The other day, I got an email from Corey Mason, director of the worldOne festival, station manager at KECG, and former teacher of mine. I’ll just share the text here:
Dear Evolving Conscious Gruuvers…A GOOD thing…
We have been invited by Asst. Superintendent Mr. Wendell Greer to make a report and presentation on all things keCg in late April/May … this will be upbeat and positive… will include pictures and some video, as available (ED!) …
Mase requests the following of you …
- Will you you please write a thoughtful paragraph or two about your experience/learning/growing inside the keCg radio curriculum ? Bonus points as you may link your comments to higher education/ career preparedness / multiculturalism / media literacy / life-long learning.
- Will you please consider attending that school board meeting (date TBD) to join our cadre of enrollees / completers / graduates who may address the Board personally … present part of our 5 minutes ? It will be a friendly setting, suited and booted … to show our best to Dr. Harter and the Board, to encourage their continued expanding vision and active support/advocacy of keCg / ROP …
Holla Back and please do keep in touch ! BEST …
= ; ) ~
Of course I’m always down to help Corey, especially when it relates to KECG. There’s that shoutout for video, and hopefully, time will permit me to make something good for this presentation.
However, more important than that, the request for the paragraph about my experience at KECG. I guess to really cover that would take more than a paragraph. That’s what I’m gonna do here, and then maybe narrow this down to a paragraph later. Long post after the break.
Starting a long ways back, I grew up in the Berkeley Unified School District. I went to Berkeley schools all the way up to the 9th grade. In the summer of 1999, in between the 8th and 9th grade, our nonagenarian landlord passed away. There was an ensuing legal battle between my family and his inheritors about what to do with us tenants in this condemnable shack in the Berkeley hills. Something about how they couldn’t evict us from a place that couldn’t be called habitable with the implication that they were only doing it because they wanted to move in. (What they really wanted to do was tear the place down, build some new house, and charge ridiculous internet bubble housing prices for it.) Long story short, they new owners of our house did not get it easily, but we had to move somewhere else.
We found a place in El Cerrito. I had already started going to classes at Berkeley High School, and I liked it there. It was so much better than Longfellow, my middle school. I was so glad to be out of Longfellow, and I was having a good time in Downtown Berkeley. That is, until I had to have some kind of parent-teacher conference and some administrator found out we had moved that year. That administrator stopped the meeting before it even started, and essentially kicked me out of high school right there. To this day I don’t understand how she could do that. I was living in Berkeley when the school year started, we moved half-way through, but for some reason Berkeley schools are very dickish about this. I kept going to school. I was doing alright in my classes, which was a new experience for me, but that had to be cut short.
I was eventually enrolled in El Cerrito High School, and I hated the very thought of it. ECHS is on the block system, which means it has a very similar time schedule to Longfellow, which is one of the reasons I hated both places. The block system is okay if you’re in a good/fun class, but it’s the worst thing if you’re in a boring/uninteresting/uncontrolled class. I had not yet experienced a ‘good/fun’ class, I think in my whole life, so of course I was miserable. For the first time in my life, I actively and chronically skipped school. I was so unhappy there, and nothing really made it better. My mom would come home from work for her breaks, and I would hide in my closet so I wouldn’t get caught. The grades I was growing proud of at Berkeley High were basically reversed at ECHS. By the end of that school year, my life had changed for good. I would no longer be the same person.
In retrospect, it’s not as bad as some people’s problems, but for a kid in my situation it was still very traumatic. I feel like I’ve had PTSD ever since. At least for my high school life, my attitude would never be the same. At Berkeley High, I was proud of my school. I participated in events, I had school spirit. If I’d have stayed there, who knows what might have happened? I might have joined a team, or cared about rallies, or had meaningful, lasting relationships. Maybe I’d have got my license at the earliest possible age, maybe I’d have applied to more schools, maybe I’d have gone to a good college with a scholarship. Never mind any of that, maybe I’d have just been a more rounded individual. As it was, though, I was at begrudgingly at ECHS. All the things I listed above were the opposite for me at ECHS. I didn’t want the school to be successful at anything, and I didn’t participate in anything.
After the summer of my freshman year, I started 10th grade at ECHS, and I was just removed from the experience. Unlike the end of the year before, I had perfect attendance for the rest of my time there. My dislike of the school vicariously rubbed off on all my fellow students, and for a long time I didn’t make any friends. However, I did start getting good teachers, good classes, and with no distractions (like friends for example), I did well in those classes.
I took photography that year, and that’s where I learned everything I think is important about photography. Jeremiah Holland was the teacher, and he was the first teacher I had who I not only liked but also learned a lot from. That year I also learned biology from Dr. Morrison, who I think was the first doctor I learned from. Ms. Gocker was my English teacher, and she assigned the first school books I enjoyed reading.
Photography really clicked with me the most. Mr. Holland was the most entertaining teacher I’d ever had, and I genuinely enjoyed the subject. It fit very well with my love of movies, and I began to understand more and more about how they were made from learning basic photography.
When I heard someone mention their two favorite teachers being Mr. Holland and Corey Mason, I knew right then that I needed to take the radio class. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) for me, he was not a Spanish teacher at the time, so I didn’t have any crazy ideas about taking Spanish. Radio sounded a lot more interesting, anyway. I didn’t know what to expect, but I signed up for the class anyway.
