Thursday, November 28, 2013


In my last post I alluded to the importance I place on the character of a person, regardless of their level of talent, and I want to elaborate more on that.

We live in a society that generally places a high value on certain talents. At this point in time, talents that deal largely in entertainment are valued quite heavily, such as acting, singing, and athletics. While I obviously have no problem recognizing the talents and abilities of others and taking the time to enjoy their work, I have noticed that many people out there will excuse poor character on the part of someone just because they're talented in a specific area. The most common place I have seen this is in sports, though it's prevalent in other areas too.

For instance, an article runs about the negative action or comments from a famous athlete, and you will inevitably see many comments that reference the talent of the person and/or his or her salary as reasons they can't really be criticized. Huh? So talent and money excuse decency or just being a nice person? I get that people are people and make mistakes. I don't expect perfection from anyone. But I do expect people to be good regardless of their circumstances, though I realize that is certainly not the case. All the fame, fortune, power, and talent in the world does not release or excuse someone from simple human decency.

When I speak of character, it's on the lines of how we treat each other. For celebrities or anyone who has some level of fame or recognition, it's usually how they treat those who don't have their status, whether it be fans, employees, or just the general public. Do they distinguish between the "common folk" and those with fame and fortune? Are they nice to those that "matter" but no one else? How do they interact with fans? Is their demeanor on TV real or a facade? Those are all things I look at and are part of why I don't get into a lot of "hero worship". In the end, no matter how talented or rich someone is, they are a human being just like me. There are things things that I'm probably more talented in than them and vice versa. It's simply a matter of circumstance. And yes, it may be "old fashioned", but I am a firm believer in the Golden Rule.

It is no secret that I am a religious person who believes in God. That said, I believe that we are held accountable for the gifts we have been blessed with and how we use them. God blesses people with many things, and how we use those are something that I believe he's going to ask us about. Did we use our blessings to help and uplift others, to make the world a better place? Or, did we use them to put other people down, to persecute, and for mainly selfish reasons? The other thing, from a religious perspective, that comes to mind is Matthew 25:40 where the Savior teaches us "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." How we treat "the least of these" really reflects our true character.

But even from a completely non-religious perspective, following the Golden Rule simply makes the world a better place. Most people like to be treated well by others, so it makes sense to dish out what you'd like to receive. The old adage "what goes around comes around" is so true in many aspects of life, including how we treat people and how we use our talents.

So yeah, you won't find me obsessing about some celebrity or trying to track their every move, though I do follow some on Twitter and Instagram. Like I said, they're a human being, I'm a human being. I respect their talent and recognize the greatness, but that doesn't mean I elevate that person to something above everyone else. I follow a few on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but only those that seem like good people. I mentioned in my last post how many replies I saw from Phillip Phillips to his fans on Twitter. Even if he doesn't necessarily do those himself (like he has a social media specialist...I honestly don't know...I assume he responds himself), it's still an effort that will totally make someone's day. That says a lot to me about his character. There have been instances where someone I was following started posting largely negative or judgmental stuff, so I stopped following them.

I was reminded of Omar Vizquel, one of the best shortstops ever, when he came to our local Walmart to sign autographs during the Indians' heyday in the mid 1990s. We had stood in line to see another player a few months earlier and I guess we caught him at the end of the day because he looked ready to go. When we met Omar (and we didn't have to wait nearly as long), who was my sister's favorite player, he was really nice. What stuck out to me was my sister brought a copy of this birthday card she had sent to him a little while before and asked if he had gotten it. He said yes (of course I don't really believe that, but I thought it was still cool for him to say that) and then asked if she wanted him to sign it. This was one of those autograph signings where you had to pay to "raise money for charity", so him offering to do that for her was a very nice gesture. It certainly made a great impression on me and is something that totally made my sister's day at the very least.

I have started using the hashtag #CharacterCounts on posts in Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook when I see something that I think is a good example of character or for someone I'm following that I feel has positive character traits, at least as far as I can see. That doesn't mean I think that person is perfect, it just means I appreciate the fact that they're a good person (or at least appear to be) and don't use their talents and abilities to bring other people down and don't scoff at all the "fans" that admire them for whatever reasons. I've used it on inspirational-type posts, family-oriented posts, gratitude posts, or just fun posts. I have no idea if anyone else has used that hashtag before, but I hope others follow. In the end, if we want the world to be a better place, it starts with each of us and what we are willing to support and sharing that with others. Sounds hokey, but it's true. And yes, I realize that someone's Twitter or Instagram persona could be a total facade, but it's all most of us have to go on. We can at least support the positive.

Oh, and if you have no idea what a "hashtag" is, that's social media lingo for a word or phrase after the "#" symbol. When you put that in a comment or post, if someone clicks on the hashtag, everything that has that tag (and is publicly visible) will show up. So, when I put #charactercounts on something, if you click on that on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, you'll be able to see anything public that also has that tag on it.

