acquaintances at live performances—one of the bonuses?

 audience in the park

Service of Music

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

heritageensemblelogo2

I attended a concert in a Westchester synagogue last weekend. I know what you’re thinking–but I bet you’re wrong about the music, featured ensemble and audience. We tapped our toes, drummed our fingers and often clapped and cheered mid-set to acknowledge a magnificent solo and marvel at the expertise of the quintet’s pianist, bassist, drummer, saxophonist and percussionist.

There was a Jewish undercurrent to the music, not surprising as the host was The Jewish Community Council of Mount Vernon, yet both the ensemble and audience represented a rainbow of backgrounds and demographics. I met a four and a 90-year-old as well as men and women of all ages in between.

In mid-concert the Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ernie Davis, spoke, referring to Dave Brubeck in his remarks–that’s how good the music and musicians were. Most politicians dip in and out of events yet Mayor Davis stayed to the end.

l to r.: Michael Hashim saxophone; Bobby Sanabria, drums; Matthew Gonzalez percussion; Frank Wagner, bass; Eugene Marlow, Leader/Keyboard

l to r.: Michael Hashim saxophone; Bobby Sanabria, drums; Matthew Gonzalez percussion; Frank Wagner, bass; Eugene Marlow, Leader/Keyboard

What kept the Mayor and the rest of the audience in their seats-but barely as it was hard not to dance to the music–was Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble. The New York City Jazz Record described the ensemble as “a cross-cultural collaboration that spins & grooves” because Marlow adds jazz, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian beats to his interpretations of Judaic melodies.

Who are these magical musicians?

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D. [below, left] is the Ensemble’s founder/arranger and keyboardist. An award-winning composer, producer, presenter, author, journalist, and educator–he teaches at Baruch College–he has composed 200+ jazz and classical pieces for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, heritageensemblegenemarlow3and jazz big band. Marlow has also produced eight critically acclaimed CDs of original compositions/arrangements on the MEII Enterprises label that collectively have been distributed to radio stations in over 22 countries. A charming director who continuously credits his collaborators and makes the audience laugh, Marlow appears to get lost in the music while contributing to the beat on his keyboard and expertly leading the quintet. His background is British, Polish, German and Russian.

 

 

Drummer Bobby Sanabria, a percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer, filmmaker, conductor, educator, historian, and multiple Grammy nominee is a Nuyorican, New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, as is Mathew Gonzalez.

Bobby Sanabria, drums and Matthew Gonzalez, percussion

Bobby Sanabria, drums and Matthew Gonzalez, percussion

Sanabria’s recording and performing experience includes work with such legendary figures as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Henry Threadgill, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauzá. He pushes himself almost beyond the possible exhibiting remarkable, cliff-hanging hand and foot coordination and rhythm.

Gonzalez was raised in a musical family. His grandfather, Benny Ayala, is a seasoned composer, folklorist and mask maker. Early on Gonzalez was immersed in an environment filled with the Afro-Caribbean beats of Puerto Rican folkloric music. At 11 he launched his formal training at the Harbor Conservatory where he learned Latin percussion. His hands beat his conga drums faster than a woodpecker drilling a tree.

Alto and soprano saxophonist Michael Hashim‘s background is Lebanese. A composer for film, TV, and dance, Hashim can also be heard on his albums. He has led his own quartet since 1979 and has collaborated for years with pianist Mike Ledonne. A longtime member of the Widespread Jazz Orchestra, Hashim has also worked with a number of great blues men, including Muddy Waters, Sonny Greer, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. When Hashim enters a room, the lights seem brighter. He translates his merry and upbeat vibes through his saxophones.

Bassist Frank Wagner, whose background is Eastern European, has performed all over the world in a host of musical settings, including all-star jazz bands, Broadway shows, national tours, recording sessions, and classical orchestras and has taught music throughout his career. The Phi Beta Kappa currently teaches composition and jazz theory at Queens Community College in New York City. His fingers and bow squeeze out an extraordinary range of sounds and rhythms from his bass.

Holidays are an ideal time to listen to live music–it will put you in a good mood. [Work, shop and wrap another time.] Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble will play at Baruch on December 13 at 7 pm–I plan to go–at the Bronx Music Heritage Center on December 20th and for other engagements, check out the performance section of his website. You can also bring home the music in a CD. Link to a snippet of the sound and hear Marlow’s melodious voice.

