Part 2 – A Conversation with Richard Maxwell

Richard Maxwell has created and runs one of the most unique and inspiring creative musical arts and sciences program in the nation.

For me, it reminds me of the entry level sound recording program I went through in college, only Richard’s students get into the creative process early because of what he had the guts to create.

This program happens in an area of the school campus where they have their own section of rooms that is their facility. It’s made up of a larger classroom if you will that doubles as a performance room plus they have 15 Pro Tools stations and Pro Tools running in their A and B recording studios.

They learn how to be expressive without fear of judgement, they write songs, they mutually assist and critique each others work in a helpful, loving way and it’s magical to see what happens on a daily basis.

Richard is a loving, caring person who, by his own efforts and fortitude, has created a platform where he can give the students, his very best in regards to guidance, ideas and processes.If you love music, talking about music, the process of making music, what music looks like in today’s world, interested in how music could be handled in schools or always wondered how a single person can make a huge change in our education system, these episodes split into Part 1 and Part 2, are for you!

Enjoy, share and spread the musical love.


Richard Maxwell’s Links:

Richard’s Website:

CMAS Program:







Podcast Music By: Andy Galore,

Album: “Out and About“, Song: “Chicken & Scotch” 2014

Andy’s Links:


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Part 1 – Richard Maxwell Interview:

Richard: Basically on a whim. A weird situation develops. And I get a phone call from the then band teacher of all things at Arcadia. This is the late 90s, I’m giving away my age a little bit, I suppose, but we didn’t know each other directly, but he had also gone to U of A at one point. And we’ve heard of each other and for a variety reasons, it just wasn’t happy in Tucson. And he says, “Hey, I have a situation, would you be interested in moving up to teach here at Arcadia? [Richard] “Sure!” [He says] “You want to know what the gig is?” [Richard] “Not really” So we’re three weeks into the school year at this point. So I come up and I spent a day with him at the school getting a sense for what it is and I walk away thinking, ok, this could be kind of cool. I want the orchestra too. Because that’s where my love was, so, I, I meet the principal, great guy, Jim Lee. And he hires me and in the conversation I said, “Look, I’m so excited for it,” it’s like a first real, it’s a big gig for me, it’s a huge thing. And it’s I’m going to, you know, bigger city, better music town, I’m thinking all these different things, but I tell him, like, “I know the orchestra teachers a couple years from retiring, I want writer first refusal.” And he’s, you know, whatever, but he, he agrees, thinking probably I’ll forget and I can remember a long interview process, with parents and everybody else. Basically what happens is, is after my first year, a couple of things happened that kind of get things a little weird. So I’m still trying to do my own thing in the world of regular music but I don’t know enough about the Phoenix music scene at the time I was trying to hold down this job, that is awesome but kind of beaten me up just because I’m new at it. So I make a whole bunch of changes, you know, he had a very, very big jazz program, which is awesome! I love jazz, but as a director, which I don’t like the word director, if it makes me feel like a traffic cop, if I can still want to Greg’s themes, but I didn’t that wasn’t where I wanted to be. So I morphed into more like wind ensembles and we ended some pretty heavy stuff. And there’s a bit of a love hate with it, but you can see like the level of musicianship. And I’m like everybody who’s gonna read notes, like we’re not playing games with this, lot of wrote stuff, a lot of, you know, play it based on your, you know, improvising skills, which is fine and you need to do that as well. But I had a certain level standards and I was still pretty, pretty much full of my own brilliance at that point. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves.

Joe: And this

Richard: And

Joe: Was just band at this point.

Richard: Was that

Joe: Was this just

Richard: This

Joe: Band

Richard: Is band

Joe: At

Richard: This

Joe: This

Richard: Is that

Joe: Point?

Richard: First

Joe: Ok.

Richard: Year.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: So the second year, two things happen. One is Jim, I guess, decides the principle that I must not have completely destroyed things. And he comes to me and says, “Look, we have this opportunity to expand your contract. We don’t have a choir teacher anymore. Can you take over the choir?” I very foolishly said

Joe: Well.

Richard: “Yes!” It was bad idea, it  was a bad idea for the kids. It was bad idea for I mean, it was just bad. It was. It was. It was. It was well-intentioned… if had that opportunity now, because I do a lot of stuff with a lot of vocalists now, now I could do it and do it comfortably and make that experience significant in a way for those kids that they would be glad, I think that they had it, not then! Oh, my gosh, not even not, I mean, like, literally, I want you to imagine the worst possible experience for those students and then be grateful if they would have had even half of that level of a caliber of experience. I mean, it was, it was, it was horrible. But the other thing he asks me to do is take over the guitar class slash club. Because

Joe: Interesting.

Richard: He knows that I gig a little bad and I do the singer-songwriter thing a little bit and the studio stuff a little bit, he knows I have these other interests, but he doesn’t really know to what extent. And you know, I’m not responsible basically anybody but myself in terms of my time at that point. I don’t have any real you know, why not? And it’s money and and it’s a gig and I like the school and I like the people there and I like the community and da a da a da. So “Sure, why not?” So I take on this whole thing and basically what happens is, things start to build and eventually you wind up with, you know, I have two full symphony orchestras, winds, strings, percussion, all in the same rehearsal hall every day, all year round. We’re still doing a marching band, while my version of marching band, which I have been justifiably criticized many times, I’m not a marching band guy, I’m a, I mean, I love the art of it. But I was I like, you know, one year we wrote our own show, the kids and you know, one year, you know, we were doing crazy, we were, it was just nuts, it was you know, they wanted to do rock shows the last two years. And I was kind of moving away from that because I you know, you just you know what you know and you know what you are

Joe: Yep,

Richard: Or what you’re not.

Joe: Yep.

Richard: So I was like, okay, we’ll do rock shows, but if we’re going to do rock shows, you don’t need a conductor, that’s where literally we’re wasting a ah resource, right? So, so we had a drum line, our drum line became our click track, screwed up everything in our scores because you didn’t get a caption award and you didn’t get points, they deducted points for not having a drum major.

Joe: WOW!

Richard: So it killed our scores. But musically, I think those kids benefited from that. Because that sense of internal clock and time and how you synchronize and what that does to intonation and every other musical element you can think of. I mean, all the things that you as a very seasoned studio player, let alone all your live work when you’re sitting there in the control room, listening to playback on that and you’re going, you know, because somebody can’t…you know,

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: I know, you know, but

Joe: Sometimes

Richard: But

Joe: It’s me,

Richard: well…

Joe: So I do know.

Richard: I doubt it. No, seriously. But my point is, is that, that, that was sort of where things started to change up a little bit. The guitar program is growing crazy. Some

Joe: Still

Richard: In

Joe: To

Richard: Some

Joe: This

Richard: Ways

Joe: Day,

Richard: Because it

Joe: Are then.

Richard: This is then

Joe: Then

Richard: This is

Joe: Ok.

Richard: Then. So we’ve got the orchestra building. We’ve got you know, there’s

Joe: A

Richard: Now there’s

Joe: Wind

Richard: Piano,

Joe: Dancer.

Richard: There’s, you know, everything’s building up and we’ve got songwriting I introduce because for me I’ve always been kind of a cool you play an instrument, what can you make with it. Well but it’s the clarinet. I don’t care, what can you make with it? You know, I don’t, it doesn’t matter to me. So guitar to me, you know, the first year or two was very much about just technique and then I got very much in to, I don’t, I don’t care about this technique. Let’s write songs, let’s make music. And it just so it seems kind of going and going, going and eventually it just, the circumstances are such, that there’s basically too much to do for one person or even two people. My oldest son, who came in a minute ago, was born without going too far, but he was born 10 weeks early. And he’s obviously, you saw he’s fine. But at the time and I’m like, I need a change. I’ve been at Arcadia at that point for nine years.

Joe: You

Richard: There

Joe: Basically

Richard: Is a point.

Joe: Have said yes to every single thing they’ve asked you to do.

Richard: Well,

Joe: Ok.

Richard: But I’ve also enjoyed the challenge. I mean

Joe: Right.

