In a few weeks, I will be saying goodbye to my assistant - John Buteyn. I have been wanting to write a fitting tribute to my assistant for some time, but every time I started thinking of writing this...my brain went into denial that he was leaving. I would then close my laptop and try not to think about this approaching day.
Many of you who visit this site (and blog) do not know John. But to me, John has been my right hand man for four years or so, and a brother-like friend for over seven. John was the first person I worked with as the new Director of Sound and Recording at Houghton College. From the start, I knew that John and myself would have a good working relationship, and more importantly, a good friendship.
A wise man once told me, "Kevin, when you meet a friend...a true friend, never let that friendship go because true friends are very rare in this life. When you meet the type of friend that 'gets you'...make sure you stay friends. That type of friend will walk the mountain tops and the valleys with you". The wise man, also known as my high school music teacher, was right on. I have traveled this earthly road for 45 years and have rarely found "true friends". I have many "friends", as a matter of fact over 3,500 "friends" on Facebook, but I have very few "true" friends...the kind of friend that sticks closer than a brother and gets me as a person. Many people become your friend with an agenda in mind. For many, that agenda is breaking into the music industry or befriending you to swindle you out of your industry contact list. I have had a few "friends" in my lifetime who attempted to use me as a stepping stone for the next level in their career...a few church tech "friends" come to mind here.
What I have always liked about John is that he never became my friend to "use" me, nor did he have an agenda to gather my contacts. He became my friend because we had so many common interests, especially in music technology and recording. We would sit in the office during the slow conference season time dreaming about Houghton, and what it could look like if we ever offered a music technology or a music industry degree. At the time, that seemed like a big huge pipe dream and talk, but as every year passed our dream and talks started becoming reality. It was the dream and vision that drove both of us at work - and common interests that drove our friendship.
After my first two years at Houghton, John went away to Georgia Southern to pursue his master's degree in music technology. When he left, during that time, you could feel the void that was left in my department. The old Charles Dickens phrase from A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." was being lived out in real time during the years he was away. The department and staff just wasn't the same with John gone.
Then John came back. At first is was to head up the summer conference tech team. Eventually, after a couple of years and a couple of jobs he worked around Houghton, we were able to hire him in my department as the Assistant Director of Technical Arts. And a new (and very cool) chapter started to be written again.
This past year, John, our boss and myself, started to create and pursue a major in music industry at Houghton College. Everything we had talked about seven years prior to this, started to become reality. We created a music industry minor, had upwards of ten new courses approved and finally a music industry major approved at Houghton. I don't think either one of us could believe how much was accomplished this past year. At times it was stressful...and at others times it was filled with celebration.
And so, it seems right that John is now leaving to pursue the next chapter in his life. In the time he has been at Houghton, and my assistant, we have seen great things happen. We have had a lot of fun and laughs with events, concerts, conferences (for the most part), classes, our team and most of all our friendship. Bill Hybels (a leadership guru - look him up) once said at a leadership conference, "Surround yourself with the best. Because you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with." For me, John was and is the best. He has been the definition of excellence and work ethic. He is a great husband to Kaylan, a great father to Fin and has been a great friend and brother to me. My only hope is that each person who reads this will have the same fortune that I have had these past seven years. I hope that each of you will find that person who makes you not only a better teacher and tech, but a better man or woman. As iron sharpens iron....Yohann, you will be missed.
About a week ago I received a call from my landlord's son. My wife and me rent our comfortable, beautiful and renovated carriage house from an elderly woman (83 years old to be exact). We would have purchased a home by now, but I had some doubts as to what our future may bring and wanted to stay mobile - "just in case". The son brought us the news that his mother (our landlord) was experiencing dementia, and the family had made the decision to have one of the children move closer to their mother so they could take care of her. The son stated that we had 60 or so days to move out - but he also stated he would work with us. I definitely can relate to this scenario. My mother who is sixty six had a massive heart attack about a year ago. My wife and me have been discussing how we could get my mom and dad closer to us. So it didn't come as a big surprise when the son informed us of his mother's ailing health. We had discussed this very scenario a few times in our years at our current rental home, but never came up with plan B.
If you are like me, and I know I am, then you will understand the statement, "I do not like change". I am sure I am not the only person out there that dislikes change or changing. I want my world to be orderly, somewhat predictable and organized. When things change it can ruin my day - or what I like to say, "It eats my lunch". But there are some things that are totally out of my control, and in this particular case it was my elderly landlord. Yet change can be a good thing, and it can be a healthy thing. In our case, it has moved us to pursue buying a home. For others, it stretches them out of their comfort zone to do something great. Of course, this ordeal is definitely stretching me out of my comfort zone a bit. And if you haven't been able to tell already, I do not like stretching very much.
The same could be said about the music industry...The Times They Are A-Changin'. I know many engineers and producers who are fighting the change. In fighting the change, they are just prolonging the inevitable that the music industry will never return to its former "glory". It is a never-ending cycle of change from music styles to recording techniques....and personnel. People come, people go; styles come and styles go, but the world keeps turning around.
In these changing times we either adapt - or we die. We adapt to the new business model or we no longer stay relevant to the cultural shift, thus dying out. I know a lot of engineers and producers who have adapted to the change. They focus on platinum acts, but they also produce indie bands. They have changed their pricing structure to meet the demands of the new business model, and many of them are doing quite well. I also know many who refuse to change, and they voice it constantly on social media sites or forum groups. Maybe the saying is right, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". In this case, you can't teach an old engineer a new way of doing business. Yet, many of the younger generation could benefit from the wisdom of these guys.
So, it is a new day. It is a new day in my personal life - getting up and crawling the web for home listings. And, it is a new day for the music industry. A new day to figure out how to change with the changes within the music industry. How you go about changing is totally up to each of you - but I am sure persistence and perseverance will be key with a touch of flexibility. The times they are definitely changin', have changed and will continue to do so. Now it is our turn to change with them.
Kevin "Danger" Jackson is a New York-based producer, engineer, composer, performer, educator and Berklee College of Music alumnus. He writes, produces and engineers music for a wide range of artists in the pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, classical and electronic genres. His work can be heard daily on a multitude of albums, radio and television stations worldwide.