I have turned my hand at many trades and worked some crusty jobs. I went to college and got an English degree and taught high school English for 17 years. When I quit the classroom last June, many people wanted to know what I planned to do. “I want to promote music and culture,” I would say. I got a lot of funny looks and plenty of, “You’ll never make any money” comments. Saying, “Money isn’t everything” didn’t seem to help.
I chose to teach because I wanted to serve my country and help young people the way my best teachers helped me. I miss my students but I don’t miss the emphasis on standardization. We are not all the same and no amount of testing will ever convince me otherwise. I still want to serve young people and the young at heart. I came to realize that music is the common denominator; it reaches everyone on some level. Maybe music will help us find a way to national unity. People my age will remember a song by The Youngbloods that asked us to, “C’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get it together, try and love one another right now.”
I worry about the standardization in music brought about by a handful of corporations owning the majority of radio stations in the country. Radio used to be so democratic. Listen to any radio station during their “all-request” hour and you will get the idea. It was a community bonded and strengthened by music. College radio still gets it right. And there are no commercials, only public service announcements.
I love college radio and WXPN (88.5/88.7fm) from U.Penn in Philly is a brilliant example of how vibrant a music community can look and sound. I also listen to WIXQ (91.7fm) from my alma mater, Millersville U., and to WFNM (89.1fm) from Franklin and Marshall College. When I travel north along the river from Harrisburg, it’s WQSU (88.9fm) from Susquehanna U. in Selinsgrove. In Pittsburgh, it’s WYEP (91.3fm). You will hear music you know and songs/bands you have never heard. It’s ok. Four years ago, nobody around here or anywhere had heard of Adele. I heard her first on WXPN. Yes, you can stream any of these stations.
In an earlier blog, I talked about the great irony of Gigspots: using social media to get people away from their computers. It’s not that computers are bad. But using social media is not socializing. Studying linguistics for my degree, I learned that only 30% of a message is actually contained in the words you use. The other 70% comes from body language, tone of voice, eye contact, facial expression and a host of other factors that do not come through a computer. Have you ever sent someone a text/message/email and had your intended message completely misunderstood? Of course you have.
America, we need to socialize more. And nothing draws a crowd, or unifies a crowd, like music. C’mon, people…