How does live music make you feel? Do you have a favorite ensemble, orchestra or soloist? Do you have a question for Eugene Marlow or any of the other musicians?

musicalnotes

Service of Mature Music

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Guest writer Jeremiah, a retired business executive and classical music devotee, wrote about this subject in May when he was bracing himself for a blow–the silencing of a longtime radio friend and access to the music he loves. The second shoe fell early this week, so Jeremiah asked to follow up on his initial post.

Some of you may recall my May 8th post in which I bemoaned the rumored soon-to-happen passing of the oldest classical radio station in the country, WQXR, from the music scene here in New York. This is now old news.

The New York Times announced on Tuesday that it had, in essence in a brilliant and creative feat of financial engineering, sold the chronically money losing radio station for a net of $45,000,000. The deal: It is selling its 96.3 FM broadcast license to a Latino broadcasting company in exchange for $33,500,000 and a license to broadcast at 105.9 FM. In turn, it will sell the call letters WQXR and the 105.9 FM license for $11,500,000.to the public radio station, WNYC, which has agreed to operate WQXR at the new frequency as a listener supported public music station. It is a great deal for the Times! They are getting rid of a chronic looser for a bundle of cash, and get great publicity for “saving” classical music to boot!

 

I shall probably go on listening to the new WQXR, but I may just listen to my own CDs instead.

 

However, I am troubled and puzzled. Given what the demographics of the New York City area are, the old WQXR audience must have included many of the wealthiest and brightest people in the country. Why were they not enough of a target market for advertisers to keep the old station going at a profit? Is radio advertising more effective when targeted to disadvantaged people or those who have been deprived of sophisticated educations and may be less affluent?

I also dislike knowing that now my listing to classical music will be paid for, at least in part, by taxpayers. The new WQXR, no doubt, will be a tax-exempt entity and will receive government subsidies. All music is entertainment. The government should not be in the entertainment business. Further, as a matter of principle, the government should not favor one form of music over another.

And lastly, I shall miss hearing my news on the same radio station I listen to for music. Public radio news must inevitably be canted to a bias of whoever is in control of the government in Washington. Can it be trusted to be impartial?

Does anybody agree with me?

Pro Bono Service, Silent and Powerful

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Apart from students, what do Publicolor, Midori & Friends, a college scholarship program and The City University of New York [CUNY] graduate school all have in common? They benefit from the counsel of four advisors who act like a silent board of directors. They share their connections, business acumen and counsel just as any marketing agency does, advising startups and charities that couldn’t otherwise pay for this level of service in a million years. The cost of doing business with them? $0.

These are silent partners in many ways. They’ve asked me not to name them or the company they formed. However, they hope that other retired people around the country might similarly share their experience to help others, as they have thrived doing for a dozen years.

 

This foursome has been friends for half a century. Two were partners in an advertising agency for 30 years, one wrote sitcoms and knows his way around television and the last one was a direct marketing guru turned real estate tycoon. They rent an office in midtown Manhattan and enjoy each other’s company so much that they lunch together almost daily. Their wives are also best friends, but they warn that the unusual personal aspect of their relationship, while precious to them, is not necessary for their angel model to work anywhere else in the country.

“We’re masters of stealth marketing,” said one of these compassionate mystery men, referring to their specialty also known as undercover or buzz marketing. “We give advice but we never write or execute a plan. After a two-hour meeting, it might take six months for our clients to implement a solution. Objectives range from building an effective board of directors or raising money to identifying the person with the power and/or connections to clear an unexpected logjam in an organization crucial to a charity.”

They distinguish themselves in another way: All their clients do good works. Through Publicolor, Ruth Shuman, her staff and volunteers add color to the drab, peeling walls of inner city schools. The violinist Midori shares the gift of music with underserved New York public school children and 200 talented children have gone to college thanks to a generous foundation the quartet has counseled. In addition, a city-run graduate system with a board of distinguished scholars initiated a successful and critical endowment program. The simple solution was staring them in the face: offer to name a building after a keystone donor.

In addition, each of the partners continues to support their own special projects related to alma maters, houses of worship and the like.

Do you know of people who generously share their wisdom like this? Might you form such a group or recommend to parents or grandparents that they share the legacy of their experience to benefit and serve others?   

 

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