One Green Blood's State of Mind

Remembering Hazen Schumacher

Hazen SchumacherBy Scott Westerman

Our good friend, Hazen Schumacher, passed away on the morning of July 19, 2015 in Ann Arbor. He was 88 years young.

Hazen was one of the world’s leading authorities on the first three decades of recorded American Jazz, served on the Ann Arbor School Board at a pivotal time in the district’s history and was a teacher, mentor and friend to a generation of broadcasters, community leaders and jazz aficionados.

Hazen was my father’s best friend. He was pivotal in Dad’s ascendency to the Superintendency of the Ann Arbor Public Schools and helped guide the district through one of its most tumultuous and challenging periods of change.

For three decades, his Jazz Revisited program celebrated “America’s greatest gift to the world”. IAJRC Journal columnist Art Hilgart noted that the program, “reached millions, giving Hazen a good claim to be America’s premier jazz educator.” In the course of its 30 year run, over 1500 programs were broadcast from a record collection that grew to more than 50,000 disks. [AUDIO: Listen to a typical Jazz Revisited Program – Courtesy Bix Eiben]

A beloved professor at the University of Michigan, Hazen influenced hundreds of young lives, inspiring them to stretch beyond their self-imposed limitations and maximize their human potential. He had a knack of being the right person, in the right place, at the right time, a compassionate listening ear who often provided life-changing guidance.

As news of Hazen’s passing spread across the internet, I began to hear from many people who’s lives he touched. “Hazen was a wonderful advisor to us when we founded (University of Michigan Student Radio Station) WCBN-FM in 1972,” wrote former student Ross Ojeda. “He mentored many of us.”

“He was a special teacher,” Matt Targett noted on the Ann Arbor Townies Facebook page, “and his love for the music was evident in all that he did.”

A remarkable, man. A trailblazer. A valued friend. These were common sentiments.

When my college roommate, Steve Schram, was considering taking on the leadership of Michigan Radio, Hazen was the first person he sought out. ” He generously spent time with me,” Steve remembers, “explaining the background and history of the station so I could truly measure the value of WUOM to its loyal audience. ”

Hazen was my first radio mentor, graciously opening up his world to reveal the combination of technical and intellectual skills that combine to create a broadcaster.

As the host of the long running Jazz Revisited program, Hazen Schumacher was a one man preservation society, celebrating America's most enduring home-grown art form.

As the host of the long running Jazz Revisited program on Michigan Radio, Hazen Schumacher was a one man preservation society, celebrating America’s most enduring home-grown art form.

He was a role model for how style and substance so mix to create a personal brand. He believed that education isn’t something that only happens in a classroom and that the exhilaration of watching a team grow and succeed far surpasses personal accolades and financial remuneration.

Hazen taught us not to take ourselves, or life too seriously. He had the ego that is a prerequisite for perseverance in the most competitive environments. But he was the first to be self deprecating and to point the spotlight in the direction of those who helped put him on their shoulders, lifting him above the crowd where the world could envision the dreams Hazen helped make come true.

To become close friends with Hazen and Rusty’s children was icing on the cake. Watching each of their offspring grow has been an object lesson in parenting: encouraging individuality, working through the ups and downs and being willing to put your own skin into the game, again and again. The adults that they each have become are wonderful, eclectic testaments to the experiences Hazen and Rusty exposed them to, and the guidance they provided to all of us kids (even if even didn’t always follow it).

Hazen Schumacher at WUOM - Courtesy

Hazen Schumacher at WUOM – Courtesy

I recently had a chance to drive through the Lakewood subdivision that the Schumachers call home.  I noticed how much the trees had grown. I could feel them inhaling just as I exhaled, recycling the air that I breathed even as they moderated the extremes of the summer heat. It struck me at that moment that I could process all of that science, but it was Hazen and Rusty who taught me to explore the beauty of the leaves, the diversity of their design and color, and to appreciate the harmonious whole that comes together to make life not only worth living, but worth living joyfully.

