Founder of The Smooth Jazz Network –
When I was in 6th grade at Frances Willard elementary, I was a kid that got pretty good grades, sat in the back of the class when I could and feared being called on even to simply read. One day, just after the school year began a very cool guy came to visit our classroom. He looked like Sydney Portier to me. He told us about a new music program on Wednesdays and that students interested would get out of class one hour early to participate. My hand went up so fast, I nearly stood up! I began learning trumpet and it changed the course of my life. At Central Junior High and Wyandotte High School I learned to play French Horn and sat first chair in the orchestra, concert band and marching band. My family could not afford private music lessons, so music in the classroom was everything to me. I even learned to play trombone in my senior year of high school so that I could play in jazz band along side friend, now well know guitarist and Grammy winner, Norman Brown.
The opportunity that was offered to me back in 6th grade changed my life in so many ways. Playing music gave me confidence and introduced me to other things like public speaking, drama, student government and debate. At my graduation, I was the featured soloist in the orchestra and one of four speakers delivering the graduation address. Music scholarships got me into college, which led to my 23-year career in radio. I am currently President of Broadcast Architecture, the world’s leading smooth jazz consultation, research and syndication firm. I am also creator and host of the weekly Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown radio show heard in over 30 cities across North America.
Music education is very important to me as I was fortunate enough to attend school in a time when even some of the poorest school districts had funding for music programs within the school curriculum. Today, in both affluent areas and poor communities, music is either not available or very poorly funded. Music is no longer a ‘given’ for our children and the work that the Fender Music Foundation and other organizations is doing is critical for the future of our country. There are many living examples of music education’s positive influence. Many are not working musicians, but professionals in other important fields. Music education was my catalyst, and had Dale Vandever not walked into my 6th grade classroom and offered this gift so freely, I don’t know what direction my life might have gone.