Tonight I'm going to see The Smashing Pumpkins in Fort Lauderdale. This is pertinent to teaching music, at least for me, for two reasons.
1) It was through the Pumpkins, who were my favorite band as a teenager and beyond, that I went from being an occasionally intense music enthusiast (which was still maybe a little weird as a 12-year-old*) to being an utterly and totally obsessed music fan. The band was my touchstone to popular music for many years, and I learned a lot from them as a result. If you look through their catalog, especially their extensive 90s releases and B-sides, there's a lot to analyze there, especially in terms of structure. We'll get to that on this blog eventually, but "In the Eyes of Ruby" comes to mind to start. (Also yes, in their "original" form, with at least Billy Corgan and James Iha in the band, The Smashing Pumpkins only released five non-extra material albums in their tenure, not really counting Pisces Iscariot since it was a B-side collection, but I don't want to repeat the three-hour lecture I gave my mother from the backseat of our family van in 1998 when she told me that they didn't seem that prolific.)
2) The day this picture was taken was the day I decided that music education was my path. In high school, I wasn't always too sure of that particular path, as I was heavily encouraged toward journalism as well, and was very enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming a music journalist as a full-time job. But of course, I was also a band geek to the core. Those two interests were both important to me, and they had a showdown on the day this picture was taken, when The Smashing Pumpkins were holding a record store signing in advance of the release of MACHINA/the machines of God.
At the time, I was a teen correspondent to the Orlando Sentinel and while my credentials couldn't get me into the record store signing as a press member, my editor did want me to write something about the signing, as she knew I was a huge fan. Another event I had attended that school day had actually given me a lot to think about, journalism-wise. I arrived at the Virgin Megastore in the tourist part of town a little later that evening, feeling very journalistic and enthusiastic about the pursuit of that career. Meeting Billy Corgan was wonderful, even if only for a moment. The signing had only been scheduled for a couple of hours, and by then was officially over, so James, Melissa auf Der Maur (D'arcy's replacement, whom I also idolized), and Jimmy were out. Billy stayed to greet everyone left in line. I even touched his bald head, which is of course not a thing most normal people do, but try telling that to a 17-year-old fangirl.
He apparently was not so kind to the press, not giving a photo release to the Sentinel or anyone else. As my mother was driving me home, I had a phone conversation with my editor, which consisted of a lot of empathetic squeeing. My conversation with the celebrity/entertainment editor of the paper was not so enthusiastic. She was glad I had a good experience, but as a unit the paper was unhappy with the band, and she bashed them pretty hard. After hearing her decry Corgan, on the long, dark drive home back to the exurbs, my own path started to become clear. I didn't want to be a journalist and deal with these sorts of issues. I wanted to study music, I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to inspire young musicians. The press could take a hike.
I kept writing for the Sentinel for the next year, my senior year of high school, because it was a wonderful opportunity and we even got paid a little bit for it, but after meeting Billy I knew I needed to get more serious about studying music. I started my music ed degree a little bit behind in some respects, but I was lucky enough to attend a school where I received a wonderful music education background, had many opportunities, and even got to write, review, and attend a great deal of shows in my spare time.
I am very glad that I chose the path that I did, but I'm also glad that I wasn't forced to completely abandon my would-be rock journalism background. I think it has served my teaching in unique ways and it is what has formed me into the rebel music teacher that I am today. And no matter how many inane comments Billy Corgan makes in interviews these days, he will always be someone who even indirectly exerted that kind of influence over my life, and thus will always be important to me.
*I have also learned throughout my career that, without a doubt, the 12-year-old intense and/or slightly obsessive music enthusiasts will very often go on to be absolutely wonderful music students. Enthusiasm for popular music as a young child often translates to great enthusiasm for a band/chorus/orchestra program as a teenager, rather than the other way around.