The Schumachers have planted many seeds, seeds that grew to provide life giving energy, to protect others from suffering and to compel the beneficiaries to propagate a legacy of love across the ages.

This is the wonderful essence of what the these two extraordinary spirits have meant, not just to me, but to hundreds of others who had the great good fortune to cross their paths. Our world is better for their partnership. And I for one intend to model the behavior for a long time to come… with a little Count Basie in the background.

Listen to the theme from Hazen’s long running Jazz Revisited: Duke Ellington’s “What Am I Here For”.

A backstory on how Jazz Revisited came to be:

Russian Christmas Music – January 16, 1971

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“All of the resources of the modern symphonic band are drawn upon to create an almost overwhelming sound picture of tone color, power, and sonority.”

These are the words that composer Alfred Reed wrote to describe his masterpiece, “Russian Christmas Music”. He wrote it in the throws of the Second World War, in a mere 16 days, for a concert designed to improve Soviet / American relations. It had it’s premiere on December 12, 1944 in Denver, Colorado, manifested by an aggregated group of musicians from 5 different military bands. The piece was revised and expanded two years later, winning the 1947 Columbia University prize for new serious music for symphonic band.

24 years after it’s debut, I stood amidst the percussion section as the Ann Arbor Pioneer Symphony Band was about to perform Russian Christmas Music at Hill Auditorium.

If you were a young musician headed to Ann Arbor Pioneer High School at the dawn of the 1970s, you covetted a seat in the Symphony Band. Victor Bordo, the director, was already legendary. He drew superlative performances out of adolescent souls, often above and beyond anything we dreamt we might be capable of. Competition was fierce and each of us was determined to make the grade.

We worked hard. Very hard. The music he put before us required total concentration. And if you lost it for a nano-second, Vic always seemed to sense it. His gift for teaching, iron discipline and dedication to excellence stretched us beyond good and into the realm of great, taking us to the pinnacle of the musical experience.

This is something that non-musicians can never understand. There is no feeling on earth like being in the middle of one hundred people, expressing a composer’s brilliance in a large concert hall, before a capacity crowd.

A quarter century after Russian Christmas Music was first premiered, relations with the Soviet Union were still ice cold. Christmas was something one did not celebrate in the depths of state sponsored atheism. Reed, in his own way, intended to prove the existence of the almighty, weaving a liturgical tapestry echoing the acapella harmonies of the Eastern Orthodox Church into a symphonic showcase for winds. The melodies were not familiar. But the aura was mystical. You were immersed in transcendent majesty and knew exactly what occasion was being celebrated.

The evening had already proven to be a success. We played well and each selection was greeted with enthusiasm. But only the few who were aware of Alfred Reed’s magic knew that the best was yet to come.

With the rest of the program complete, Victor Bordo stood on the Hill Auditorium podium to lead our interpretation.

“Music acts like a magic key to which the most tightly closed heart opens,” said Maria VonTrapp of Sound of Music Fame. And like the most effective expressions of love, it is most powerful when experienced live. The best digital recordings and the most expensive sound systems can never render the emotional nuances transmitted as you watch musicians become one with the music.

Now imagine standing at the center of it all, the experience flowing over you, through you, touching every passionate fiber of your being. Like Zen masters of old, it was possible to leap beyond the reflexive mechanics of performance, to an entirely new level of consciousness.

Such were the sensations dancing through my being that winter’s evening as we began. Chimes called the congregation to worship. The woodwinds sang the “Carol of the Little Russian Children”. Trombones and trumpets intoned the “Antiphonal Chant”, building in power and frenzy to a percussive splash, punctuated by cymbals and gong.  Chuck Perraut’s visceral Cor angelis alto saxophone moaned a lonely “Village Song”.

And then came the finale, the “Cathedral Chorus”. A carillon heralding the invisible angels we knew must be surrounding us. Thunderous, climatic waves of sound engulfed every cavernous corner of Hill Auditorium, with french horns lifting their bells upward for maximum counterpoint effect. As the final note echoed across the balconies, the audience reaction was instantaneous, immense and appreciative.

