Guess who I just interviewed
Right up the street from my teenage home was the home of a lady, who for several weeks in a row had a garage sale. Her children had moved out and no longer wanted many of their childhood belongings. I do not recall her name, but I think of her often as she, unbeknownst to her, provided me with a number of my prized musical possessions.
Whenever I think of the notion of six degrees of separation, I always think of George Gershwin! The great American composer passed away at the age of 38 back in 1937 (thirty years before I was born) and yet because of my interview with songwriter Burton Lane, I am only one degree away from Mr. Gershwin!
In November of 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially named April 30 as International Jazz Day. The idea that an organization as revered as UNESCO, which can trace its lineage back to the League of Nations and influences projects around the globe include the conservation and protection of world heritage sites like Grand Canyon National Park, the city of Venice and its Lagoon, and the Taj Mahal, recognizes the significant impact of Jazz music on society is something all musicians should be proud of.
Each NAMM member has a story to tell and it has been the mission of NAMM’s Resource Center to capture these stories. For the last 19 years, NAMM has been actively archiving the stories of our industry in an effort to preserve these accounts for future generations. In honor of World Storytelling Day we are providing a background on the Oral History Collection and highlighting some memorable stories we’ve gathered.
Mardi Gras is a tradition of indulgence in the days leading up to the beginning of Lent, a period of time before Easter, wherein many sects of Christianity, followers practice fasting. Often associated with consuming in excess, Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world and in America, has found its home in New Orleans, Louisiana. The first American Mardi Gras celebration took place near modern-day New Orleans on March 3, 1699, and now 320 years later, the Oral History Collection celebrates Mardi Gras by featuring some great interviews from The Big Easy.
Young musicians often dream of playing sold-out venues all over the globe and some may say there is no venue more prestigious than the White House. Since the White House became the official residence for sitting U.S. Presidents in 1800, music has been at the heart of celebrations within this iconic home. Whether one hears the brass of the “President’s Own” United States Marine marching band or the tinkling of the ivories on the picturesque Steinway piano located in the East Room, the Presidential domain has the potential to be one of the most coveted and exclusive venues in the world.
With another NAMM Show in the books, many of us now have a fire lit under our feet to continue innovating and pushing the limits in the music products industry. It seems apt that the close of the show springboards us into February, which coincides with National Women’s Inventors Month. This provides a wonderful opportunity to recognize some of the women who have made an impact in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields which are the driving forces in invention and innovation.
February marks African American History month and The Music History Project, a NAMM sponsored podcast, took an opportunity to highlight a few of the stories of adversity by those directly involved with the civil rights movement on the 1950s and 1960s in “Ep. 16 – Music in Civil Rights Movement” (originally released February 1, 2018).
When people tune in to watch one of the largest sporting events on television, the Super Bowl, they associate this “unofficial” holiday with an often-cold winter Sunday featuring good food, premier advertising experiences, and top-performing athletes battling it out on the gridiron.
Legendary television journalist Mike Wallace, who has a long-standing gig on 60 Minutes, once referred to the thrilling experience of interviewing iconic figures by saying “I sat toe to toe with some incredible people.”
On August 18, 2018, the NAMM Oral History team was invited to attend the Crown International employee carry-in! It was an honor as the 200 plus people who arrived were all past employees of the company that had officially closed a month before the event. Folks from all divisions, and at all levels within the factory, came to see each other. As an outside observer, it appeared to me to be a big
One important element of the NAMM Oral History collection is that by capturing interviews with several people who worked at one company at different times and in different positions, we can gain a larger portrait of that company and its products that could not be ascertained by merely one interview on the topic.
Howard Ungerleider won the Parnelli Visionary Award in 2014 for a good reason, he is a pioneer in professional lighting! What struck me during his 2018 NAMM Oral History interview was just how influential his ideas, designs, and innovations have had on the Live Sound industry.
During the 2000 NAMM Summer Show in Nashville, there was a small display of vintage electronic instruments. Among the items, people stopped to stare at and even get their photograph taken with, was an early Fairlight!
Back in the fall of 2016, I spent a most enjoyable day at Muncie Music with owner Dave Helms. I was warmly welcomed by the staff while Dave was on the road calling on band directors. When he later arrived, I was able to capture four interviews including one with him and his longest-running employee, Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) White.
One element I enjoy capturing for the NAMM Oral History collection is the social aspects of the music that represents an artist. A rather complete example of this is the music and social times of Peter Yarrow.
Strange and delightful things happened the closer I got to the Dylan inner circle. When I interviewed Garth Hudson, I could not get over the depth of creativity sitting right in front of me. When my camerawoman and I arrived at the studio, I really did not know what to expect. Garth arrived and sat down to the Steinway and played serious classical works not often at the tips of one's fingers. It appeared that he took some time to adjust to the camera and lights, but knowing I was from NAMM and was there, in part, to gain his thoughts about the Lowrey Organ, Garth was carefully considering what to say and how to say it. It was an interview I will never forget.
Can you guess what the following companies have in common?
Fishman Transducers, Rudy’s Music, Kretzer Pianos, Emerson Flutes, QSC, Oberheim Electronics, ARP, Fazola Piano, Leslie Speakers, Moog Music, Dean Markley Strings, Donn Bennett Drum Shop, Shimamura Music, Sennheiser Electronics, and Carma Lou's House of Music...