Friday, May 31, 2013

Influences


"Proverbs 18:16 - A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." 

Oftentimes musicians and artists get asked who their influences are. Well I'd like to take sometime and talk about one of the biggest influences in my life. Most times this question is answered with the names of legends in their field, and I do have some legends that have had an impact on me as a musician, but today I want to focus on the man that had an impact on me not only as a musician, but as a man also, Mr. Willie J. McAllister, or as his students called him, Mr. Mac. 

As some may know I grew up in Detroit, in a single parent home with my mom and sister. Now, this isn't some woe is me sob story. I'm just sharing some background on my story. As a matter of fact, though my dad wasn't there, I was blessed growing up to have many men step into my life, and play that father figure role for me, and Mr. Mac was one of the first such father figures in my life.

Mr. Mac was my band director growing up from elementary to middle school, my last two years of high school, and as part of my church orchestra, and he was the one that introduced me to music as more than just something that you listen to. He taught us/me that music is a craft and something that if you work hard and practice at it, it can open up many doors and opportunities for you. He focused on and taught us excellence in everything that we do. As part of his bands I got to travel to a lot of cities and states at a young age, and got a lot of experiences that others my age never had. One of the concepts he instilled in us, even as elementary school students, is that the saying, "practice makes perfect," is in fact not one hundred percent true. Instead, its, "perfect practice makes perfect." Meaning that if you practice the wrong way, if you're lazy with your practice, come showtime, you will not get the results that you want. That's something that I've remembered to this day, that's a part of me, and that I infused into the way a practice. Mr. Mac is also one of the reasons I love funk music to this day, and a large reason why there's a big funk influence on this album. As part of his bands he had us play music from the likes of +Earth Wind & Fire and +Tower Of Power The Band, and it's crazy to think that years later I had the privilege to get to play and record with one of the founding members of the later band, more on that later. 

With Mr. Mac it wasn't just about music. He taught us life lessons, and that it's important to be a complete person. In fact there was a point in high school where my grades where straight up horrible. There's simply no other way around it. I was not applying myself at all. So, Mr. Mac sat me down, and let me know that if I didn't show some improvement and bring my grades up that I would not be able to play and travel with the bad. Come next report card, when those grades weren't up, sure enough, Mr. Mac stayed true to his word. Now, he wasn't being mean or cruel. He was being that father that I needed in that moment. Basically telling me that yes while you may be good at music the rest of your education is important too, and that I needed to give my education the same level of focus and attention that I gave to music. It was not fun having something that I loved taken away from me. Needless to say, I brought my grades up on that next report card. 

This is just one of the stories and examples of the ways that Mr. Mac has impacted my life. A lot of his impact can be seen and felt on what I was able to do with and on Love Extravagant, and I am extremely grateful and blessed to have had and to have him in my life. Both as a musician and a man. Thanks Mr. Mac!

Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes and Amazon