Every one of us knew we had just experienced a life changing moment.

Victor Bordo smiled, stood to the side of the ensemble, and with a single upturned palm brought us to our feet to accept the adulation.

The comfort of knowing that you are good at something is a superpower that should arm every young person as they navigate the labyrinth of adolescence.To paraphrase Thoreau, “When we played music, we felt no danger. we were invulnerable. we saw no foe.”

Music gave me the confidence to push beyond the edges of my comfort zone, to try, fail, and try again. And it taught me to look for superpowers in others. With the seasoning of the years, I’ve discovered that every human being has a gift. Our job is to seek it out, nourish and develop it in our fellow travelers, nurturing the slippery self esteem that surrounds it.

44 years later, as I listen once again to the Pioneer Symphony Band performing “Russian Christmas Music” the things I saw, heard and felt during my high school experience come rushing back; the precarious existence of an evolving being, the rollercoaster of emotions, and the constant search for acceptance and purpose that is ultimately a lifelong journey.

“Music,” wrote Longfellow, “Is the universal language of mankind.” That winters night we spoke that language as one spiritual entity. We dropped our shields and revealed our best, most authentic selves. And for a few moments in time, fear, uncertainty and doubt fell away as music transformed us into best people we could ever hope to be.

To the class of 2015

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

From my speech to the Senior Class Council.

Congratulations on surviving your college experience. When you consider that only about 7 out of 100 people ever get this far in the process, your achievement is truly extraordinary.

Right about now, I start to hear from some of the students I talked with one year ago at this very event. After 12 months out there in the real world these are the 5 common things they tell me:

  • “This was harder than I thought it would be.”
  • “This is NOT what I expected.”
  • “I’m not sure this is the career I want after all.”
  • “I feel in over my head.”
  • “What happens if I screw up?”

Whether you are starting something new or are contemplating expanding your current horizons, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you approach a growth opportunity. (more…)

Tips from Alumni for Incoming Freshmen

By Scott Westerman
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One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from freshmen is, “How can I get ahead of the game?” Here eleven tips for success from alumni who answered our “Advice to My Younger Self” survey. (more…)

Happy 35th Birthday to the MSU Sexual Assault Program

Spartan IconsTonight, Colleen and I joined about 60 others, including Student Life VP, Dr. Denise Maybank and MSU President, Lou Anna K. Simon, to celebrate the 35th birthday of the Sexual Assault Program. I was deeply honored to be recognized, along with my good friend, ASMSU President, James Conwell, for our support during the past year.

It was one of those instances where I wrote down my remarks beforehand to make sure I said exactly what I wanted to say. Here’s the result:

For those who haven’t yet met her, I want to ask my wife, my soul mate and the love of my life, Colleen Aldrich-Westerman to stand up. That’s her, the beautiful blonde, standing in the back, wishing I had not pointed her out.

This generous recognition has special meaning for Colleen and me, because we know, first hand, what it’s like to be survivors. Five years ago, Colleen was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It was an attack we didn’t expect. Colleen had to let strangers do horrific things to her body to survive. It destroyed any innocence we may have had left. And it profoundly impacted all of us who love and support her.

The monster will always be part of our consciousness, but thanks to gifted caregivers, we are now able to enter what we are calling our second life, dedicated to helping survivors of every definition regain their power, discover their life’s purpose and to turn that purpose into a joyful expression of the best we can be.

It’s a wonderful irony that the two words we are using to describe the current Campaign for MSU are Empower Extraordinary. Shari’s team, the counseling center, our peer educators and the amazing women of SACI are doing extraordinary things, helping men and women rediscover their power and pursue their purpose.

This is the essence of what makes Michigan State University great. We’re a microcosm of the larger world. We have flaws. And we still have much to learn. But as Spartans we have chosen to rise above whatever may happen to us, and to apply the immense, healing, enlightening power of the Spartan Nation in the direction of transformational change.

This is the true definition of a Spartan’s Will. We are honored to model the behavior and are deeply grateful for the honor of serving you.

