Monday, July 23, 2012

Broadway Musicals - Entry #14

Three weeks ago, in passing, I mentioned my Broadway music radio program. Since my last blog post my notes have been more specifically related to my weekly on air show.  There were two groups that received correspondence.  One segment was composed of press agents for theatrical productions in Connecticut and New York City.  The second cluster consisted of individuals involved with the production, manufacturing and distribution of Broadway original cast recordings (OCR).  The people that head these companies are so important to show music djs like myself.  They are the ones that are meticulously documenting the Broadway musical through a show’s OCR even though all but a select few recordings will ever sell huge numbers. 

This was not always the situation.   Cast albums of popular musicals in the 1940’s – 1960’s sold millions of copies.  The cast recording of Oklahoma!, which was the very first OCR to feature the complete score of a Broadway show with the original performers, sold over a million copies.  Some OCRs not only had blockbuster sales, but also spent weeks on the pop charts.  The Music Man’s OCR spent 12 weeks as the number one album in the country.  It stayed on the Billboard charts for a total of 245 weeks.  Not only have the OCRs of earlier musicals been hits with the public, but individual songs from Broadway shows have been popular.  For instance, “Some Enchanted Evening,” from South Pacific was the number one song in the United States for five weeks in a row; “Hey There,” from The Pajama Game spent six weeks at number one in the summer of 1957.

During the 1940’s through the early 1980’s there were major record labels such as Columbia, Capitol, Decca and RCA Victor vying for the rights to record Broadway productions.  Today, with consolidations in the recording industry and the demise of show tunes as a fixture on radio there are fewer record labels devoted to OCRs.  This was one of the reasons I mailed cards to some of the people that run companies devoted to preserving the scores of Broadway shows.  Without CDs from the current crop of musicals my radio broadcast would just be a museum piece of older shows and their respective LPs.  I wanted the people behind Ghostlight Records, PS Classics, and Masterworks Broadway to know I appreciated their endeavors as well as providing me with the CD and/or digital version of their latest offerings.  There are very few Broadway music radio programs around the country.  Those of us “in the business” become slightly more relevant when we can play selections from such Broadway hits as “The Book of Mormon,” “Billy Elliot,” and “In the Heights” among others.

Part of the pleasure of hosting my own radio program in Hartford, CT is the ability to take in shows in The Big Apple and Connecticut.  I then offer up reviews to my listeners and readers of my blog (  Over many years I have cultivated relationships with press representatives at some of New York’s largest agencies as well as with individuals at Connecticut’s nationally known regional theaters.  Without these contacts I would not be able to be the critical eyes and ears for would-be audience members.  With the upcoming Broadway season and subscription series for Connecticut theaters about to begin I wanted to thank the press people for returning my emails and answering my phone calls.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fore! - Entry #13

Last week I reached a milestone—I have surpassed over 10% of my goal of sending out a letter/notecard every day for one year.  So far, I have mailed 42 pieces of correspondence.  Time goes by fast when you’re having fun… or is it as you grow older…or is it both?

This past week has a hodgepodge of cards.  Two were sent to the graduate students that for the Spring 2012 semester wrote our 2012 Student Affairs Job Hunt blog.  They shared their experiences—the high’s, the low’s--as they searched for their first professional position in the student personnel field.  I am glad to report that both were successful in the job hunt process.  I wanted to, first, congratulate them, but to also thank them for sharing their exploits, their feelings and, most importantly, their advice for others that will one day be looking for a position in student affairs.  This is the 7th year that graduate students have been staffing the job hunt blog.  Their insights, joys, heartbreaks, and successes have entertained as well as informed hundreds, maybe thousands of people over the years.  Note to self—track down all the previous bloggers to inquire what they are now doing.  Maybe start a reunion or where-are-they-now blog.

The majority of cards I mailed were related to golf.  I am a golf fanatic.  I love being outside for a few hours, walking the green courses, and soaking up the tranquility of the surroundings.  I try to get out to a local course 3-4 times a week, usually having time for just nine holes.  Before the night sky darkens I might be out on the putting green practicing my 2-3 foot putts.  After work I occasionally drop by the driving range to work on my assorted wedges.  Last week I finally figured out why my drives were slicing.  Golf is one of the most mentally challenging sports you can play.   Anyone who participates can tell you your focus must be right on for every shot.  My confidence level and shot making ability is at a point where I am usually self-assured, in a modest and humble manner (so as not to offend the golf gods), that I can break 100 for 18 holes.  So, what does The Writing Project have to do with golf?

