What this blog is about…  

This blog is linked to the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts’ official site www.specshoward.edu, but the contents are totally my thoughts and not to be construed as anything officially endorsed by the school.

This blog is about life and its ups and downs:  My life and YOUR life, and hopefully there are things we have learned that we can compare notes on that will be mutually helpful.

I have a very busy life.  I work in broadcasting and have my entire life, and it’s my full time work.  I am primarily an engineer, but I have worked in almost all facets of the business.  

I also play music professionally…or at least I get paid for it sometimes, but I have backed some true professionals in the industry.  

I have plenty of side interests and specialties all related to the above.

I feel like I have reached a level of success that other people might benefit as to knowing how I got here…. But MY adventure is far from over. Neither is yours, and as long as we’re both alive and breathing, it won’t be anytime soon.

I learn something from every single activity I have ever been involved in, and I have learned something from every person I have ever met.  

If you and I have ever met, I’ve already learned something from you!

Even for those “not so good” times, I try to find something positive out of it.  It’s my nature!  I try to surround myself with those type of people, as well, and for those whose spirits are a little down – I’m pretty good at providing a shoulder to lean on, or dish out a chunk of advice

 At the very core, that’s what the blog is about.  It is about me, but it is also about YOU!

-Bob Burnham



Performance & Making People Feel Good About Themselves  

A person’s mood (vibe, whatever you want to call it) has everything to do with their performance and how motivated they are to push themselves.

This applies to radio, television, any of the performing arts including and especially music.

There have been many people who have given me that motivation that in one way or another, led to my arrival many years ago as Specs Howard’s engineer and very busy engineer and musician in the Detroit area (and elsewhere) today.

Several years ago, I trained in the martial arts.  My professional schedule did not allow me to rise to Black Belt or anything very close to that, but I did progress a few levels above beginner through various degrees of Green Belt.  It took me a couple of years and it was the most difficult thing I ever did in my life.  It was difficult mentally – AND physically.

Honestly, I did not know if I’d make it beyond “White Belt,” but I did.

I did so ONLY because of some of the best teachers (senseis) I have ever known.

This is the part where I get to mention names.

Dr. Jerry Aiello is one of the most respected Chiropractors in Oakland County and a radio talk show host in his own right as well.  

Dr. Aiello was also the person who developed a specific type of martial arts (Shito Kan) that he invited me to train in, while at the same time, I worked with him on his radio show in various capacities.   

Dr. Aiello’s martial arts program at the time, was staffed by Black Belts he had personally trained in a very traditional fashion.  It was NOT about breaking bricks or winning trophies, either.  It was all about personal health, both mentally and physically.

There were people in my class both younger and some older with me, but we all started out equal.  The teachers (or sensei) were all Black Belts of various degrees.  The sensei subjected us to all forms of endurance tests (some would say torture). This was especially true the night before a test, with the reminder that they would never ask us to do anything that they hadn’t already done.  

To the average person, the warm-up routine alone would scare them away (and some did not last past their first night). 

But I am above average!  I am an above average engineer, above average DJ, and above average musician.  Failure to me would never be an option, and there was no way I would allow a little karate defeat me. But this wasn’t just “a little” karate.  This was one of the most difficult!, But who ever said any worth ANYTHING is “easy?”

“Making it” in radio (or having a GREAT band) IS NOT EASY.  A famous president once said we didn’t go to the moon because it was easy.  We went BECAUSE IT WAS HARD.

That was the spirit behind me in this traditional martial arts dojo presided over by Dr. Aiello.

My senseis NEVER ridiculed us as we clumsily, slowly, found our groove.  There was nothing but positive reinforcement.

In the end, I developed a kick that would be dangerous.  In fact, on a weekend session, by accident, I “took down” a Black Belt sensei.   Oops!  Sorry!  He could have easily crippled me for life, but that’s not what this was all about.  

Guys and gals trained together.  We were totally equal and quickly also became committed to each other.  Once in a great while, someone would pass out.  Those on either side would help them, and one of the sensei would assess the situation.  I never passed out myself (though I did once during a band rehearsal!).

Senseis Ed and Nancy Daniels got inside my head and ended up being special people to me.  They got to know me better than I did.  They knew when to push me, and when to lay back.  When I was ready to drop from exhaustion, they found a way to push me just a little further. I would have given up the first week without them. I would have walked out of the dojo and never returned.