Some of the "celebrities" or otherwise somewhat known people I follow that I have found to be courteous, responsive, and generally good people include Jason Kipnis, Mile Aviles, Yan Gomes, and Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians, Rob Gronkowski and Julien Edelmen (Edelmen went to Kent State) of the New England Patriots, Joey Bosa and Jeff Heuerman of the Ohio State football team, Coach Rob Senderoff, Chris Ortiz, and Blake Vedder of the Kent State men's basketball team, Coach Danielle O'Banion of the KSU women's basketball team, Mike Rowe of the show Dirty Jobs, Fashion designer and KSU alum Suede, Navy SEAL Chris Heben, and fitness/bodybuilding figures Ryan Smith, Greg Clausen, Brandan Fokken, Linda Durbesson, Joey Swoll, Josh Halladay, Gary Strydom, Con Demetriou, and Larry Morrison. There are several others I could list here too, but in all of these, I enjoy reading their various posts (whether they be uplifting, interesting, or just hilarious) on the different social media, and in the cases of those I have interacted with, it's been very positive.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Thro' all the tumult and the strife 
I hear the music ringing; 
It finds an echo in my soul— 
How can I keep from singing?

The words above come from the hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing", by Robert Lowry, well known in Christian music. It's a song I have performed before and love, not only because of the melody, but the words itself, especially the repeating question, "How can I keep from singing?"

Anyone who knows me personally knows I love to sing, and while it may come across as arrogant or conceited, I'm pretty good at it too, at least as far as I've been told on many occasions. Because it's something I feel I'm good at, and something I enjoy doing, I try to take advantage of every opportunity to perform that I'm given, and am always looking for additional opportunities to sing, whether it be in church or singing the National Anthem for a sporting event. If I could ever sing for a living, I would totally take it.

Lately, though, I haven't had as many chances. I was fortunate enough to get to sing with some of the past casts of This is Kirtland! on two occasions in October where I had a small solo in each, but that's it since singing in church a few Sundays ago. My most recent National Anthem performance was July 27 in Toledo. There are a variety of reasons for the drop off, but suffice it to say, I am most certainly looking for opportunities wherever I can find them, in earnest now.

Performing, but especially singing, is apparently totally embedded in me. It's something I have to do. The last few days, it's been physically painful to see other people perform, not because of their performance, but because I'm not performing. Again, how can I keep from singing? It's not possible for me.

Last weekend while I was in Valparaiso, I heard the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips. I had heard the song several times, mostly on HGTV for this one commercial that airs during almost every show. I heard it playing when we took my nephew to Chuck E. Cheese's for his 4th birthday and remembered that I had been wanting to find out what that song was and to hear the entire thing. Thanks to my smartphone, I was able to plug in a few of the lyrics, find the song, and download it pretty quick. 

Now, you should know that I'm not someone who typically follows specific artists. People always ask me what kind of music I listen to or what my favorite groups are, and my reply is simply: if I hear a song and I like how it sounds, I'll find out what it is and download it. In doing so, I may find out that artist has other songs that I enjoy, especially if I learn about that artist.

Such was the case with Phillip Phillips as I learned a little about him and how he won American Idol last year. I've never really gotten into American Idol mostly because the times I did watch, it seemed more about making ratings than producing good music. I was particularly turned off by some of the ways the judges would express their opinions when something wasn't as good as they thought. No need to be nasty, but I get it, it was so people would "talk about it" and watch for those kinds of reaction (kind of a sad reflection on our collective society, though). I did consider auditioning for it when they came to Cleveland back in 2005 (YIKES, was it that long ago?!?), but the thought of having to camp out at Browns Stadium just to wait and then have a slim chance of doing much of anything turned me off. Looking back, I don't regret that because I don't think I would've had a good audition anyway. I learned SO MUCH more about my voice in the years right after that. It wasn't that I wasn't capable then, but I feel so much more capable now as a vocalist.

Anyway, I read a little background on Phillip Phillips and watched the YouTube clip from his audition on Idol that showed a little more about where he was before the audition. To be honest, I like his voice, and the two songs of his that I've downloaded, "Home" and "Gone, Gone, Gone", are a style I enjoy listening to, singing with, and even moving to. His story is pretty cool too and he seems like a genuine good guy, not some douche who's let fame go to his head (and yes, the character of a person is more important to me than their talents!). Just a glance at his Twitter, I saw he replies to a lot of Tweets from fans. That says a lot about his character to me just taking the time to make someone's day like that. 

Seeing that, though, definitely has me thinking, "why not me?" Absolutely nothing against Phillip Phillips (in all honesty, I would love to perform with him if that was ever possible...and he can run circles around me with his guitar skills), but more a realization of my own talents and abilities. I will say those two songs, "Home" and "Gone, Gone, Gone", were very inspirational to me, not because they were simple or easy, but because they are uplifting and upbeat. I can't listen to and/or sing them without feeling good and smiling. 

That said, look for some recordings from me. Nothing fancy yet since I have incredibly limited means that prevent any kind of professional recordings. Even so, I do have a good mic and recording capabilities to produce decent recordings. If you like them, feel free to share them. At this point, I have some a Capella recordings of me doing the "Star-Spangled Banner", "O Canada", and "God Bless America" mostly for audition purposes for sporting events. I also have two recordings of the Tenor solos I had in The Messiah last year ("Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted" and "Comfort Ye My People"). These are on my SoundCloud site ( I also have videos from my various National Anthem performances through the last few years on my YouTube page ( If you like them, please share them with people you know. Never hurts to be heard. I also don't mind constructive criticism and/or suggestions.