Richard: I mean, the truth is, is I enjoy the challenge. I’ll tell you, this is heading to something that you’re probably going to go either think, WOW!, that’s really cool or are you out of your mind or possibly both. But in any case, we, you know, there’s an opportunity, that our principal has changed, and we have Anne-Marie Woolsey, Dr. Woolsey is there. And I start talking about this idea. And the idea is why, I’m starting to really and maybe it’s just because of my own state of mind, but we’re doing all these things with, you know, we have what we call the songwriters and we have the more traditional ensembles, it’s not CMAS yet, but it’s in its early stages of existing. And I’m actually still, I have I have a couple of now what I would say close friends that are graduates from that time who are incredibly supportive people you might even talk to, you just like, like I’m like, so I’ll just, local guys like Thomas Brennaman and Alex Fry and Zach Tonkin and there’s a ton of them, there’s a ton, Ed Bakerman, Addie. She’s still gigging all the time all over the country, she’s brilliant. I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s a ton of these people, but

Joe: And

Richard: They’re

Joe: This

Richard: On one

Joe: Is late,

Richard: Side of.

Joe: This is late.

Richard: This is this is still within those nine years.

Joe: Right. So this would be since you started there.

Richard: This is like 08, 07, 08 kind

Joe: Right.

Richard: Of thing.

Joe: Right. OK.

Richard: And I am starting to get and it’s just kind of I think it’s a culmination of things. Most music teachers at a school are, you know, the average is less than five years, I’m at nine, which isn’t like good or bad, it just kind of is what it is. But I’m also really struggling. I realize now in retrospect with this dual musical experience, because you know, this is at a time where these devices are starting to come of age, streaming is starting to become a thing and on and on. And you, I just, other people have phrased it so much better than I have but just this idea that the kids, it’s done in their rehearsal and they explore all this music, but then as soon as the rehearsals over, they’re going home and what are they listening to? Everything but what they’re rehearsing.

Joe: Right.

Richard: And I understand the argument of well, but that’s why you need to have those ensembles and do, and I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. But fundamentally, there’s something missing, if you are, if you, if the real world has one opportunity and the educational world has one that is completely diametrically opposed to that. And we’re talking about something that ultimately comes down to a cultural element, a tell your story, if you will, element, which is what I think all art really comes down to. And that’s being effectively either ignored or dismissed or in many cases, I would say, mutated into something that basically makes somebody feel, makes a student feel like somehow their musical instincts are either, I don’t know, at best immature. But, you know, you talk about a terrible amount of disenfranchisement and disenfranchisement, you’re talking about a terrible amount of just not, they think, they feel like it’s not legit, like they’re not legitimate somehow, that’s their choice, you

Joe: Right.

Richard: Know, or we don’t do that here, kid, that kind of thing.

Joe: There’s a misalignment.

Richard: Yeah, and

Joe: It’s

Richard: It doesn’t

Joe: Just weird.

Richard: Mean anything if you walk the logic through, it doesn’t make any sense. And yet, it is still essentially perpetrated across the world and a lot of ways, and I just was like, got to do something, now I, you could argue I went too far to the extreme and I regret but, you know, for all the things we’ve accomplished and all the things that we’ve done and, you know, the program is basically now I said, okay, look, I’ve got all these songwriters, we’ve got this, this is what I’ve become kind of like an industry history class. We’ve got the guitar players. You know, we had the pianist. We’ve got, we, we have this contemporary thing happening anyway. So I went to the principal and I basically said, “Can I just walk away from the band and orchestra part?” It’s become, you know, “It’s just not me anymore the way we’d like it to be,” the politics with the parents and everything else is getting sick, I was just tired

Joe: Yes.

Richard: Of it. I don’t do well with it anyway. That’s why, I just, I’m just, I’m very confrontation adverse. It’s just, just naturally. And then you get into like high school band and orchestra parent land, with all due respect and it just wasn’t, it wasn’t gonna be, I wasn’t gonna last long without losing my mind. Plus again, Grayson, ten weeks early. So I held on for one more year and I remember very clearly that last concert we did, you know, the good, the farewell symphony, the Haydn at the, as the last piece. And I remember choreographing it and nobody knew about what I was doing, except for my very good friend, who’s still my good friend, the theater teacher who was running the lights for us in the on the stage and the head of the school security who’s still there, Jeri Eshelman. I told the two of them what I was gonna do, and that was it. Go through the whole concert, do the whole senior recognition thing, the whole thank you’s and all of it and then we do, traditionally, we would do one last song. We do the one last song which the farewell symphony, which I’m not sure if you’re familiar with, but literally the way Haydn wrote it was that as it’s ending, the players get up and leave the stage until eventually

Joe: Right.

Richard: Not

Joe: Right.

Richard: Even the conductor is there and it’s just I believe it’s just the single first violinist if I remember right. So we did that and I added one element. I walked off the stage and very quietly walked out the stage door to my car and went home.

Joe: Of course you did.

Richard: I just left. It’s kind of rude, I suppose.

Joe: It’s awesome!

Richard: But, but, but it is.

Joe: And you’re still there

Richard: Yes.

Joe: And you’re still employed by that school.

Richard: I am, I am, but doing something very different. And it has been, I mean, you know, we could have an entire series of podcasts on the politics of what has gone on.

Joe: Oh,

Richard: It has

Joe: I

Richard: Been.

Joe: Can

Richard: It’s

Joe: Only imagine.

Richard: It’s been. I used to get really angry about it. I still am frustrated by it at times. But now I’m more like, I don’t, I’m almost more entertained. Because there are too many people now that like yourself who are seasoned industry professionals or their education professionals, who see the concept of what what we’ve built there and very specifically say that concept is important and vital and necessary so that, you know, you get enough music education, professors and universities and like I said, actual, real in the industry, people saying this is what should happen. And all the arguments become a little bit silly after a while. So now

Joe: Yup.

Richard: I’m just kind of like, really? You want to line up, you know, your cynical view against of, forget me, you’re going to tell all these other people they’re wrong!?

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: WOW! Even in my most arrogant, I wasn’t going to do that. So it is what it is. But, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it has evolved a lot. I mean, you know, if you look at the setup and even now, I mean, obviously with the closure,

Joe: But

Richard: Things are different.

Joe: Wait,

Richard: But.

Joe: Before you get past this, so you, you, you state you said you were gonna do one more year.

Richard: This is the end of that year.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: So this is the end of that year. So I basically, you know, and, you know, I made several mistakes, big ones! One of them was, the then head of the district’s fine arts and I’ve talked to Anne Marie since about this and she agrees that she should never have agreed to this. Basically said, ok, we’ll support you doing this, but you have to stay away from your old program because you’re still going to be on campus and the new teacher needs the opportunity, because, because that kind of community of students is it’s a, it’s a very family kind of thing. Well, what happened is it became very confrontational between the two programs. My new program is the new “IT.” The new teacher is struggling for a lot of different reasons. Put in a situation that she cannot possibly succeed in. You know, imagine being a young teacher and they give you a class of band, a class of orchestra that they’ve separated now, you have a percussion ensemble, you have a piano class, I think she had a computer class, I mean, it was literally like we’re giving you all of the leftovers. It was

Joe: Yes.

Richard: It was a terrible gig. Nobody is going to do well in that situation under any circumstances, period. It’s just.

Joe: Right.

Richard: A nightmare scenario. But what winds up happening is it creates a lot of friction and a lot of confrontation. And I again, I am so committed to, we have to prove that this thing should exist because I like in my gut, I know it should but I don’t have proof of concept yet. There’s nobody doing it at a high school, the way I wanted to do it, you know, there was, there were programs that I had found it, then maybe, maybe this is more my inability at the time to search Google effectively. But, you know, you had people doing production. Absolutely! You had the technical side of it and you had people having like composition classes or songwriting classes, even rock band classes or whatever they call them. But I wasn’t finding anybody that was looking at it in a more homogenous way, in a more holistic way of it needs to all be, it’s all of it, you know. And so I was kind of starting from scratch. I took a lot of college curriculum. I talked to a lot of people that were in the industry and just kind of threw things against the wall to see what would stick. But in those early years, as I’m getting, you know, all these criticisms and destroying this, you know, you’re killing the orig…you know, the traditional program, all these things that are provably false and everything else. But that reputation did build for quite a while and I I was like constantly biting my tongue because, again, you know, if I could avoid the confrontation and put it off for

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: A little while, I’d rather do that bad habit. Don’t you know,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Kids don’t do that if you’re listening, don’t do that! But I know, so I just, I really I struggle with that a lot. But we kept building things and one of the things that I saw, a couple of things that I’ve discovered in all of this, which is that, kind of like what I was saying earlier about the shows we did even during the COVID closure, that are very imperfect. If you, if you were to sit down and look at those shows that we did just these last several weeks, you could be arguably disappointed in a lot of there’s, there’s glitches and sound and some other things like but this is not what, don’t you deal with audio and all this other stuff? But that wasn’t really the point. And so we would have we have shows and in some shows there’s people that are like, wow, you put that act onstage? Really? I’m like, yeah, is that kid now has been on stage and now we can move from there. Process has to matter more. I get in the professional world why it can’t on some level but at the same time, boy, I wish it could. I’m

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Sure you do too. And a

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Lot of ways just knowing you, you know, I mean, you don’t, you get duplication and you get repeats and you get even a certain level of perfection, but you don’t get real originality unless you’re willing to deal with process over product. I mean, you have to really embrace it. You know, Little Richard just died, as you know and it really, I mean, aside from I mean, is there anybody he did not influence in some way? I mean, literally, the man’s legacy is endless. The other thing that kind of is horrible to say, but we’re getting to a point where we are going to be out of truly original musicians, truly innovative people, there are very few people and I’m not even saying it’s an age thing, it’s just who’s out there doing things that you go, WOW!, I’ve never heard that before in that context. And they’re just, you know, there’s a lot people perfecting it. There’s a lot of people doing incredibly viable things and wonderful things musically. But to truly be innovative like that. But anyway, I’m so sorry I get

Joe: No

Richard: On tangents. I’m

Joe: Better.

