by Christie Smith, Alfred Music
There are some people in this world that are put here to draw us together, to show us what we can accomplish when we work together, and Madeleine Crouch is one of those people. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing my friend and mentor, who received the Dorothy Award at this year’s RPMDA convention in Minneapolis. It is our industry’s highest honor for a lifetime of service in the print music industry and in the music industry in general. I honestly can’t think of anyone that deserves this recognition more.
Madeleine is a humble, generous, smart, creative, joyful soul who has made a huge difference in the music industry and in the lives of so many people.
Christie: What did receiving this award mean to you?
Madeleine: It is very humbling. To think about joining the ranks of some of my heroes in this industry is a little overwhelming. It is deeply, deeply appreciated because RPMDA was really my start to everything. The print music industry is why I am here today. It just taught me everything I needed to know, and I’ve gained so many lasting friendships over the years, I just feel so honored. I remember the very first Dorothy we handed out, and why we began giving this award, I mean, I actually met Dorothy! Like I said at the convention, we are all working so hard for our beloved print music industry, that I truly believe we are all Dorothys.
Christie: Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how you got here?
Madeleine: I graduated with a degree in music, and I thought I would be a piano teacher. I moved to Dallas in January, which wasn’t a great time to pick up students. I’d always enjoyed working in the music library in college, so when I saw there was this big music company in Dallas, I just walked in and said ‘hey I’m looking for a job,’ and they said, ‘well, we have this print music job working in band and orchestra and choir department.’ So that was it. I just walked in and got a job and was there for the next 8 years, and the whole world opened up to me with just that little accident. First, to the world of print and then to all the publishers! It was a different time then, with no Internet or even fax machines. Publishers would make sales calls and go through the catalogs with us. I learned so much! I also had a mentor there at Whittle’s. He was the financial officer and was a really good teacher. Everything I learned about business that I use today, I learned from my liberal arts degree, and another happy accident.
Then, 8 years later, when the store was sold, I went to work for one year in commercial real estate, which taught me a valuable lesson: it is just important to know what you don’t want to do as what you do want to do. But I also learned that all the skills I learned at Whittle’s were completely transferable to another job. Then I worked in a combo shop for a few years, and another happy accident happened. I had lunch with Brenda Dillon and told her that I was thinking about finding a new job. She asked me what I would like to do, and I told her I would like a job where I am learning something new every day, where I’m developing relationships with people over a long period of time, and it would be terrific if it was in the music industry. And Voila!! Two weeks later I was working for Don Dillon, and that’s when I said, ‘Hey, I know an association that could use management’ and it was RPMDA, which I used to be a member of. That lead to getting NASMD and all these other music organizations that we work with. Just happy, happy accidents.
Christie: Well, when your mind is focused on what gives you joy, you attract what you want and need.
Madeleine: Yes, and if we have a day in the office here without a laugh, well it isn’t a very good day, is it?
Christie: What do you think is unique about RPMDA and why is it so special to you?
Madeleine: It is a feeling of family, from generation to generation. I have been associated with RPMDA long enough to see kids who have taken over their parents’ companies. Where else do people get up in front of their competitors and share everything about their business willingly and happily because they believe in this industry so much. It is that feeling of affection, of cooperation, and that being together is what we need. Everybody believes it.
The other thing is the welcoming nature of RPMDA. You can be a first timer and leave with new friends, new experiences, and new knowledge, and that doesn’t always happen at other conferences. RPMDA has always gone out of the way to make the social occasions open and welcoming and makes a special effort to include and recognize new people. Love it, love it, love it!
Sometimes people can have a conversation over in the corner, and it can change the entire industry. It’s like the butterfly effect, but it can only happen when people get together. And that’s why RPMDA will always be important.
Christie: You have always been very inspirational to me, Madeleine. What would like people to see as your legacy?
Madeleine: I believe that music makes the world a much better place to live, and so maybe, in my small way, if I have been able to put people together or supported music organizations for performers and educators, it’s because I believe so much in music. I can’t imagine a world without it, I just feel like more music in everybody’s lives makes it better. Anything we can do, anything I can do to help that along will be my legacy.
Christie: What do you think Madeleine Crouch will be doing in the future?
Madeleine: Keep doing what I am doing, but a little more down time would be nice. I do want to stay involved though, just not over-involved. My secret desire is to join an improv group with Christie Smith and head to Second City!
Christie: I’d be down for that any day Madeleine! Should we add Alan Friedman to the troupe?
Madeleine: Oh yes! And Ron Manus, too, but then I’d have to take out an insurance policy because I’d die from laughing!
From the industry…
It has been my observation that Madeleine Crouch contributes to the music products industry in the great tradition of who were are as passion driven music makers. She upholds all that is good about our intent and interest and adds her own knowledge, understanding and care. I have proudly worked beside her for over a decade as she contributed greatly to the goal of preserving our rich history, work that earned her the NAMM Oral History Service Award in 2015. Any time I have an opportunity to work with her or to help her I JUMP at the chance! She is a true high note in our world!
Dan Del Fiorentino, NAMM Oral History
Many people are involved in promoting and advancing the print music segment of our industry but nobody is more passionate and effective than Madeleine. Over the past few decades she has used her continual qualities of thoughtfulness and inclusion to make everyone who ever attended RPMDA feel a part of the family. RPMDA is a very special family and Madeleine is our Matriarch.
Kevin Cranley, Willis Music