The Great Game

By Scott Westerman
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By every objective assessment we shouldn’t be here. Even Nate Silver, our favorite son who knows the numbers better than most, didn’t initially think we had much of a shot. The regular season gave every indication that this team could not coalesce into a contender.

But those of us who know them and the coach who lives for the month of March waited, quietly, apprehensively, for the magic to happen. And it has. Michigan State is in the Final Four for the 9th time in Tom Izzo’s tenure.

It is said that sports imitates life. And life is The Great Game. We come into it with an empty tool box. Coaching (read parenting), practice, forward failure and faith are the four factors that define our body of work and determine the final score. (more…)

Driving the Spartan Brass

WSW Circa 1973

Yours truly in 1973. And yes, those are green sparkle 1969 Ludwigs. Sure wish I still had them!

It’s something only drummers can truly understand.

You’re sitting behind a collection of brass, chrome, plastic and wood, surrounded by some of the best musicians at Michigan State. Their arrangements are time tested and they execute each measure to near perfection. The audience knows every note. If you’ve ever been to any athletic event where the Spartan Brass has played, it is impossible not to get caught up in the explosive energy.

There’s a reason that every coach wants them on hand when everything is on the line. When all else is equal, properly motivated spectators can be the deciding factor. And nothing supercharges a fan base like the Spartan Brass.

There’s a reason I identify with Mackenzie Viventi, Auston McMurray and those few chosen young men and women who drive the Spartan Brass from a drummer’s perch.

I’ve been there. (more…)

WJR’s Mike Fezzey dies suddenly at 58

WJR's Mike Fezzey (right) Amid the joy of MSU’s return to the elite 8, there is sadness in the Spartan Family this morning. We lost long time WJR Radio general manager and Huntington Bank executive Mike Fezzey this weekend to a heart attack. Mike was the architect of the partnership that orchestrated MSU’s move to News Talk 760, and a great friend to Michigan State University. He was 58.

To hear MSU Spartans football and Basketball via WJR’s legendary 50,000 watt voice was a powerful affirmation that our athletic program had grown to become one of the most respected in the nation. We’ll miss this visionary broadcaster.

Hear Mike Fezzey tell our Russ White how the WJR deal came about in this 2006 Spartan Podcast.

The Spartan Podcast Celebrates 10 years

The Spartan Podcast in 2005Ten years ago this month, Gary Reid, Bill Castanier, Jeff Smith and I launched The Spartan Podcast. It was one of the first of it’s kind in the university space. We started out riffing on the week’s news but soon began to get fascinating guests to join us, people like Lawrence Lessig, Keith Ferrazzi and Milo Radulovich.

Russ White was a guest in October of 2005 year to discuss MSU’s new radio contract with WJR. He became executive producer in April of 2006 and has turned our Beggars Banquet brainstorm into a best in class multi-media archive. Here’s a link to the very first Spartan Podcast from February 15, 2005.

On The Road With @MSU_Hockey

By Scott Westerman
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My trip to Madison with the Spartan heroes of MSU Men’s Hockey.

On the IceTo begin to understand another’s journey, you must walk in his shoes. That was my goal this past weekend as I traveled with the MSU Men’s Hockey Team to Wisconsin.

Our journey began at the corporate terminal at Lansing Capital Regional International Airport. A bus with the team’s equipment was already in Madison. The aircraft that accommodates a group this size can’t carry the hundreds of pounds of sticks, pads, helmets and uniforms that are the tools of the ice trade so ours felt a lot like a commuter hop to Detroit.

The underpinning of every excellent athletic organization is an equally gifted supporting cast. The operations team, a trainer, a doctor, a videographer, student managers and 5 of us civilians, 45 in all comprise the travel compliment. It’s easy to see why winning programs require financial resources that stretch beyond ticket and concession revenue. As the team bus arrived on the tarmac, I felt a wave of gratitude for the Spartan Fund and the men and women of vision who write the checks to invest in champions. (more…)

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