Richard: So sorry

Joe: It’s okay.

Richard: He I’m so, so, so this idea of, you know, process becomes really, really important and we’re building it. And then. And what I was gonna say is, is that.

Joe: But at this point, I’m trying to just make sure that both the viewers and listeners and I’m clear, though, that that you have this woman who is now responsible for these various things like band and orchestra and whatever else she was given that you have now been given the license, you know, the stamp of approval by the principal or

Richard: And the district.

Joe: The

Richard: Yeah,

Joe: District

Richard: Yeah.

Joe: To create this program that involves what at that time?

Richard: Ok. So I you know, I’m sorry. Thank you for pulling back. So there actually is another player, analyst named Mitch Simmons, who needs to be mentioned. He is the director of the district’s what’s called Career and Technical Education Department at the time. And Mitch is brilliant and wonderful and will self-described himself as not having a musical bone in his body. But when I made this absurd proposal to him and I gave him like a 20 page document, like I had a curriculum and I had standards that I had adapted and which later wound up becoming basically the first draft that the state used and is still using for a lot of, a lot of things. Thankfully, they’ve had other people come in and perfect them and not just be stuck with my mediocrity, but. But Mitch, Mitch looked at and he goes, we so need this, this is the bridge, we’ve been looking for the bridge. Arts and here’s the thing, everybody looks at career technical education, they get so hung up on the t the technology part. That’s, in my view, as I get a lot, I get on a lot trouble with actually CTE people. I get, I get in trouble with the arts people for one thing and then I get in trouble for CTE people with the other. The “T” is, is completely to me, is nearly, it needs to be like lower case and in the smallest font possible. It’s the “C” it’s the career part.

Joe: Right.

Richard: Where’s the job? Mitch saw it even better, like I understood, like it was my idea. But he saw other things in it and he’s like “You”, he’s like, “Oh, my gosh, we can get, kids could get jobs in these industries.” I’m like, “Yeah, we could!” And he gave me, I was, it was a perfect storm. He gave me the flexibility to just screw it up and rework it and reiterate it and retry and my principal did the same thing. And coming back to these shows that we had done, I told you I knew I would loop around back to my tangent. One

Joe: And

Richard: Of the

Joe: This

Richard: Things

Joe: Is still

Richard: That I.

Joe: 2009.

Richard: We’re

Joe: Is

Richard: Still

Joe: This

Richard: In 2009,

Joe: Ok?

Richard: But

Joe: Ok.

Richard: It relates to something that just happened in the last few weeks. When you have students go through a process where we start with essentially nothing and they go through a self derived process or a self adapted process at the very least and then at the end there’s a thing. I don’t care what that thing is, that is powerful and wonderful and awesome and so that when you have like we would have shows, we still sometimes have shows that are just like, oh, you got to be kidding me. Because underneath that, there’s also the, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Like, I mean, it works in both directions because it’s derived and, and one of the things that I’ve learned is, teachers and educators who live exclusively and vicariously through their students are doomed to get burned out, frustrated and every other negative you can possibly think of. And I, I am committed to that completely. I don’t think you can be competitive and creative at the same time. I believe that is like one of my very big mantras. I think that, you have to be your own creative, like I have struggled a lot, like, like thank God for therapy a lot, with not feeling like I’ve been able to do my own creative stuff. And I’ve sort of over the last year and it’s been a struggle, it’s made this year very weird and very difficult in some ways to say, like wait, I need to find a way to have my own creative outlet because it’s not healthy. Like, it just isn’t healthy. And whether that creative outlet is me throwing a video up on YouTube or a song up on SoundCloud that four people listened to or four million people listened to is kind of not really the issue. But that, we go from nothing through the process that a thing exists. It’s all, it all ties together in this weird Zen ying yang thing. But as we grow, you know, we start doing all kinds of live events. We are, you know, we start very cobbled together. The early parts of the program in the early versions of the program, I didn’t let the kids record anything in the first year. It was all learn an instrument. Keeps

Joe: Did you even

Richard: Them.

Joe: Have the equipment

Richard: Oh, yeah.

Joe: That early?

Richard: I mean, it was it wasn’t what we have now. Don’t

Joe: No.

Richard: Get me

Joe: But

Richard: Wrong.

Joe: But you went

Richard: Yeah.

Joe: In there and you said, I need this, this, this, this and this to make this happen.

Richard: So we started they got me a bunch of iMacs and we got some interfaces and we got Pro Tools early on because I know we’re gonna do it for real and I was very committed to the legitimacy. Overcommitted, possibly, that I allowed other things to suffer. That battle that I know, the politics of things that I allowed myself to fall into the traps of these circular logic arguments that now I would never allow myself to do but, you know.

Joe: Guy.

Richard: Past is behind us and what’s been has been, you know, that is what it is, but. But we just kept evolving and it’s still evolves and, you know, we’ve we’ve, we’ve gone so far, as you know, there were years, the marching band kind of fell into a state of disarray and almost non-existence for several years. We started playing all of the home games, kind of like mini Super Bowls. Literally wheeling stages out and putting together shows for that. We still do them once a year. The marching band is back and is now for the last several years, like wins every award on the planet, literally. And God love them for it. It’s amazing! Not my, you know, but that wasn’t me. And that needs to be ok. I have some people that are still mad at me about that too, but whatever I don’t, you know. But we, you know, we can go into studios, we go into every couple of years now we’ve been going to Blackbird Studios in Nashville this is like, in Nashville. This is a multi-million dollar facility. The last time we were there in February, just before all the closure happened, we were, I mean this is how far the things have evolved, this is possibly the greatest, I’ve gotten a lot of big compliments and they all mean a lot to me. We befriended Steve Marcantonio because he’s the uncle of one of my former students. I don’t know if you know, forgive the namedrop but Steve, I mean, like he got his start on John Lennon’s last album. What, I mean, so you mean he’s, the man knows his stuff! He’s a genius and the nicest guy in the world. Like, like unbelievably giving of his time. He has come in and produced our sessions at or engineered our sessions at Blackbird and supervised them while we’re there. So we’re like one of the greatest recording spaces on the planet with one of the most gifted engineers to ever live and it’s a bunch of high school students and me.

Joe: That’s amazing.

Richard: Yeah. Life,

Joe: How many

Richard: Eight life.

Joe: How many go to that trip?

Richard: We took like 25 or so, this time 30.

Joe: And how do you how do they get chosen?

Richard: They just decide they want to go.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: We make it through tax credit. I have, I’m not going to do the cookie dough thing. I’m just not going to. You know,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Hey, I just I can’t do it, but and it’s expensive and it sucks and we try to scholarship where we can,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: You know, we don’t take nearly as many. But, but it’s an opportunity. We do other things, we go to the conservatory recording arts and sciences. I’m looking at doing more. There’s a lot of great stuff here in Phoenix for that opportunity

Joe: Right.

Richard: Or similar opportunities. But there is something cool about it, I mean, Nashville is Nashville. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s just it’s a great if

Joe: Get.

Richard: I could move anywhere and know I could still make a living,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: I’d totally I’d totally being Nashville. I

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Just. What a great place! But what you say is, is that this is this, this, this is unbelievable to me. So Steve walks in and he’s giving the students an orientation and he’s talking about all this gear and he gets about two minutes into it and then he looks at me and then he looks at them and he literally goes, “What? I’m wasting our time, your kids already know all this!” Because he’s like talking

Joe: Nice.

