THE PRESIDENT’S CORNER

“Hurt Feelings And Ruffled Feathers”

Having spent 40 years standing in the front of university classrooms (1974 – 2014), and having read a boatload of graduate student papers (my favorite topic was “What Grade I Deserve in This Course and Why”), I have been compelled to tell many smart, ambitious young adults they couldn’t write. I didn’t say it that directly, of course, but it was part of my job to help them grow as wordsmiths and effective communicators. I was gentle about it. Still, I know I hurt many feelings and ruffled many feathers in the process of trying to help my students put their best foot forward in organizational life.

My official job title is now Professor Emeritus (translation: “out to pasture”). I took early retirement and left a profession I loved. Happily, I love running Blue Night Records and Blue Night Soundscapes just as much. I still occasionally hurt feelings and ruffle feathers, though.

Songwriters, composers, and performing artists regularly submit their music to me. They’re looking for recording or licensing deals.  What should I tell them when the music just isn’t good enough?  Unfortunately, the norm seems to be “Nothing, just don’t respond.”  That’s unconscionable.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but anyone with the ambition and confidence to send me music they’ve created deserves a response.  It’s not always the one they want to hear, but if I care about their well-being and growth as artists (I do), they deserve honest feedback.  I need 40 more years to get better at it, though.

None of us likes to get negative feedback.  Most of us hate it.  For example, in a guitar workshop a couple of years ago I was playing and singing with Uwe Krüger, one of my favorite performers. Uwe is also one of the most gentle, sweet guys on the planet.  We wrapped up the tune, and I waited for him to tell me how well I had done.  He just looked at me, in front of about 30 of my fellow “advanced level” guitarist classmates, and said “You play too loud.”  I wanted to crawl into my guitar case, and my feathers were definitely ruffled.  Since then, especially when jamming with today’s guitar luminaries (I know, it’s a tough job), I remember Uwe’s sound advice (no pun).  I still “play too loud” sometimes, but I hear it and “cut ‘er back some.”  So thanks Uwe, for caring enough about me and my playing to be honest.

To all of you who have and will send me music for recording and/or licensing consideration, if I reject it, I’ll tell you why.  Because I care.

Happy Trails.

Steven