Milwaukee Area Technical College – Instructor Ben Hans
Ben Hans is an instructor at the Milwaukee Area Technical College Music program. The curriculum focuses on the business of the music industry. Along with the business, recording and technology classes are taught as well. It is an excellent program.
Several times a year I have the privilege of speaking to students at various universities and colleges in Wisconsin. Topics may include entrepreneurialism, pitching your music or the general music industry. One of those classes that I speak with on a regular basis is the aforementioned music program at MATC Milwaukee where Ben is the instructor. He is a passionate educator with a deep concern about the well-being of his students. Ben is an accomplished musician himself and has been involved in many recording projects including his own releases. But more importantly, he is a great teacher and it is obvious that his students admire and respect him.
This past session, I spoke to several classes about many music industry topics. These classes always have engaged students with interesting questions and perspectives. Part of their educational process is to write a review of my presentation as required by their instructor. Below is their review of the class.
For the past several years, I have had the honor of being the Grand Prize Judge of the Dallas Songwriters Association annual songwriting contest. In my opinion, the DSA is the premier songwriting organization in the country. Not only do they hold their grandaddy songwriting competition annually, they hold numerous other events monthly that are all focused on perfecting the craft of songwriting. In July alone, there are 7 events on their calendar including open mics, song swaps, a workshop, a showcase, a cultural exchange and they’ve just launched their annual contest. Congrats to Barbe McMillen and the entire group at the Dallas Songwriters Association as the organization is celebrating their 27th anniversary in 2014.
This year will be the 10th year I have been involved (I think it’s 10) in the Dallas Songwriters Association contest and some of the best independent songs I have ever heard came through this competition. As I was creating this blog, I was looking at the reviews from the previous years. My guess is that I have written about 100 or so reviews about the top songs. Kudos to the writers as I remember just about every song in the list. Lots of good memorable stuff.
Below I have posted some of my favorites that I found links to on Broadjam.
My favorite to date is still Here’s To Love, by the Michael George Band. It’s a song about peace and done so tastefully with a deep baritone voice. No matter what mood you’re in when you listen to this song, you will feel at peace by the end of it. That’s the brilliance of it. This is also in my personal all time favorite playlist.
The Jimmys are: Jimmy Voegeli -(2014 Madison Area Music Association Keyboardist of the Year) Hammond Organ, Piano, Electric Rhodes, Vocals/Mauro Magellan (Georgia Satellites)-Drums and Percussion/John Wartenweiler – (2014 MAMA Bassist of the Year) Electric and Acoustic Bass/Darren Sterud – (2014 MAMA Brass of the Year) Trombone/Perry Weber – Guitars and Vocals/Bryan Husk – Tenor and Baritone Saxophones/Chad Whittinghill – Trumpet and Flugelhorn/Pete Ross – Alto Saxophone
Breakthrough Artist of the Year Annabel Lee
New Artist of the Year Gabe Burdulis
Compilation Album of the Year Karen Wheelock Smilin’ On
Cover Song of the Year Mark Croft “Dancing in the Dark (Live)”
Meritorious Achievement Award Sheilah Kring
Video Of The Year Beth Kille “I’ve Been Accused”
Ensemble Vocalists of the Year Natty Nation
Female Vocalist of the Year Annabel Lee
Male Vocalist of the Year Kyle Henderson
Bassist of the Year John Wartenweiler of The Jimmys
Brass Instrumentalist of the Year Darren Sterud of The Jimmys
Drummer/Percussionist of the Year Joey B Banks
Guitarist of the Year Michael Tully
Keyboardist of the Year Jimmy Voegeli
Specialty Instrumentalist of the Year Chris Wagoner (Lap Steel)
Strings Instrumentalist of the Year Mary Gaines
Woodwinds Instrumentalist of the Year Trevor Hoffman of The Rotation
People’s Choice Awards:
Cover Band Performer of the Year John Masino Band
DJ of the Year Nick Nice
Live Sound Engineer of the Year Lonya Neneshev
Local Live Music Venue of the Year High Noon Saloon
Local Music Fan of the Year Sarah Warmke
Local Music Publication/Blog of the Year Isthmus
Local Music Radio Personality of the Year Gabby Parsons
Local Music Radio Station of the Year 89.9 WORT
Local Recorded Music Store of the Year B-Side Records
Album Packaging of the Year Harmonious Wail Bohemian Tango
Photographer of the Year John Urban
Producer of the Year Mike Zirkel
Recording Studio of the Year Audio for the Arts
Roadie of the Year Ralph Shively
Studio Sound Engineer of the Year Mike Zirkel
Female Vocalist of the Year Helen Feest of The Blue Sundays
Woodwinds Instrumentalist of the Year Robert Stine from Middleton High School
Keyboardist of the Year Adam Goren from Middleton High School
Song of the Year The Blue Sundays “Mary Anne”
Launchpad 2014 Madison Regional Finalist Distant Cuzins
Launchpad 2014 Madison Regional Finalist Prom Queen Rejects
Bruce Crockett, Founder and CEO of ENSONIQ Corporation
ENSONIQ (Maker of keyboards, synthesizers and effects processors)
I first met Bruce when I flew up from Memphis to interview at ENSONIQ headquarters in Malvern, PA. Bruce is a tall guy, thin, unassuming, relatively quiet, but when he walks into the room, you know who the boss is. His presence is large. When interviewing at ENSONIQ, I was introduced to Bruce in his office at the old building in Malvern, PA and needless to say, I was petrified. Here I am, sitting in the room with the man who founded ENSONIQ, the company I idolized…..Fast forward>>
I was offered a job to start the ENSONIQ School and train the dealers on how to use and sell our products. I arrived at ENSONIQ, excited and scared shitless at the same time. Like so many of the dealers and users, I worshipped the company and everyone in it. The company had just moved in the new building and my office, which was the training room, had no carpet, wall paper, desk or anything. It was empty. The first few training sessions were done on card tables, no carpeting, etc….but I loved it and couldn’t believe what I was doing for a living.