Richard: About how, like the studios are set up and everything else. Ok, so that’s not even the biggest compliment. We start getting everything set up and the boards placed and you know, Blackbird’s provided interns and these are very highly skilled professionals and we’ve got Steve, ok? I have a couple of my more experienced students, one in particular who’s she’s like, I don’t even think she’s five feet tall, she’s a graduating senior. She’s just really quiet, sweet little girl, Emma. And she’s up at the board and he just walks away. Like, not like I’m quitting, he walks away and he leans over to me and goes, “You don’t need me.”

Joe: What’s so funny?

Richard: He goes, “She’s got this!”, he’s like, “I’m going to just sit here and listen and I’ll give some suggestions.” And literally, that’s how we spent an entire day recording, I don’t know, 9 or 10 tracks or whatever it was of the students, some of them are great, some of them not so much, it doesn’t really matter. But, you know, he, and it wasn’t because he was lazy. Steve is like the least, you know, like between the two of you, it would be a really tough pick of who works harder. I mean, he wasn’t just walking away because he didn’t feel like helping, he was just like I’m going to give them the chance at this and this is a like it’s like an 18, 20 million dollar place. This was not like, you know, these weren’t inexpensive facilities with inexpensive gear. This was, you know, potentially massive, you know, liability and he’s like “They have, they have this, just just do what you’re doing.”

Joe: And I assume Emma is running a Pro Tools session?

Richard: Oh, yeah, yeah,

Joe: Right!

Richard: A but, but mostly running the board, you know, on the side. I think it was an API.

Joe: Ok,

Richard: Something worth like more than my house, like

Joe: Sure.

Richard: 10 times over

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: In a room, you know, I think at one point Queen had recorded in the same room. I mean, this is not you know,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: And who knows who else. I mean, this is unbelievable! I mean,

Joe: Right.

Richard: It was, but that to me, that was one of those moments where I was like, ok, the ups and downs of everything that may have gone on, clearly, again, at least as terms in terms of the concept, wWe’re doing ok. You know,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: If Steve Steve Marcantonio feels like he can let my students run a session on that equipment…ok

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: I’m going to take that for the win. I just

Joe: Sure.

Richard: I just don’t think

Joe: So the program

Richard: I.

Joe: At this point still in 2009 involves what different aspects? And how do kids get into it or not be in it?

Richard: Ok, so I and I still, as much as I can have a, if you like anything at all about music in any capacity, I want you in here.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: If you’re hard to work with, this is probably not going to go well. If you’re, if you’re lazy, that’s going to be ok, as long as you’re not blaming me for your laziness. If you own up to it, we’ll find a way to make it work. I know that there’s a lot of people will say, you know what? “You got to drive the kids, you got to drive the kids.” And you know what? That’s probably true. I just can’t do it because my brain keeps going back to like I get, I get, I get hung up on the I, “You don’t want to pick up that instrument and play it!?” I don’t, what? what? “Why would you not want to pick up that instrument and play it!?” It literally, doesn’t, I can’t, I can’t sort it, I wish I could, I know that maybe that’s a cop out. But basically, at this point, everybody comes in and it’s a year of intense, got to play instruments, got to play instruments, got to play instruments. There’s a lot of benefits to that. But I start running into a philosophical problem, which maybe I needed to get over myself. But, you know, at the time, the original name of the program was not Creative Musical Arts and Sciences, it was Contemporary Music and Sound. The word contemporary has a lot of baggage, I soon found out. And I also felt like it wasn’t really accurate. I wanted the word creative.

Joe: Super important.

Richard: It needed, it just needed to be there. So there you have the name change. And what, what starts to happen over the preceding years and you know, we get better at producing more material. We are proving ourselves more and more so we can get a hold of more equipment and things of that nature. And all the while, in the back of my head, is this creative name thing happens. You start referring to like what I wanted to be, which is a truly open, creative platform. And so what happens is I start to look at that first year and I go, well, wait a minute, I’m setting up roadblocks for these kids, well-intentioned roadblocks. And I think from a pedagogy standpoint, the idea of you have to rock or a rock…you to walk before you can run. I get it! I understand it! You know, you got to start with, you know, plan like, you know, your 50’s kind of surf beats before you’re gonna go play Tom Sawyer kind of stuff or whatever, you know, you’re not you know, you’re not playing a Purdie shuffle right out of the gate. You know, it’s I mean, there’s you know, and I understand that. But, and maybe this is a, a nod to the reality of the world that students currently live in and maybe maybe it’s wrong of me to to say, well, it’s ok but there is a, if you’re going to be truly open and creative, then you need to be open and creative.

Richard: And I started to develop this process where I would look at the program and anything we would want to do or anything the kid would propose and I would say, “Does this move their process forward or not?” And I started to look at the first year and that massive intensity on learning to play an instrument. And I looked at the well, ok, it could be argued that the long term benefits outweigh the short term frustrations but I’m loosing kids. And I’m also, I realize the thing that made me stop having just a year long exploration, if you will, of how to play an instrument, was I realized that the very thing that I was railing against in the traditional music world that, you know, you got to stop telling kids that just because they want to, like the turntables thing, is somehow illegitimate musically. I realize that in my own way I was doing that. And there are so many graduates now that I have been so tempted to try to find on social media and be like, hey, you probably don’t remember me, that jerk music teacher you had for a year or two in high school but I wanted to tell you, I was wrong about this part of the approach. And I’m constantly looking like, to me, this is cathartic, like I will confess that in a heartbeat. Whereas other people what are you doing? What do you know? But I’m I can’t, I can’t, I have a hard…

Richard: I look at the program right now. I look at the program in terms of this closure and I even thought, we were doing a workshop yesterday with a bunch of students on some stuff and we got on the topic of it and just their frustrations and the whole thing and I said, honestly, I’m not looking for false compliments here, I said “I would give myself a C plus for how I’ve executed things as the instructor, as the facilitator.” And I’m pretty good at this stuff, I actually have been consulting for years with other people on how to move their game forward and you know, weird situations or whatever. And I’d only give myself a C plus. And, you know, that’s really made me think. But in any case, it all comes back to this open creative platform idea. And so what I realized is that when I tell a kid, look, you’re going to spend a year really getting good at guitar so that in year two we can start writing and recording. What I’ve actually said to them is your ideas aren’t worthy yet. And the more I thought about it, the more I got really upset with myself. And I just basically decided that whatever happens, happens but I’m not going to do that anymore. And if a kid comes in and all they can do is grab a single drumstick and whack a snare drum in time with their friend. Go back to that Marcus Mumford kick drum idea

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: A little

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Bit, if that’s all they can do? We’re going to legitimize that because and here’s what I found. It’s like a slingshot a little bit. Yeah, they seem like they’re almost moving backwards in their musical skill set because you’re not pushing that but what seems to happen is when you legitimize it a couple of things happened, including they get self-motivated. Because that kid that starts just on that snare drum hitting out time, if they stick with that in the context of I’m making music with my friend, they will get it in time, and then once that’s in time, they’re going to go, “What happens if I pick up another drumstick and now I’ve got one in each hand?” And now we have, you know, doubled the rhythmic possibilities. But they’re looking at it through the perspective of what can I do with it musically, not all about technique. Technique can’t be the “T” for technique can’t be important, just like the “T” for technology can’t be important. It just can’t! The creativity, the career, the career part has to be the over shouting or over overarching thing and it has to be overshadowing everything else on, as far as I’m concerned, a multi expo, an exponential level. It just has to be! So I’ve continued to move into that. So now the technique is covered differently. I have what I call the, I just, I call it the GAC should be the GEC. It’s G, E minor and C and the premise is you’re going to learn G, E minor and C or you’re going to learn how to keep a very basic beat to somebody else who’s learning G, E, minor and C and we’re going to have you make a piece of music with those three really basic chords that are all white keys on a piano, that you can play with one finger on a couple of strings on a uke or a bass or a guitar, or you’re gonna you know, you’re gonna sing unison tones if you’re a vocalist or match it with that clarinet or I don’t care, it’s not about that. It’s about seeing the musical connections with somebody else. You are going to collab, that’s the other thing, the collaboration part. I can keep bringing on all these “C” words, but it really. They’ll become, the self motivation will make up for it. The other thing, too, is, you know, if I want to play Beethoven, I need a certain amount of technique or I’m not getting Beethoven, I acknowledge that, that’s important. There is an art to that, that cannot be overstated. But I don’t require Beethoven to express myself. And I think a lot of people get confused about that. And I think a lot of people don’t understand the importance of it. I think. well, heck, Beethoven himself changed things so radically because he himself believed that he should express himself the way he felt he should express. I mean, I mean like literally by ironically moving away from Beethoven, where if we do it, I think in this context, we’re actually paying an odd sort of homage to him

Joe: All right. What he believed

Richard: Philosophically

Joe: In.

