Archive for October 27th, 2008

We’re Playing Your Song (We Hope!)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

After his retirement from professional football, former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier became a very popular motivational speaker. A dozen years or so ago, my band was asked to give him a little walk-up music at a convention. Thinking that I had come up with something really original and clever, I led the band in playing the theme from “Rocky.” (I was really proud of myself for that brilliant idea, too.) Or – I was – until Rocky walked past me on his way to the podium. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder, and muttered, “I get so sick of hearing that *&^% song.” One lesson learned – the hard way: don’t assume you’re playing someone’s special song – ask.

At least – I thought I had learned my lesson, until this past week. This time, the band and I were to play something appropriate for T. Boone Pickens to take the stage. I had 3 different songs in mind – “Amarillo By Morning” (to reflect his Mesa Petroleum background), the theme from “Giant” (a classic film about Texas oil wildcatters), and “Wind Beneath My Wings” (because he is now a huge wind-power advocate.) When I ran the choices past my boss – a long-time Pickens associate – I was told, “Yeah, he hates all those. What he really likes to hear is the Oklahoma State University Fight Song.” Oops – again!

When honoring an individual (whether it be for a birthday or for their record of achievement), a couple (be it for their wedding, or for a significant anniversary), or an entire group of people, special songs are often appropriate and always appreciated. At least, the right tunes are certainly appreciated. Even if you are trying to keep the song selection secret from the honoree, and thus don’t want to ask them personally, a close family member or business associate will usually know if there is one tune they particularly love.

By asking, you avoid the trap I fell into of mistakenly assuming that an honoree will automatically love a particular melody, only to belatedly discover that you have missed the mark (and possibly even given offense.) So I stress again – ask first, before you strike up the band.

Back to my recent Boone Pickens experience: I had never heard the OSU Fight Song, but offered to learn it for the occasion. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. In appreciation for the 400 million dollars Pickens has donated to his alma mater, the school sent down their entire Cowboys Marching Band to escort Boone into the room. And yes – they were playing his song!