I was in the training room on a Saturday afternoon rearranging the set-up preparing for the first school. At the front of the room was one of those old Ultimate Support stands and I needed to shave it down a little to make it work. Bruce walks in and asked how I was doing. I explained my dilemma with the stand. He returns a few minutes later with a hack saw and cuts the stand to the height I needed. Like Bruce, I came from humble beginnings and thought CEOs weren’t supposed to do “manual labor.” Words can’t express how that simple act influenced me. A few days later, I went into the mens room and there is Bruce with his tie thrown over his shoulder trying to fix something under the sink. I remember thinking, I can work for this guy. His work ethic influenced us and like so many of my colleagues at ENSONIQ, I could tell Bruce stories for hours without repeating one.
Comdex & Willie Nelson
One of my favorite stories is when we arranged, sponsored and promoted a Willie Nelson Show at the Thomas Mack Arena in Las Vegas during the Comdex convention. My responsibility was to “make it happen.” Johnny Neel who was with the Allman Brothers at the time, opened the show and brought the house down. Then Bruce introduced Willie to the crowd of about 30,000 and the show was amazing. Hit after hit after hit. Although Bruce introduced Willie, he didn’t get a chance to meet him before the show. Unbeknownst to Bruce, I spoke to the tour manager and arranged a meeting afterwards in one of the hospitality rooms. The manager came to get us and said, “we’re going to go to the bus instead and you’ll meet him there.” My immediate thought was, “Oh shit, I am taking my boss to Willie’s tour bus.” I was well aware of the scenario that was probably unfolding on Willie’s bus as we walked out into the parking lot. The bus door opens and a tornado of smoke emerges similar to the storm at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. We walk up the steps and take a quick left and needless to say, the smoke was so thick we couldn’t see anyone. (I’m sure I’m exaggerating a little here, but it does make the point.) We were introduced to Willie and he was as gracious as a person could be. I had a brief conversation with his sister, who has been his piano player forever and she was just as kind. Willie offered us a seat, but we declined. When we got off the bus, I don’t think either one of us knew what to say, but we did have a good laugh as we were walking back to the arena.
The LA Trip
We had an awesome product that wasn’t doing so well in the marketplace and Bruce wanted to do something special for the sales reps right away. I made a few calls and a plan was in place that would unfold in less than two weeks. The idea was to fly our reps, introduce them to the stars who were using our products and get them fired up. Hopefully they would feel better about the product which ultimately would generate more sales.
On the schedule to have breakfast, lunch and/or dinner with our reps was David Arkenstone, Davis Was, Edgar Winter, Sherman Hemsley, Will Smith, Roy Firestone, Pat O’Brien, Keith Emerson, Joe Walsh, Joe Vitale and a few others. We also went to the Tonight Show where we met Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, John Travolta and Danny Wilde of the Rembrandts. We stopped by the legendary O’Henry Studios and then to the set of Baywatch. One of my personal highlights was seeing Bruce having a beer with Sherman Hemsley at his house overlooking the valley in LA.
This was all put together in less than two weeks and while driving from one meeting to the next I was wondering whether or not the next guest was going to show up. Bruce, along with our VP of Sales Dan Garrett, were very supportive and appreciative of the stress it took to pull this off. To this day I am still amazed that it went off without a hitch. After we got back, Bruce came into my office, said some nice words and I felt like I earned my stripes. He never bullshitted anyone, so when he said something nice, you knew he meant it.
A few years into Broadjam, I hit a snag and called Bruce for advice. Thinking I was going to have a long phone conversation or two, he surprised me and asked what I was doing in the next few days. He got on a plane, flew out to Madison from Washington State and spent a couple days straightening me out. I was blown away and will never forget it. I don’t think he ever stopped caring about his employees, even long after they left his employ.
Over the years, I’ve learned more from him than any one person in business. Not because he was consciously teaching any of us, he was just being him. I have read numerous books about leadership and he is what they are talking about. There are times I find myself repeating his words to my employees. After he left ENSONIQ, the spirit of the company imploded and many of us left within a few months. He was ENSONIQ to all of us. It was sold within a year or so and now it’s just a memory. If he was still there, I would be too.
Update: I wrote the above last summer and had a chance to share it with him shortly after. I was driving home from a presentation when I found out. A tear rolled down my cheek and at the same time I smiled, as I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work for him. His legacy will live on for a long time. R.I.P. Bruce.