Richard: in terms of music. And it’s just evolved from there. I would rather see a kid get up and play something that’s theirs, that is imperfect. But that is them. Then have a kid get up there and feel like, well, it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to because that’s not what the recording sounded like. Who cares? That’s not what it’s for. I found over the course, you know, as it’s as this is as grown. It was interesting over that, we’re finished out. The school year ends next week. But I’ve been having weekly scheduled workshops that I have kids come into when they can. I should have probably and this is part of my C plus or C minus that I’d give myself. I made them essentially optional as long as they kept up with the asynchronous assignments and stuff. But what I found happened was, is a lot of kids are showing up to these things, just for the sense of showing up to something. You know, we’re having conversations that are

Joe: To

Richard: Rooted

Joe: See their

Richard: In

Joe: Friends

Richard: Music.

Joe: And.

Richard: Yeah, but, but, but, but that’s, that’s OK. Like, like that’s turning into good things. Or I’ll go out and frequently what happens is we’ll have our session, we’ll be talking, we’ll come to the end of it, I’ll have to go on to something else with another group or whatever and they’ll be saying, “Hey, can you hit me up real quick? You know, open up another Zoom?” Or they’ll do it on Dischord or whatever and, you know, let’s play around some ideas or stuff. So it’s, they’re still making connections and if they use the workshops for that, do I really have to care that they didn’t present the project, you know, in the same circumstance? They submitted the project, will take a look at it or we’ll do it in a different workshop. It’s ok. I think things like that have to matter more. What I was gonna say and I know, oh, my gosh, I’m gonna hit your two and a half hour mark. I’m so sorry!

Joe: So

Richard: I mean, I’m, I’m embarrassed.

Joe: It’s okay…No not at all

Richard: I do have to, but I do have to share one other part of the program that has evolved since just last year. And I’m glad you’re sitting down for this, because when I describe it to you, it’s almost comically funny, but I mean to preface it by telling you that I am now so committed to this because I see the open creative platform element, in such a different way now, that I am, I’m well into my career as an educator. I’m not that old, but I’m old enough. This has given me so much of an interest in what could the next phase of this CMAS program be that I can’t even begin to tell you. I would love to bring back the more traditional ensembles. I know, I actually have derived a plan. I know it would work. Politics won’t let me do that.  Someday I still have hope but this is different. Out of the blue last spring, I get asked and I still don’t fully understand why I got asked. I got asked to, of all things, pilot, no, not pilot. I got us the first started with teach at Arcadia, an engineering design class. Why are you giving me an engineering design class? Well, because you’re technically qualified because of the CTE, the way the rules are written for CTE. And you like having the extra contract and this way you can keep the extra contract, because every I look at everything through the lens of my two little boys. That I will literally do I will braid your hair, Joe, for a six fig, for an extra contract.

Richard: That’s literally where my, that’s I mean, I will totally do it. So but so I’m like, ok, sure, why? why not. Right? And I’m, I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but to put it nicely, I’m promised a whole lot of resources and none of them, none of them come through. On a whim, I threw a thing like, the one thing that they said they were setting up for me, the people organizing were like, “Yeah, you don’t have the engineering background to come to this conference for us to work with you, really sorry.” The woman who was basically organizing it for this conference, not in my district, not at my school, actually still have yet to meet her. I would like to meet her. Jill was really kind. She’s like, but I know of this other thing going on. I’m going to call you back in half an hour. She calls me back with these phone numbers. I went up on the phone with these people that are going to pilot for this previous school year, for the first time, they have a multi-million dollar grant through the National Science Foundation to revamp the entire concept of engineering in schools.

Richard: It’s headed up by and now I am flexing on their behalf. ASU, which is one of the large…I think it’s the largest engineering school in the world, believe it or not, Vanderbilt, University of Maryland, Virginia Tech and I forget the fifth major university that is supervising this. And they, because the woman, Jill, from this other thing, this small little training session that they won’t let me go to because I don’t have the degree in engineering. Got all this experience in audio engineering but none of that, and that’s fine. They are all excited and I think they may all be drunk. I don’t know what’s going on. So literally, they’re like, no, no, no, no, we, I’m like, I’m like, what are you talking about? They’re like, okay, here’s your, [Them]”Can you come to Maryland for a week over the summer?” [Richard] “I guess” [Then] “We’ll pay for it, don’t worry, we’ll pay for everything. Just can you come to the University of Maryland, we’re gonna do a training session.” [Richard] “Yeah, OK.” [Them] “It starts Sunday.” This is like a Tuesday. They’re like [Them] “If you can get on a plane, we want you here for a week to do this thing. We just got to make sure we, we just got dot some “i’s” and cross some “t’s” or whatever.

Richard: So we get to Friday night and I get this call from, you know, one of their head lead, lead investigators on this whole thing and he goes, [Them]”Ok, yeah, yeah, we need you here!” I’m like, [Richard] “Are you sure? [Them] “No, no, no, we’ve been looking at your website and we’ve been looking at you, you’re the perfect person for this!” And I’m like [Richard] “I’m a musician, maybe, I sure as hell I’m not an engineer, and they’re like, [Them] “No, you don’t understand.” OK, they’re like [Them] “Just come to Maryland.” So I literally, I booked a flight on a Friday, I get on a plane Sunday morning and Sunday night I’m at a dinner where I am so not the smartest person in the room, it’s not even funny, Joe. I mean, it’s, and by the end of dinner, I realized what they’re trying to do and what they’ve basically decide, what they’ve basically come up with and they’ve done all this research prior to it over the last several years, that the concept of what people think engineering is, is completely off. I say the word engineering not to be funny and flip the script here a little bit on you, what are the first three words when I say engineering that you think of?

Joe: Well, I always think when you and I are talking and you say engineering, I’m thinking just sound engineering. That’s like so when you keep, you keep talk, you keep talking about engineering, I’m like, what does he know about engineer, like

Richard: Ok,

Joe: Sound engineering?

Richard: Ok,

Joe: But

Richard: So remove

Joe: There’s electrical

Richard: The sound.

Joe: Engineering, there’s, I don’t know, mechanical engineer, I don’t know. There’s whatever.

Richard: Right. But are you going to minus the sound engineering part, you’re not going to time much of any of that to music in any fashion right? And the thing of it is, where they did all this research is that apparently most people don’t tie it to creativity either. And they don’t tie it to solving problems for people. And they don’t tie it to something that I’ve latched on to that, there’s a story behind every single thing that has to get designed or built or created or engineered, because otherwise, how would you come up with the need? And some of these stories are incredibly impactful. So their whole premise is that they wanted to pilot this year, there were nine of us across the country, most of them on the East Coast and the Midwest. I was the only, one part of the reason they got excited, I think was also because I was from Arizona and Arizona didn’t have anybody in it. And the University of Arizona was one of the biggest contributors to this whole thing excuse me, not University of Arizona, Arizona state. But in any case, but what started to happen, we start having these conversations. And by the end of dinner, we are talking about what they call the engineering design process and what I have for years been calling and have gotten, I guess you could say, known for of the creative process. And what we start to realize are, well, they’re, they’re kind of like halfway laughing at me, halfway laughing with me because they understood this already. This is why they got so excited for me, I know and they’ve told me this since. Because when you take the two processes, engineering, design and creative process and you put them next to each other when you keep the definitions the same, but change the jargon on a few terms, they’re not just similar, they’re actually identical in a really freaky way. So all of a sudden, last fall, I’m in the summer and fall, I’m like, oh my gosh! Well, now and you have to remember all these years of building this thing, then that whole epiphany about open creative platform and what that needs to mean. And now I just feel like I’m on a mission with this. So I go through this whole year and it’s, it’s very much kind of an engineering design process, although interestingly, I’m still getting and I still am every year getting the music education interns from ASU, nearly every music I get, I don’t know I don’t get every one of their music education majors, but I get almost all of them. At some point they spend a semester with me, for better or worse. They’re coming in and they’re watching this class, too and it’s getting really interesting to see. And we’re talking about parallels and process and parallels and possibilities everything else. And as we’re going through this and I’m having meetings with these engineering folks from all over the country and we’re talking about all the connections. And I’m like, I have an idea for year two. And I’m like, so I’ve built this industry based music program that has proven itself, I’m not saying we’ve got it perfected, but you know, I have a, I do at least have a reasonable track record for flying a plane while it’s being built.

