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

10/3/2007 12:44:07 pm

Both of the Daniels were great people and great teachers.

Bob Burnham
10/5/2007 07:36:00 am

Yes... if you were in the dojo with them, you always knew you would work incredibly hard, maybe harder than you ever worked before, but leave exhausted... Yet look forward to the next time.

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