by Tim Cose, Hal Leonard Corporation
In some ways, Mexico is not nearly so far away as it seems, especially if you look back at the United States of only a couple generations ago. In the last RPMDA newsletter I shared some thoughts on how marketing the human experience is working for one retailer. This time I wanted to share a lighter personal anecdote from my trip because I am sure many of you in the music industry have experienced something similar at one time or another. In some ways, this is a roundabout declaration of my New Year’s Resolution. It was also the highlight of my 2016.
By the fourth day of the fair, I was mentally and physically feeling the long days on my feet…in a full suit…in a foreign country. Around lunchtime that Thursday, I was running the booth by myself and waiting for traffic to pick back up for the afternoon. A customer had been playing “River Flows In You” on the baby grand while a friend took a video and a small group listened (incidentally, you wouldn’t believe the similarities in music taste between young Mexican and young American pianists). When they finished playing, the group disbanded and a few started migrating into the booth to browse. Among them were a young blind girl and a friend guiding her through the crowded show floor. They began browsing some books, the friend reading the girl titles as they went.
A little unsure of the situation, I asked whether I could help with anything. Shyly, they asked if I speak Spanish (I do) and then if we had collections of nice melodies for piano. I read the young girl some of the Mozart Concertos, but she shook her head. We also had some Beethoven Sonatas, but those weren’t quite right either. A little dejected, the girl turned to her friend and they began walking away; but just then I remembered that we had an easy piano folio of classical music in the booth (item HL00131436, if you’re curious). I asked them to wait for one moment and went to find it. Luckily, we had one copy left.
When I read the young blind girl a few of the pieces, she visibly shook and I heard her recite a prayer under her breath. Terrified that I had accidentally said something awful, I looked at her friend. With a big smile, the friend told me that this book would be a perfect Christmas present for the girl’s brother and that she was just overjoyed to have found a booth with partituras (sheet music). The friend explained that the girl listens to her brother practice piano after school every day and that it is one of the few activities that they can share as brother and sister. The brother was going to love the gift of the book and they were both going to enjoy it together.
In that moment, I completely forgot my tired feet and the long days, and I understood what the fair, my job, and the print music industry stands for. We are an industry that spreads art and emotion and it is art and emotion that bring people together as performers and audience. To the lives we touch, just as it was in the case of the girl I met in Mexico, the format is immaterial; it is the content and what it enables that drives our business. Though our format and terminologies slowly morph, we are still the curators along the path of discovery and growth for musicians and their audience alike. I hope you join me in looking forward to the ways our industry will continue to evolve this year.