Richard: And for upping the possibilities of where we can push things in terms of opportunities for kids. And I’ve been successful,I mean, it’s not like, you know, I think that, you know, on balance, the risk of sounding a little egotistical, it’s not unreasonable to say at least “Give me a shot to explore the idea.” Right? So I started looking some like I’m looking at the standards for this new program I’ve been piloting for a year and looking at the state education standards. I’m looking at my music standards and my own program standards. And I’m going, oh, my gosh, we could take all of this stuff, you know, speaking of mixers, could have a kid build a mixer. Why not? They’re going to have to, I mean, there’s electrical engineering in that, we’re getting into mechanical engineering because of what a mixture does in terms of its functions, in terms of controlling the sound of space in a room. There’s all kinds of engineering already that and I was starring in little projects throughout the year. You know, had them designing windows. We’d need a window between our control room and our life studio space. These are the champagne first world problems that we have in CMAS. But I had the engineering students designing how that would look. We were talking, you know, the lighting on the soundstage and how can we build a different mechanism, door thresholds. I mean, we were already starting to do some of these stuff, at least as concepts and on all these different things. And I’m like, there’s so many things. So I called the head of the State

Joe: Wait,

Richard: Department.

Joe: Wait. Please

Richard: I’m sorry.

Joe: Tell me please tell me you’re addressing the the buzz that can potentially come through the console from the lights

Richard: Oh, absolutely. No,

Joe: And

Richard: We’re talking about the electrical

Joe: Please,

Richard: Interference.

Joe: Please tell me you’re you’re talking about the the awful sound of the air conditioner when it comes on while you’re in the middle of

Richard: Absolutely,

Joe: All those all those

Richard: All

Joe: Things

Richard: Those

Joe: We

Richard: Different

Joe: Struggle.

Richard: Things.

Joe: That’s right.

Richard: You know, right now above my head, there’s a fan because we live in Arizona and this is a house that I’ve been very lucky enough to be not to convert to a nice home studio, but it’s still a house not built as a studio from scratch, you know. And we’re talking about things of that nature, you know, how do you deal with isolation when you don’t have isolation? I mean, you name it, we’re, we’re dealing with all this kinds and it’s endless and this is my point. So I’m, I’m, I’m, I have this idea my, my district, God love them, doesn’t quite see it. But the people who run the pilot with the National Science Foundation, they’re looking at, they’re going, “You’re basically just talking about changing up the projects, not really changing up the standards of the curriculum goals.” And I’m like, “Exactly!” Because it’s the same thing, the prob…I mean, it’s just the same thing. So I call the state, the head of the State Dept. of Ed, who I get along with to be fair. And I’m just like, “I just want to run this by you so that if anybody comes back and says you can’t or shouldn’t.” And she hears that and she’s like, “That’s just I said, I already wanted to take your classes and now I now, I think I’m going to like, I’m going to come take your class!” Like she’s all over it, but she’s giving me ideas. So now, just to give you a sense of where this is headed, she goes, “OK, what about this?” I looked like she was even worse than I was. She’s like, “What if you had the kids simulate like they’re touring, like they’re, they’re a production company for a tour and they have to get the band from, let’s say, LaGuardia

Joe: That’s awesome.

Richard: Airport

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Over to London and they got a design like, how are they going to put the gear on the plane? And they’ve got to calculate now, like, how much tonnage can they actually take and what are they gonna have to buy or rent over there versus what can they take it? How are they gonna get all these other things calculating like the air velocity and how long it will? Well, I’m like, we are so open like that, I mean, like the creative options are there, the industry options are there. And if you had told look, if you had told me years ago that, first of all, I’d be making, you know, my day job would be an education and I would enjoy that, I would think you were nuts! If you told me that I would be developing a pilot for an engineering program that somehow tied in the music industry legitimately and I’m not just like phoning it in and I’m like passionately committed to it. I would have had you locked up somewhere for being certifiable. But, but, you know, back to the original thing and I know that sounds funny, but this all still comes back to those key concepts to me, and that’s why I’m excited about it. To me, what is the, what does the art need? Well, the art needs engineers. The art needs musicians. The art needs producers. The art needs…and I’m not just talking about sound engineers. They are important too. The art needs marketing. We’ve actually had and you’ve mentioned we’ve brought in a marketing track a little bit into, you know, what we do with the program. Anything that’s industry based, the career part, you know, if it’s career based, if it’s creative, if it’s collaborative. We should be able to do it, and if we can’t, what I have learned is that’s not because we can’t do it, it’s because we haven’t figured out how to do it yet. And so I’m really big on any silos or any walls that block creative process. I’m knocking them down, you know, and I’m going to try piss off some people doing it. This engineering thing, there are some people that aren’t thrilled about it and I’m gonna have to work through that at some point with them, just like there are people who aren’t happy that the program exists. You know, on the music education side of it.

Joe: That, to me, is just, blows my mind because and

Richard: Because

Joe: I

Richard: Your career,

Joe: Don’t get it.

Richard: But that’s because you’re career oriented. To you, you love the art but you also know what’s necessary to pay the bills.

Joe: Yeah, but it’s just, it’s a tool set that is invaluable because you’re, you’re going to run into situations where you’re gonna be like, I’m so glad I was a part of that, because I can take even that one little piece of it and it’s going to help me get through this moment. I mean, to be able to be a musician but at the same time, understand the process of recording, of acoustics, of, you know, so many other things. It’s, I don’t know. I’m blown away to even hear that. But that’s.

Richard: I, I, I hate to say it, but it’s true. I mean. But like I said, part of me now looks at that and thinks it’s just kind of funny almost. And not to, I don’t I’m not wish, I’d like, I don’t want the confrontation. But I mean, like the people that are going to say no to this, are going to go on record and saying those five major engineering institutions. You know, the National Science Foundation is wrong,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: That that’s not a real engineer. The state, the Department of Ed for the state, which is funny enough, almost like the smallest bat to swing in all of this, and that’s a huge bat to swing. So I’m just kind of like, I’m just going to keep moving forward. It’s good for the kids, the good you know, my site administration think they’ve, they don’t get it, but they like it and they’re kind of like, we’re just going to stay out of your way. I’m not really worried, you know. I mean, it’ll be what it’ll be. If I’m wrong, I’ll go find some, I mean, I guess I’d go find somewhere else, but I just don’t I know I’m not wrong, I hate to say it that way. That’s such a horribly arrogant thing to say after I talk all of that about not being arrogant. But these people have convinced me people like you have convinced me, you know, like I said, the industry part of it. Why? You know, of course, we all want to be A Listers with valets and somebody plugs in all our gear for us and everything else. But at the same time, the best musicians know how their gear works.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: They just do. And to some extent, want to go and make sure it’s, like even if they have somebody who plugs it in for them, can you honestly tell me? Look, I know you’ve had gigs where some but, you know, you’ve got a drum tech or whatever. You don’t go and check that kit before before you perform on it? Just

Joe: Yeah, it just

Richard: I mean, it’s

Joe: It’s part of your being. Yeah.

Richard: Exactly

Joe: Yes. Yeah.

Richard: It’s absurd not to. So I think all of that put together. This is fascinating to me.

Joe: And you’ve already proven the concept. So you would think that, I guess that would be the most frustrating part for me is that you’ve already proof of concept been done. It’s how many years is the program now been in running.

Richard: It’s officially 12, I guess.

Joe: Because of the CMAS program is 12 years, is it, is it, you’re in the program from what? What year of high school. To.

Richard: So well, and this is becoming an issue, too, it’s always been open from freshmen through senior.

Joe: Ok. And is it you’re either in it or you’re not? Or is there tracks that you can say, I’m interested in the sound recording track. But I’m not

Richard: Ok,

Joe: Interested

Richard: So,

Joe: In the songwriting

Richard: Yeah.

Joe: Tracks.

Richard: As he was saying, so I’m going to take the this new engineering, in the traditional word of the word engineering, I’m going to set that aside, because that’s where that’s going to take some years to develop.

Richard: So I’m going

Joe: Right.

