Archive for April, 2013

A Day in the Life of A Piano Tuner

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Piano

A day in my life is not very exciting.  It is a bit frustrating at times. Today I was to tune pianos at the high school.

Walk with me.

Here is the campus. Let’s find a place to park.

cisd.campus

A closer view of our options:

cisd.campus2

Since I am a vendor – a contracted service – I am permitted to park in Lot 1 or Lot 2. Lot 1 is too far away. That leaves Lot 2. All other areas are for cars with permits. The curbs are all designated as fire zones – no parking permitted.

So we have a school of 3,000 students, and only 20 parking places where we can park.  I was unable to find a parking spot today, so I will have to return tomorrow and try again. I waited 20 minutes. But, let us assume that I parked in Lot 2. We now walk to point A to the only security checkpoint on campus so we can sign-in.

From point A we walk down the hallway to the music wing at Mark X. Oops! Forgot a tool. I must return to the car. There are four exits (Z) I can use, but none allow re-entry. So it is to the car, and then back to point A and again – a walk down the long hallway.

When I am done with the tuning I can leave the building (Exit Z) but the proper course is to return to the security kiosk and go through the check-out procedure.

The school receives a 50% discount for services. I can only gain access to the pianos during school hours, and must service the piano within a 45 minute time allotment when class is not in session. Some pianos are in practice rooms which allows easier access. The important pianos are the ones that are used in rehearsals. They require more maintenance, but are not as easy to access since they are used throughout the day. It would my preference to tune the pianos after school hours, or on weekends. Unfortunately this is not an option. The music rooms are locked after hours and a weekend visit would present too great of an inconvenience for whomever might be required to accompany me while I spent several hours servicing the pianos.

I have tried to secure an inventory of all pianos in the district, but after several attempts I have given up. I went to the Purchasing Department and offered to take an inventory of the school’s piano assets (for free), but received no response to my e-mail.  If I had an inventory of the pianos, I could collect maintenance data on each instrument. The District does not have an inventory of the pianos that I can find.

These situations have persisted for many years.  There is no party who is motivated to implement corrections. The Superintendent of Schools has not done so. The School Trustees have not done so.  The teachers have no direct link to the School Trustees. Their chain of command is through the school principal and then to the superintendent.  They are powerless.

Three school trustees are running for re-election unopposed, so we can assume that the citizens of the town are satisfied with their leadership.

The conditions of my employment as a vendor at this school are pretty much set in stone – not going to change.

So, that leaves me with a decision to make.

Is this worth my time?

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The Perils of Faith

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Piano

Here I am in a typical Texas suburban community. Population 45,000.  13,900 households. Median income $98,899

Over $500,000 2.6%
$200,000 – $499,999 12.5%
$150,000 – $199,999 12.5%
$100,000 – $149,999 21.8%
$ 75,000 –  $ 99,999 14.0%
$ 50,000 –  $ 74,999 15.3%
$ 35,000 –  $ 49,999 9.7%
$ 25,000 –  $ 34,999 4.1%
$ 15,000 –  $ 24,999 3.9%
Under $15,000 3.5%

The school system is proposing a $80 million bond to pay for a new school and other items.

More than eighteen school districts in the immediate area offer a string orchestra program for students. Coppell ISD is not one of those districts. Strangely enough, citizens in our town our most often unaware that we do not offer a string orchestra program for the kids. We have two newspapers in town, but both are just small town newspapers. One is a “booster” paper which the publisher uses for her own personal political agenda. You get one, maybe two stories a week about local government, and if the stories are accurate, they rarely cover topics to any great depth.

The other newspaper is the Coppell Gazette. It is an “advertising driven” newspaper.  They do not operate an office in town. The Gazette is part of the Star Newspaper that offers advertisers across several suburbs the opportunity to advertise outside their own community. Both newspapers are weeklies and receive low readership.

In sum, Coppell is a community of people who are doing well financially, are largely uninformed about what is going on in their local governments, and have limited access to any information that might scrutinize the decision making of elected officials. On May 11, the request for the $80 million bond will be decided at the polls. Typically, less than 15% will vote.

For three years I lobbied the school board to include string orchestra as part of the Fine Arts Curriculum. When they spoke to me, (which was rare), they said they could not afford to add orchestra. When I asked to review the “cost study” that had been done prior to determining that it “cost too much”, no review was offered to me.  I infer that they are relying entirely on the opinion of administration. I asked to meet with the school superintendent and was denied on three occasions. Three incumbent school trustees are running unopposed for re-election.

The Perils of Faith

Faith is an alternative to doing the hard work. It is easier to have someone tell you what to believe. If you ask unpopular questions, or even difficult questions, you remain encouraged to “just have faith” in the common view. Don’t ask too many questions. Go along to get along. Just trust your leaders. Once you convince people that a man was raised from the dead, and is God incarnate, you can pretty much convince them of anything. And that’s the kind of people we have in Coppell. They are living comfortably and they prefer to trust their leaders rather than do the work of staying informed. The $80 million bond will pass without significant opposition and the community will not offer orchestra for students.

The problem with faith is that it encourages you to accept as true what you do not know to be true. It encourages you to take the easy way out. You are “saved” from doing the inquiry. You are saved from the uncertainty that may occur if you later learn that we really can’t know a lot of things. Ignorance, for most people, is blissful.

When you limit your understanding of the world, you are actually setting yourself up for some real disappointment. By narrowing the range of your understanding, you are limiting your range of tolerance because you are embracing a worldview that is exclusive.  Right now, citizens in the community have no idea if the $80 million bond proposal is a reasonable expense. When you consider the income levels here, and the education levels, you would think that Coppell is an ideal community. But also consider that part of this “ideal community” is being ignorant of what is going on in local government. That doesn’t seem ideal to me.

The citizens of Coppell are doing pretty good in life. They take what is offered without question. They have faith in their leaders. Most have some level of faith in supernatural beings. It costs a lot to live here, prices are high, real estate is outrageously high, but no one seems to care. While most people will quickly admit that we should have an orchestra program, no one is willing to do anything about it. They defer to that small group of volunteers whose values are used to direct the school system. They take what is given to them without question.

We can put a price tag on that level of social behavior. It will be $80 million. In addition, the students will not be able to learn any of the string instruments. That cost is far greater.

[Updated]

In a town of 45,000 – approximately 22,000 registered voters – only 1,637 (yea) and 949 (nay) votes were cast in a 80M bond election.

The Real Book of Music Marketing 101

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Piano
English: Photograph of first medical school gr...

English: Photograph of first medical school graduating class of Johns Hopkins University, 1897. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Graduating in May with a degree in music?

Congratulations! Here’s my Marketing 101 guide.

2013 – Hit the bars and start gigging. Undercut your competition. Play for $50 a night. You can afford it.

2023 – You’ve had a band for five years now. The first CD sold 359 copies before someone in China ripped it and offered it for free on the internet. You’re making $100 a night now and you have a church gig. You also have a day job and two kids.

2033 – You’re making money at your day job, running the sound at church. The kids want to be in the band at school. You compared the college scholarship offerings between musicians and athletes. Your wife makes more money that you.

2043 – A buddy calls and wants to start the old band again. You agree! Your wife files for divorce.

2053 – You join a Big Band. The leader promises you will always make $50 a gig, if he can get a booking for 18 guys.

2063 – One hit from your original CD goes gold. You receive a royalties check for $250.00. You trade it for a pack of smokes from the other buy that shares your cardboard box under the 7th Street Bridge. The next morning a kid, listening to your hit tune, steals your cigarettes.

Music Majors have the highest rate of acceptance into Med School.

I suggest you consider that option now that you have graduated.

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