How I Got Here, Part One

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July 2, 2012 by stormsignals

In the Fall of 2001, I visited the classroom of someone I’d worked with in the music industry. She’d taken a new career path and was now a college professor, teaching music business courses.

I had no formal speech or presentation planned for her class that day. As a matter of fact, it was an odd time, for this was only days after 9/11. Due to that tragedy I’d been stranded in Miami, having traveled there the evening of 9/10 for a NARM board meeting the next morning (which didn’t happen, of course, nor did the entire NARM convention that would have occupied the following few days). Sure, there were worse places to be stuck, but the somber mood of those few days and the nervousness about even getting on a plane kept me from thinking much about what I’d say to her classroom once I finally made it to her campus outside of Nashville.

When we talked prior to that afternoon, though, she told me a few things about the courses and what the students were studying. As she described these things I could only think about how lucky those students were. Before she’d informed me of the specifics of her career change I had no idea that music business programs existed at colleges. I could only imagine how cool it would have been to study the music business in college. I’ll admit I was a little envious of her students.

And that’s what I told them when I stood at the front of the classroom that day. But as I spoke to them that day there was quite a comfortable feeling. As I conversed with a few of them afterward, one student said to me “you’re a good teacher”, and that sort of stuck with me as my friend and I made our way to her office for a break.
I was going to speak to a second class as well, in the early evening.

This one was going to be easier, though. All I had to do was share with them my story- how and why I got involved with the music industry.

There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies, The Blues Brothers, where Elwood and Joliet Jake are visiting a church at James Brown is the pastor. A rousing song and dance breaks out among the congregation (of course, if the Godfather of Soul is preaching!) as the Brothers watch it all happening. Then suddenly the Jake looks stunned while the clouds above the church open up and a light beams down from upon high, through the church windows, and Jake starts glowing, just before James Brown asks him “Do you see the LIGHT?”.

That’s the best I can do in describing the experience that evening. I guess it’s called a moment of clarity, inspiration, or something like that. It simply felt pretty comfortable conversing with those students that night. As my friend and I re-grouped afterward, I couldn’t help to ask at that point “sooooooooo…how would my FRIEND, if THEY wanted to teach the music business, go about it?” And she told me. The checklist that followed was all good and fine until she told me that I….uh…I mean my friend…would need to have a Master’s degree, and an MBA would make the best sense.
The rest of that night and the flight back to my home in Amarillo, TX, were spent debating how I could possibly go back to school at that point in my life. It all seemed pretty daunting. But hours after landing I’d already, through a co-worker, found a professor at nearby West Texas A&M University who walked me through what I’d need to do to get enrolled in the MBA program the following semester. The problem was that the final deadline was only about ten days away. But that was inconsequential because I’d have to take the GRE exam prior, which would have been impossible. That is, UNLESS I could show that I’d taken that exam before. I could only laugh as I responded that I think I actually did…a LONG time ago.

I read once that it can be easy to complain or feel defeated when things don’t quite go your way. But one way to deal with it is to remember times where the situation DOES go your way, especially if it was seemingly against the odds. So here’s one of mine…

The more I thought about it that night I was sure that I’d taken that GRE exam. A few months after starting my first job after college, the thought crossed my mind that even though I’d decided not to pursue a master’s degree it might be smart to take the GRE, what I understood to be a required exam for grad school consideration. I’d better take it then, because academia and all that I’d learned was quickly wearing off, along with the discipline of studying. So later that year I sat for the exam in Conway, AR, where I was living and working at the time. And when the scores arrived I simply filed the letter, with no need for them at the time. Since then a LOT of years had passed. God only knew where that letter was.

I was thinking “what the heck?” when I called my mom in Arkansas that night. I’m also pretty sure she thought I was out of my mind when I asked if she’d go down to the basement and stay on the phone with me when she went to the room where about thirty boxes of my stuff were stored. Within minutes she found the box I described as we talked, and not long after that she’d found the file folder I needed. She described each letter she found in it and sure enough, when she “graduate record examinations” I was more than shocked. The funny thing was that I’d never opened it and seen my scores.

Both stoked and shocked that mom had found that documentation, that was nothing compared to when I turned in my application the day before the deadline. The woman at the registrar’s office took a startled and second look at my GRE documentation (mom got it in the mail promptly) and informed me that, only a month or so later, my exam scores would have expired, so to speak. I would have had to re-take the GRE, more than fifteen years after graduating from college. Naturally, they’re only valid for so long. Apparently, my time had almost run out.

But as I left the campus that day, with everything that had happened, my timing seemed to me to be just about right.

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