Richard: To set that aside. But as far as the rest goes. Basically, it’s what’s your interest? I want to be in it, I want to I want to do sound engineering. I want to be a producer. I want to be on the stage as the performer. I want to be a beat maker. You name it and again, I, I, I want to promote the shows. I want to make the music videos, whatever. OK. Everybody’s gonna go, there’s like some core things, I need everybody to understand the basics of how this microphone works that I’m talking. I need the basics of why your headphones need to go into an interface and what that interface does. I need you to understand the stuff on the walls here, why it does what it does and why it’s actually not gonna soundproof the roomm, it’s only treating the room. I mean, and on and on and on all of this. But we’re not going to go into the weeds on all of that. I need you functional, I also need you to use the word appreciative. If you’re a performer and don’t have a true appreciation for the work going on behind the scenes, you don’t deserve to be on that stage.

Joe: Absolutely!

Richard: Period. I the diva complex. Good for you. There’s too many other people that are just as talented, there are, and they’re gonna be easier to work with, see, even even in my small little pond of Phoenix, Arizona. And I’m sure you know this, too, with what do you do with your business? You know, there’s always there’s always plenty of acts. They’re just, they’re just is. And it goes both ways, too. If you can’t experience, if you’re, if you are a sound, let’s say your a live sound person. If you’ve never gone up on stage ever and you don’t have a sense of what that performer’s dealing with, you’re not going to be able to do the job. That doesn’t he have to be a great performer. Doesn’t he have to do it a hundred times. And it doesn’t even mean you have to do it in a big public event. Maybe you just do it in class, amongst your friends, but you need the perspective. So the question, I apologize then give you way too long an answer is, everybody kind of starts with…on day one, I ask them, what are they interested in? And then I sort of tie that that that basic package, if you will, to what their goal is. But the honest truth is, is that as much as they’re allowed to pursue, Ok, I want to go into this, this lane mostly for producer or I want to go on this lane mostly for artists or whatever marketing or whatever happens to be.

Richard: There’s so much crossover and more times often than not, students want to do more, they’ll wind up doing more than one, you kind of have to nowadays. It’s almost impossible for an artist not to be self producing on some level, just the nature of how recordings are made, the nature of how life performances happen. It’s almost impossible for a producer not to be lending direct musical ideas to a project in some way. You know and there’s there’s tons of other examples. So my, my view is, is I need you functional. And then you pursue, you know. I ask myself, does this help or hinder their creative process and everything they’re doing? I asked them. Does the thing you want to do move your process forward? Yes or no? If it does, why should I be judging which part of your process it’s moving forward? Well, last week it was this helped me as a producer and this week this helps the project overall, but it’s more on the writer’s side. Ok. Why is that a problem? We make, this is where the problem, I think, for people comes talking about why they would be opposed to what, what we do. We like silos. We like walls. We like the, the things. Why? I’m just, I just got to a point where I don’t, I don’t, I do, I do it myself occasionally and when it happens, I’m like, “Oh, I can’t believe I allowed myself to.” But there it is.

Joe: And each year there’s a different level, right. So there that when

Richard: Yeah, there’s there’s

Joe: It’s.

Richard: There’s technically three levels, but they can repeat the third one for a fourth year if they want. But it’s, you know, the levels to some extent, are a way to to check a box off in terms of the papers that needs to be filled out and the and the, you know, we have to have certain things in a certain alignment from a curriculum standpoint. But the truth is, is that it’s you know, it’s about refining your process. And so the kid that comes in as a freshman who doesn’t have a lot of experience and looks at the senior who’s like, you know, just hemorrhaging ideas and recordings and live shows and whatever it happens to be, the difference usually is not about talent, it’s just experience, it’s just, you know, it’s efficiency,

Joe: All right.

Richard: You know.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: And it’s really just about developing that. So you go through, you know, there’s an essentials level, it’s called, there’s an advanced level and there’s an independent level, it’s called. But they all basically are the same thing. It’s just that you can go further into the weeds more efficiently. The more you do, it’s like

Joe: Mm hmm.

Richard: Anything else. It’s like an athlete. I mean, I know it’s the same

Joe: But there

Richard: Thing.

Joe: Are requirements, so there aren’t separate tracks. You can’t be part of CMAS and just take small chunks of stuff. You’re in it or you’re not. And if you’re in it, you’re doing potentially songwriting, sound recording

Richard: Well, you can…

Joe: And engineer.

Richard: You know, once you it’s like micro macro, I guess, I guess is the best way to look at it. There are some things everybody does, regardless of their own personal interest.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: But these are short, these are designed to be short like one day kind of things.

Joe: Ok.

Richard: They are rooted in here is a concept, I need you to understand the concept at least enough so that you can decide later on a bigger project that you’re going to decide the parameters of, if you want to apply this concept to it or not. If you decide, no, that’s fine, I just need you to be making deliberate creative decisions. You know, there are happy accidents, I’ll grant you, but only to a point that, you know, rand… I hit random buttons and I like it, I’m done. Ok. But now we need to go in and look at what happened when you hit the random buttons that you like it. We can’t just make a career

Richard: Out of that.

Joe: Right

Richard: I mean, that’s.

Joe: Accidentally left the reverb button on and

Richard: Right.

Joe: And

Richard: And that’s fine.

Joe: And it bled. But

Richard: Right.

Joe: I

Richard: Right.

Joe: Know

Richard: And

Joe: What.

Richard: There’s nothing wrong with that. But you do need to go back and at some point and figure out, oh, it is because I left the reverb button in that position.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: And what did that do to the signal? And why do I like it so much? Yeah, of course, things will happen accidentally, but you can’t you can’t survive on that. But yeah, I mean, they can very much pick their own thing. I would rather they would. This is back to that whole learning an instrument thing I’d rather than pick, you know, I don’t do, Ok today, everybody’s doing jazz and tomorrow everybody’s doing reggae and then the next day everybody’s doing, you know, country and then everybody’s doing metal and…no! They’ll be exposed to various exercises, will do through listening to other people’s projects, to different styles and everything else. And they need to be creatively motivated. They just do! There’s too many options for them to be distracted. There’s too many things for them to be unmotivated anyway. Some people argue that I’m pandering to the lowest common denominator. I don’t think so. I think initially you could maybe say that but what happens is, is that you wind up with, wow, you’ve had seven weeks of basically completely open ended creative time that I’ve been going around assisting, you know, as you need it, but you’re in control of it. That’s a pretty cool tradeoff.

Joe: Yeah and I think from what I saw when I was there and watched the, the part where they played back their recorded songs and

Richard: Oh, yeah, the

Joe: There

Richard: Workshop.

Joe: Was

Richard: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: The critiquing session or whatever you call them.

Richard: Yeah,

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Yeah, it’s a workshop. Yeah.

Joe: I think they, by giving that that openness to it, they rise to the occasion. Where, where they go past it. Like, they they go beyond what you thought they would have done because you didn’t just say, you know, here’s the ceiling.

Richard: Right.

Joe: That’s

Richard: Well,

Joe: What

Richard: Exactly.

Joe: I saw. And everyone was super

Richard: That’s

Joe: Supportive

Richard: So cool!

Joe: Around each person.

Richard: Oh,

Joe: So

Richard: Yeah.

Joe: They.

Richard: I mean,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: We don’t have alot…I have very few rules. One of them is as if this cannot be a place to be safe creatively, this

Joe: Yep,

Richard: Isn’t work. You

Joe: And

Richard: Have

Joe: They kicked

Richard: To be

Joe: Me out

Richard: Able to.

Joe: When I was there.

Richard: You have to be able to play something and have it just suck. It’s got to be God awful, terrible, not because we want you to do badly, but because if you don’t, then you

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Don’t move. Like you

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: Said, you don’t move beyond

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: The other thing is, is what you’re talking about to me, I’m so glad this makes me feel really good, because this is kind of proof of what I’m saying. That works because we never delegitimize their interest. Oh, that’s a cute, Oh, you like that? That’s cute. We don’t do that here. No, we’re not, you know, because by saying it’s good, but because, well, why is it happening invariably, is the kid that comes in and this happens all the time. “Yeah, I mean, you seem nice, but I don’t like your style of music.” And then two weeks later, those two are working in a group that they got together voluntarily on their own, because in one of the first workshops, they heard each other’s stuff. And we’re just like, oh, wait a minute, that’s actually, well they’re my friend, that’s kind of interesting, you know what? I’ll work with you…sure! And then all of a sudden there’s like, you know, acoustic guitars and you know, in the, in the speed metal song and nobody can figure out what’s the opera, you know, vocalists doing in the country piece or what, you know, whatever it

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Is,

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: Because it’s creatively interesting to them.