I wanted to thank two of the professional staff members from my hometown course for keeping the golf course so well-maintained.  The fairways are green throughout their length, mowed to a consistent level, and devoid of brown patches and dead grass.  The first cut rough is demanding without being overbearing, and the putting greens are rolled to a challenging, but not overly difficulty consistency.  My friends and I play a number of courses in the area and none are as nicely manicured as our home 18, which consistently ranks as one of the best public golf courses in Connecticut.  I wanted those individuals responsibility for its upkeep to know their hard work and long hours are applauded. 

One of the other pros on staff, who seems to regularly be assigned the early morning shift at the check-in counter, always welcomes me by name and with a hearty hello.  It makes me feel like one of the barflies from the television show, “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name.  In today’s, sometimes impersonal, world where logins and passwords and electronic devices rule the day I truly value this small act of name recognition.  It makes me feel like I am part of a community and appreciated as an individual rather then just a member of a faceless foursome ready to tee off.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reconnecting - Entry #12

This week I reconnected with a number of colleagues, spanning from graduate school to my current position.  Keeping connected with friends and colleagues that are not in close geographic proximity is a lot of work—on both ends.  Or it should be.  Sometimes I feel frustrated if, in my view, I am exerting an inordinate amount of energy to make an existing relationship work, but the effort is not reciprocated.  Do I continue my perseverance or admit to myself that the bond we once shared has evaporated?  Think of how many friends we retain from high school?  College?  Our professional lives?  My guess is there are only a select few we still stay in touch with on a consistent basis which could run the gamut from weekly to monthly to bi-annually.  Otherwise, staying connected could be a full-time job.  I do silently chuckle to myself when people brag about how many Facebook friends they have recorded.  Really?  That many?  Good for you.  But, I internally wonder if someone could be friends, no matter how loosely defined someone construes the word to, say, 1,000 people or more.

One card I sent out was to a couple I have known for over 30 years, dating back to graduate school.  The husband was in my wedding party, we use to hang out together at the old Ritz nightclub in Greenwich Village (where I saw the first U.S. tour of U2, Rockpile, and Split Enz), and occasionally consumed too much Chinese food.  Over the years we had talked, sporadically visited, and made countless promises for all of us to get together.  Distance has not been the barrier.  In fact, all of the people on last week’s list are within a 2 – 2 ½ hour radius.  The issue is carving out a dedicated period of time, which I promised in my correspondence to do sometime this summer.

I have known another colleague for almost the same amount of time.  I actually hired her as a Resident Hall Director and, in a quirk of fate, seven years later she hired me for the position I have held now for over 20 years.  We are good friends, confidantes, and have shared the high’s and low’s of life.  I included her on my list simply because I felt the need to convey these thoughts.  How many times do we really tell someone how appreciative we are for their friendship?  We could have a conversation, a real heart-to-heart, about anything and know we would receive an honest response or evaluation of the situation.  I don’t have many people in my professional life like this (not counting my wife).  I wanted to use the opportunity of The Writing Project to let her know.

One of the other individuals I wrote to had started his career at the University of Connecticut around the same time I had begun mine.  He could be categorized as one of those lifers (like myself) except a couple of years ago he announced he was leaving to take up a position in Boston.  Most of his friends and colleagues were in disbelief.  “Jim (not his real name)?” we chorused.  “Really?”  (It was actually a good move for a number of reasons).  I have been able to stay in touch, through the usual channels (i.e. email), but since my daughter lived near him and my mentee from the NASPA Region I New Professional Mentoring Institute also worked at his institution it was easier to stay connected.  However, my notecard did not delve into campus gossip, nor matters of state, or even family chatter.  Instead, I focused on one of the very important aspects of my life—golf.  He was good and I was someone that usually broke 100 (18 holes, not 9).  I now felt confident to tee up alongside him.  So, the game of golf and arranging a date to play was the focus.  We can talk about weightier matters on the course.