Our Gi (uniforms) would be completely soaked with sweat after a 5 or 6 or more hour training session.   I would go home with energy pouring through me, and could not sleep!  It was a natural “high” that was far better than anything alcohol-induced.

All these years later, I still remember being caught up in the “Dream Cruise” traffic on Woodward, while driving the WXYT Radio van from a Detroit Lions game.  By pure chance, I passed the Daniels, also caught up in the traffic.   Sensei Nancy Daniels called out jokingly “Mr. Burnham, why aren’t you in class?”

I called back across Woodward something about “working.”  

They were not just great teachers, they were great people whom I miss working with.

Regretfully, I wasn’t able to continue the training due to the demands of my work schedule, but the whole mental philosophy became part of my brain.

A person cannot perform at their top level without feeling good about themselves.

This is what record producers and the best teachers, in part, do for their students.

The martial arts experience convinced me I could achieve things beyond my expectations, and in general, SO CAN ANYONE.

Knowing when (and how) to give an encouraging word is but one aspect of a great teacher, and is an attribute of my colleagues at Specs Howard School – among the best people I have ever worked with.

You don’t tell someone “YOU SUCK!” (even if they do).   A certain British-accented TV face became rich by developing a reputation by doing that very thing, but that’s not the way to get further in life – by crushing someones’ spirit.

Respect of your fellow human, and giving help and encouragement is also personally rewarding.  You also get PAID BACK 10 times over, for every ONE person who helped you.   I have been on both ends many times and I am grateful.

Also, “Never forget those who went before.”

Hopefully, students who land at the management level in some form of broadcasting will remember the times when I might’ve sat with them in the studio one-on-one, and showed them what they needed to do in order to achieve a MAJOR market sound.  

It’s all about KARMA.  

Thanks to all, especially Dr. Aiello and Senseis, Mr & Mrs. Daniels, and my many past and present band mates who have never told me I sucked (at least to my face), and my professional colleagues past and present all of whom provide valued friendship.

 -Bob Burnham


Picture credit (from 1990) is thanks to "Linda J" 1980 Specs graduate, Henry Ford Radio alumni, and one time Polka Radio Queen at WNZK in the Detroit area!

Many of us multi-tasked at this station, and it was a great experience.  In back, Jack Bailey, General Manager; Bob Burnham, Chief Engineer & Host; Mike Borkowski, Sales Manager; David Johnson, Program Director, Host & Producer.  In front, Susan McGraw (Pepera), Asst Program Director, Host & Producer; Jerome Lott, Music Director, Host & Producer, Linda Kulczyk, Host, Producer; Carrie Abdo, Traffic Manager & Receptionist;  Dino Valle, Account Executive, Host & Producer of the Italian program.    



The fact is a lot of people never knew it existed in the first place, although it had been widely marketed by such consumer stores such as “Best Buy.” 

But it never “quite” succeeded the way standard CDs and DVDs obviously did.

Sony, the inventor of the MD format, marketed several models of both consumer and broadcast/professional-use equipment.  Radio stations embraced it as a convenient and less expensive replacement for cartridge equipment. The beloved “cart machine” had been universally used for decades for professional use.  Radio stations routinely used “carts” to play both commercials and music. If you worked in radio or television during the 1960s-1980s, you knew them well.

 The MD format arrived over a decade ago.  More robust and reliable than standard CDs, MD’s found extensive use in broadcasting.  Earlier hard-drive (computer) based automation systems were expensive, and could be cumbersome. Many used proprietary interfaces with modified DOS-based operating systems.  If you knew how to use a computer, that didn’t necessarily mean you knew how to use a broadcast system.

That has all changed.  For the better.  

Todays’ full blown automation software can run reliably on standard office computers (assuming they meet the required specifications).  Major broadcast software developers also offer factory built hardware with their software pre-installed and tested for “mission critical” use.

The Mini Disc format was largely a “transition” medium in the broadcast world, but helped keep Sony’s technology alive a few years longer.  Today, only Tascam manufactures a single studio-use MD model.  The continued availability of that equipment (and blank disc availability) remains a question. 

The future is already here.  If you own an MD machine for home use, enjoy it.  Because when it breaks, you won't be able to buy another one.  If you can actually get it repaired, the cost of the repair will be greater than what the price of the machine was... brand new.

Technology marches forward!

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