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: That’s the whole point. And as long

Joe: Yeah.

Richard: As that keeps evolving, we’ll keep at it I think.

Joe: Well, it’s really cool. I we could go so deep into this because it’s so interesting to me. Like I said, I only wish I had this opportunity when I was growing up because I, I feel like I could be so much further off from that

Richard: You’re

Joe: Exposure.

Richard: Do you continue to

Joe: I

Richard: Be way too nice to me, but

Joe: Know.

Richard: I will, I will say that somebody with your level of musicianship and experience and skills in general, that’s a huge compliment and one of the reasons why I believe in what we’re doing. When people like you come in and get your first responses, “Man, I wish I would have had this!”, I go, oh my gosh, if somebody’s that good. Wants

Joe: Well,

Richard: This.

Joe: You’re you’re being kind, but I

Richard: No,

Joe: Know

Richard: But I’m serious.

Joe: I’ve

Richard: I mean,

Joe: Talked

Richard: That’s a

Joe: About it more

Richard: That’s

Joe: Than

Richard: A.

Joe: If you if you were, you know, the little person on my shoulder since the time you met…in the time we met. I’ve talked about it so much because it’s just, I’m almost to the point of, like, jealousy, because if I only had that when, you know, it would just, it would have

Richard: That’s

Joe: Been so

Richard: Very kind

Joe: Cool.

Richard: Of you, Joe. I

Joe: No,

Richard: Appreciate

Joe: But it’s

Richard: The.

Joe: I believe it in my heart. And I don’t say, I’m not sitting here stroking your ego. It’s like, it’s I really mean it and it’s.

Richard: Well, thank you.

Joe: And I think

Richard: Thanks.

Joe: The kids the kids should really and I know they do appreciate it because I know that they, I know how they look at you and talk about you and you’re there, like you figured out that that cool balance between being their mentor and their I don’t wanna say this disciplinary person or whatever it is, but they still respect you, but they still communicate with you on a level that is, sounds like a friendship, but it never gets. It’s

Richard: I will

Joe: Just

Richard: Tell you, opinions

Joe: It’s hard.

Richard: Definitely vary on that. But I very much appreciate the sentiment.

Joe: It’s so hard, so.

Richard: It is. No, you’re

Joe: So

Richard: Right.

Joe: We’re gonna have to come back and do another session

Richard: Yeah,

Joe: At some

Richard: Absolutely.

Joe: Point and.

Richard: I’m sorry I prattled away so long.

Joe: No, no, no, ah but so what is, the program exists now in both the what it looks like in a curriculum and what does it look like in a physical space of what you have at the school that’s available to the students?

Richard: Ok, let’s start there. So basically there’s a large room that we’ve cobbled together from what was originally just a rehearsal space. There’s a small soundstage with a fully working P.A. It’s set up, designed by the students to be very modular so that they are able to essentially reconfigure it as needed in terms of either complexity or not. You know, the drummers rebuild the kit to the configuration that they want based on microphones that we have. Not that the space is big enough to require microphones, but just that there’s thinking about that.

Joe: Yup.

Richard: That soundstage has a fully operational P.A. system, monitor system, all of that that goes with it. The surrounding area has basically workstations that they can plug in midi controllers, audio interfaces. They’ve got access to Pro Tools, Ableton Live, GarageBand, few other things of that nature. Those are the three we we tend to use most. We are going to start using something called Soundtrap very soon. We’ve been using it over the closure because we were able to get it for free. And they’re a brilliant company, but it works on any platform. It’s kind of like garage band but purple in some ways,not to sound funny. But it allows access and during the closure, it gave kids at least an opportunity, whether they took advantage of it or not, to keep creating, which was so important.

Joe: Then how many Pro, Pro Tool stations do you have?

Richard: Currently, there are let me think here…

Joe: It’s crazy. That’s amazing!

Richard: Yeah, but when you get near, you know, you get. You know, nearly 40 plus kids in a room and there’s issues of open mikes. We have a couple of small little like closet sized almost labs. And then we have storage is a major problem. So there’s a room that’s basically for gear storage, really kind of two. I mean, again, great problems to have, but you’ve got to find a place to put the gear.

Joe: Yes, sure.

Richard: And then actually, I miss counted, I’m sorry, it’s not 20, it’s more like 15 right now. I want

Joe: Ok.

Richard: To get it up to 20.

Joe: Mm hmm.

Richard: And then we have also with that, we have a pretty nice control room running a decent Pro Tools system it’s not huge but it’s like 24 in, 24 out kind of thing something like that. And then it’s connected to a live room that’s got the ability to you know, they’ve got amps in and mikes on the amps and a full drum kit and they can, again, modular. We’re actually funny enough, the thing we were going to do over spring break with some of the kids and then we couldn’t and then the school closed, was we were taking some old cases and we were making AMP enclosures. Because one of the biggest problems you got, speaking of a project from my actual engineering kids, isolation’s a huge, huge issue. So we had worked out some some ways to put amps inside mic, so that we could get the volume and the tone or the tone without the volume issues and unfortunately that’s been put on hold now. But they can, you know, they can run a full blown recording session. That’s the reason why when we went to Blackbird, you know, much more expensive gear, much fancier facility but none of the kids were there and none of them ever or whenever we go anywhere on field trips or things like that to others to to know, quote, real studios and stuff, the kids are never confused by any of it. They’ve maybe never seen it as nice an example of it. But they’re never like, I don’t know what that thing is or I don’t know what it does. So we.

Joe: God and that’s, that’s huge. That’s so important at such a young age. I mean, there I went, when I went to college and we had a great sound recording program where I went and and they you know, they were learning what you’re teaching at your level, they were just starting at the college level.

Richard: And

Joe: And.

Richard: That’s and that’s. But it’s like anything else, it’s practice and it’s in its application. And I feel pretty, pretty good based on the experience the kids are able to get now that they’re able

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: To move on to things.

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: And what else can you ask for?

Joe: Yeah, no, it’s awesome. So I always ask this for everybody, because I want people to be able to reach out. Do you, can you? And I’ll put it all in show notes, but give your various handles on, you know, if you’re Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.

Richard: I am I’m pretty much everywhere as either Richard Maxwell music or Richard Maxwell with no vowels…

Richard: rchrdmxwll, one or the other but they’re all interconnected. Instagram is probably the best one,

Joe: Ok.

Richard: Although I’ve been very bad, my social media presence has been awful lately. Also, I have a website that is in dire need of being updated. But a, but it’s there

Joe: Ok, cool

Richard: And then from that actually from any that, you can link over and find like has all the stuff for the day job

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: And whatnot.

Joe: I’ll put all of that stuff

Richard: Yeah,

Joe: In the show

Richard: Absolutely,

Joe: Notes and everything

Richard: Yeah.

Joe: Else will cool man. Well, this

Richard: Thank

Joe: Has

Richard: You

Joe: Been.

Richard: So much for this!

Joe: Hey, it’s my pleasure. It’s ah, it’s sad that after all of these years, we’ve only actually physically hung out only a few times. At

Richard: I

Joe: One

Richard: Know

Joe: Time,

Richard: We need

Joe: I

Richard: To

Joe: Came

Richard: Fix that

Joe: To

Richard: Now.

Joe: This CMAS program and met all the students and hung out and then we had lunch one day. But

Richard: No,

Joe: It’s it’s a shame.

Richard: I

Joe: And

Richard: Can’t.

Joe: We’re.

Richard: I’ve since I saw some of your gigs. I came to a couple of shows.

Joe: Well, if you need your money back, you just

Richard: I do

Joe: Let

Richard: Not

Joe: Me know.

Richard: At all. I admire. I truly admire so much of what you do. I mean, seriously,

Joe: Well,

Richard: You

Joe: Thank

Richard: Have,

Joe: You.

Richard: You know, for all of your wonderful compliments to me. But I don’t think people understand how hard you’ve worked to carve out your own niche in an industry that’s, you know, just brutal. I

Joe: Yeah,

Richard: You’ve

Joe: Oh.

Richard: Had more courage to get more accomplished than, you know, you could stack all mine up tenfold and you wouldn’t even come close. So.

Joe: I appreciate it, man. I really appreciate your time and

Richard: I.

Joe: We

Richard: Thanks for the

Joe: Will

Richard: Invite.

Joe: Do this again, we’ll, we’ll dig into another subject and dig deep into it and I want you to stay safe and hang in there and we’ll talk soon.

Richard: Sounds good. Thank you so much, Joe!

Joe: Thank you, brother!

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