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Friday, May 6, 2011

Givers and Takers

This past Friday to Sunday was a huge weekend.
Just the facts first, then the good stuff:
Friday 3:45am - I awoke and got the the Wichita airport to fly to DC
Friday later that morning - The Royal Wedding was watched by billions
Friday later that afternoon - Staging Die Drei Pintos in a private home with a concert hall
Friday 7pm - Wichita Grand Opera's production of my "La Fille du Regiment" opens
Saturday - The Washington Chorus' Dress Rehearsal of "Mostly Mahler" at the Kennedy Center
Saturday night - Correspondent's Dinner where Trump got roasted by Pres. Obama and Seth Meyers!
Sunday morning - PJH walks all around DC and ends at Smithsonian gift shop buying gifts
Sunday afternoon - "Regiment" matinee in Wichita & "Mostly Mahler" in DC
Sunday evening - party and after dinner w/ Wachner, Meara Conway, and VERY interesting patrons
Sunday 11ish - Obama gets Osama
Sunday after midnight (okay, that's Monday) - I head six blocks from my hotel to catch the tens of thousands gathering at the White House to celebrate (yes, I use that word on purpose and agree with the sentiment for any occasion marking a mass murderer's death.)

BIG Weekend, anyway you look at it!
However, why title this blog "Givers and Takers"?

Mostly because I spent the last weekend in DC with an organization that I would describe as being run by Givers, after leaving an organization in Kansas run by Takers. I wanted to write about the difference between the two.

I've worked in this "business" for over 25 years now. There are many ways to look at people. One is that there are two kinds of people and then compare and contrast. One such configuration might be "Correct" and "Effective". That's another blog...
Today's blog is on two other kinds of people: GIVERS and TAKERS.

A listing of the outstanding GIVERS in my live:
Berniel Hanson, my piano teacher who gave me Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Chopin & Ravel
Robert Larsen, my musical father who gave me my musical education
R. H. Fanders, the man who gave me Humanism
Joanne Baker, a sweetheart of a piano teacher, who gave me confidence and my memory
Marlena Malas, a great voice teacher and woman, who gave me open doors
Hal France, a conductor, who walked me through an open door
Christopher Keene, who gave me a great compliment during the longest rehearsal of my life
Donald Palumbo, who gave me opera, a work ethic, and Verdi
Michael Ching, who gave me my professional conducting debut
Norma and Alistar Paton, who gave my wife and I a home and amazing food in Tulsa
Allan Naplan, who helped give me Ithaca and subsequently my first son
Stewart Robertson, who gave me Glimmerglass
Karen Tiller, who gave me a Bluebeard's Castle and subsequently my second son
Nicholas Russell, who gave me (and continues to give others) loyalty
My Ithaca students, who gave me the joy of teaching and reinvigorated my joy of musical theatre
Andrew Bisantz, who gave me friendship during dark times
David Gately, who gave my family the joyous mountains of North Carolina
Meg, Lara, Aidan, and Philippe who awarded me Excellence in Teaching - my proudest achievement
My McGill students, who continue to give me challenges and allow my artistic freedom to blossom
My McGill colleagues who enthusiastically embrace my craziness: Julian, Hank, and Abe, et al
And of course, my family, who give me constant love

A short and abstract listing of TAKERS I've met:
The bitchy NYC coaches at DMMO in the mid 1980s, who tried to take my pride in my mentor
A fat, yet small-minded assistant conductor of a Boris, who told me I played without rhythm
A crazed pianist at The Juilliard School who tried to make me feel small and unimportant
A certain famous stage director who tried to take my confidence, but took others' instead
A general director who took from everyone and blamed everyone for his 1 million dollar deficit
Small minded folks who hold what they know close to themselves and forget to share it
Bureaucrats who take people's precious time in order to fill out forms in order to get forms

That frenzied couple in tornado alley, who I've seen fill young singers' heads with promises of things to come in order to use their time and talents; who point out everyone's short comings and blame everyone around them for any and all problems, instead of working to solve said problems.

But especially, there was that very special Urantian Taker who seemed to be such a Giver until, almost too late, I realized he was the opposite of Good (as Sondheim put it "Nice is different than Good!)

As a good friend once said: "Some people never realize that the reason they seem so ugly on the outside is because they are so ugly on the inside."

I've developed a "Taker Radar" over the years, and feel that I'm usually correct 9 times out of 10. It's something about a person's inability to smile beyond the first smile they put on; coupled with the second sentence out of their mouth usually being something along the lines of "You know, so and so doesn't know what they're doing, but I do".

Nice is SO different than Good. I know that now. It's a valuable thing to know, fyi.