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HAPPY CHORDS

A Novel by

Paul M. Diesel

Copyright © 2000 Paul M. Diesel. All rights reserved.

To dream of the person you would be

-Sign outside an old New England church

is to waste the person you are.

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ONE

Room B-1, Clarion CoUege of Music. Boston, Wednesday, January 26.2000,2:10 P.M.

It was the first day of classes of the second semester, and though Ben Williams couldn't possibly know it, today he would meet someone who would change his life forever. He was introducing his marketing course, part of the Music Business and Management curriculum, and had just reviewed

what he expected of the students. .

"And what can we expect? Anything we can use? Something we can turn into a paying gig?" The questioner was bouncing her head and tapping her pencil as she spoke with apparent flippancy, but Ben knew it was a fair question and wanted to do it justice. In fact, he couldn't have scripted it better, given what he wanted to convey during this first meeting.

'What kind of drum set do you play?" Ben asked. "And what's your name?" Everyone at the school, regardless of major, was a performance caliber musician, and by now he could usually guess who played what or was a voice major.

"Kathleen Alexander," was the reply. "I playa used set, and I'm tired of it. That's why 1 asked about the green." That's money to musicians.

Before he could answer, three or four latecomers walked in, something he'd learned to expect in two years of teaching at this school. These were artists who lived by feelings, not the clock. "Welcome. Take a seat anywhere," he said, unable to avoid taking a second look at one of the latecomers. She looked older than the others, with a face whose considerable underlying beauty was obscured by a look of sadness, fatigue or both. She was blonde and slender and looked at Ben as if to say she was sorry to be late. Ben smiled, trying to respond that it was OK.

"Kathleen, I'm glad you asked that question. Very glad. Let me just finish having you introduce yourselves and then I'll introduce myself to you, and answer you in the process."

The student self-introductions revealed hometowns from all over the world and widely ranging musical specialties. The slender latecomer's name was Lise Bergson, pronounced as if it were spelled Lisa. She was originally from Germany, now lived in an apartment near the school and was a piano player and song writer. Oddly enough, Lise was his sister Nancy's middle name, there being some German on his mother's side.

Ben resumed his introduction of the course and of himself, restating Kathleen's question for those who didn't hear it and noting it lead very well to what he was about to say.

"My name is Ben Williams, and I want you to call me Ben. I'm not a professor, and if you call me mister it makes me feel old." They liked that. Students always did.

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"What I'm about to say to you is one of the most important parts of this course, so please pay close attention. I feel very strongly about it, and if you have friends in this course who aren't here, I want you to fill them in. The learning starts now.

"I've been a teacher here for two years, Longer ago than I care to admit I graduated from Yale and then Harvard Business School. I earned my way through both as a disc jockey, so I can relate to your financial situations. At Yale the radio station was three miles from the campus, and the bus was a quarter, so I walked both ways to save a lousy 50 cents. Anyway, I wound up winning a fellowship for Harvard sponsored by CBS Radio ... Because it got me that education, the business of music wound up being very good to me financially, Kathleen, and it can be to all of you if you pay attention."

Kathleen's ears perked up. So did Lise's. But she didn't seem to have the strength to lift her eyes to meet his.

"I embarked upon a career in marketing in the financial services industry. 1 guess I should say that I more than embarked. I became totally engulfed in it. It's all 1 did for twenty-some years, often seven days a week. We broke a lot of ground. We financed glamorous record labels and movie studios and not-sa-glamorous Mom and Pop record stores. We made car and mortgage loans to Mr. and Mrs. America and everything in between. And we did it well, especially after 1 became the president of the place and we started to buy less efficient competitors - less efficient because they didn't understand and practice marketing as I'm about to teach it to you.

"I know you're wondering, so, yes, 1 did do well financially, 1 tell you that for two reasons, neither of which is to brag. The first is so that you know I'm here because I want to be, not because I'm an underpaid musician, as most are, who needs a teaching gig. The second is so that you know that the approach to marketing I'll teach you really does work. So, yes, I'll teach you how to make money, as long as you promise me this. You will not assume as I did that money equals happiness or fulfillment. As Woody Allen says, "Money beats poverty, if only for financial reasons," But please don't think having it will be your high note or that your best years will be exclusively a function of your wallet When you come home to an empty apartment or house, the four walls have great difficulty in sharing in the joy of your big bonus, fat raise or new contract,

"In fact, as 1 woke up one day with hundreds of acquaintances but few friends, no wife or children and a lousy feeling that, forget a high note, 1 hadn't even played a very happy song, I hung it up and decided to do what 1 wanted to do, namely get.married.and .havechildren, teach school, address business audiences based upon my experiences, and learn to play the piano.

"And I'm happy to report that I did get married to the lady, named Anna, who encouraged me to cash in and look for that happy song. She's younger than me, but who isn't?! OK, I'm 48 and she's 35," Ben generally passed for ten years younger, but 48 was the right number. "In fact, we're going to have baby in August" There was applause. "You can see that 1 do teach sch~