Who knew that I’d be involved with the station in one way or another for the next 10 years.
When I started the radio class, things were still very much analogue. Things were recorded/played back on cassette tapes. They still had a vinyl record player, and a reel-to-reel. The board looked hand made, and was analogue. The automation system could only hold about a day’s worth of music, and was ran by archaic dos-like software.
It was a challenging class, quizzes every week or so. We had to memorize an excerpt from an early FCC manual. I can’t really remember the exact wording anymore, just that it included the phrase “uplift, inform, educe and inspire.”
I can remember being assigned an interview. As I recall, it was the first interview of that semester. Corey handed me a photocopied packet with about 60 pages of college-level writing on homeopathy. I was supposed to interview the guy who wrote it. At the time, I had never heard of homeopathy. I’m sure Corey arranged this interview because he probably has an inclination to promote homeopathic medicine (his then future wife is an acupuncturist), but if that was his intent, he gave it to the wrong person. After laboring over this wordy essay, and trying to break down what it was actually about, I realized what homeopathy actually was. And I was skeptical. I honed in on that impulse, and remained skeptical throughout the entire interview. It was my first encounter with new-age, bullshit medicine, and I’d like to think I stuck to the correct side of the argument.
Despite, maybe, having a differing opinion of things spiritual and medical, Corey was very encouraging toward my interview, and I continued to be a part of the station. That year I started was also the year he started the worldOne academy. While the academy would ultimately not succeed for various reasons I’m still not too certain about, it was active the summer after I completed the radio class. That summer was very formative for me. My mother, especially, was very insistent that I continue waking up early to be on the radio every morning. For the most part, I was one of the few people that summer who consistently came in every day.
Corey was very busy himself, that summer, as he is every summer. He was getting ready to put on the 4th or 5th annual worldOne festival, and he was deep in it. He would be sitting there, tacking away at the computer with his two finger hunt and peck style of typing, and I (and sometimes a few others) was basically left to promote the festival. I’m not sure how good a job we did, but we were playing music by the artists who would be playing on the 4th of July.
Between the actual radio class, and then that following summer, my appreciation for music grew in a way I wouldn’t have expected before. In middle school, I developed the opinion that you shouldn’t judge people on the type of music they listen to, because I wouldn’t want people judging me for the music I listened to. Sort of a golden rule of musical appreciation. People are going to like the music that they’re going to like, and why should that be a problem? Just because you don’t like a particular type of music doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that someone who likes it is bad. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for liking music that, say, doesn’t fit other peoples perception of you. This leads to me being able to like any song I like, regardless of where I heard it or who it was made for.
This notion would later be summed up succinctly by Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin in a special feature on the Blues Brothers DVD. He was talking about how when he was brought in to be the trumpet player for The Blues Brothers Band, he wasn’t particularly interested in the blues, and had to come to appreciate it from working with the other members of the band. But then he said this kind of throw away line, which I’m paraphrasing, “Any music, if it’s good, it’s great.” He was trying to say, that even though he wasn’t interested in the blues, or some other kind of music, if it’s made well and is good, it’ll be good. Just such a true way to look at it, fits my point of view so well. I’m not sure if I’m really communicating the sentiment as best I can, but I’ve tried to base my philosophy about music around that throw away line. Regardless of what it is, if it’s good, it’s great.
When I was in the radio class, or participating in the worldOne academy, I was still a youngster in high school. I hadn’t really formed this strong opinion yet. I had realized my golden rule, but I was probably not ready to appreciate music from around the world in all cultures. I think I knew it then, and I really know it now, but high school kids are really dumb, myself included. Dumb is the wrong word, ignorant is more appropriate. Generally speaking though, everybody is ignorant when they’re a teenager, and what’s worse, teenagers don’t want to believe that. To a point where they’re almost proud of being ignorant.
Being exposed to music you’ve never heard before on a daily basis can change that, though, if you’re receptive enough. I feel like I lucked into a class full of students who were receptive to what Corey was trying to teach. He was not yet set on teaching media literacy, I don’t think he’d figured out the best way to do that. He wasn’t showing as many films or having us read as many news papers then. He was genuinely teaching us about the industry while at the same time trying to teach us to appreciate music from all cultures. I’m not sure if I was lucky to be a part of that class, or if this is a difference in his teaching style, but I’ve heard (and seen first hand) some classroom horror stories. I’d like to think that people are more or less the same across time, so why would the current generation of kids be worse than the group of kids I graduated with? Where did apathy come from, and why does it continue to grow stronger? I mean, that apathy was there when I was, and it was probably there when my parents were in high school too, but it’s just so blatant now.
My personal theory is the reason goes hand in hand with the reason we’re in the current economic situation. For 40 years now, those in power, those with serious amounts of money, have influenced our government, our administrations from the national to the local level. The system has been intentionally broken, and it’s been broken for so long no one knows how to repair it. And there are people out there who prefer it that way. My theory is based on all anecdotal evidence, though, so don’t take my word for it. It’s probably more complicated and subtle than that.
So my experience in the radio class helped shape my appreciation for music, and I’ve continued to support the station ever since.
I think that’s what I was getting at. I can’t remember, this post kind of got away from me. If you’ve made it this far through my unfocused writing, I applaud you.
Now I just need to figure out how to narrow these 2000+ words down to about 100 so they’ll fit in this school board presentation.
I think it’s safe to say some stuff will be omitted.