LEARNING FROM FALCONE’S EXAMPLE
One of my favorite MSU moments happened when I was still in high school in Ann Arbor. I was a percussionist in the Pioneer High School Symphony Band. Victor Bordo, our amazing director, regularly invited legendary conductors to work with us and the most memorable was MSU music legend, Leonard Falcone. He taught me a great lesson about focus that still resonates with me today.
The best conductors set a clear pace for their organizations. When they take the baton they effectively guide the group through the changes in tempo and dynamics that turn notes on a page into moving works of art.When Dr. Falcone realized that I was playing the bass drum on the piece he was directing, he pulled me aside. “Good conductors can only set the pace,” he told me. “It’s the bass drummer who makes sure the rest of the band keeps up.”
I’ve never forgotten those words. We have our share of Spartan visionaries out there who lead our greatest companies.But there are many more of us who play the bass drum, turning the mission and vision of our organizations into concepts and processes that move the team forward. Both on and o campus, Spartan graduate students are doing precisely this. For many undergrads, graduate assistants mold their first impressions of an MSU education.These gifted teachers translate complex ideas into a language that res young imaginations, challenging us to engage in the two way process that is effective learning. Across our state, and around the world, graduate students directly interact with this global laboratory to test new ideas and validate the theory that is only useful if it can be put into practice.
There’s a natural tendency to slow down and stay with the crowd.And it’s o en the Spartans who grab the bass drum, setting a beat that challenges us to think outside the box, take risks and blaze new trails that lead to great discoveries.
“Keep your eye on me,” Dr. Falcone said. “No matter what you may hear around you, we will lead this band together. My baton and your bass drum will determine how well our musicians interpret this great music.”
There are many Spartans who write and conduct the songs that are the articulation of our life’s work. But just like the MSU graduate students who impact the velocity of change in East Lansing and beyond, all of us can be the bass drummers who keep our eyes on the baton and set the pace that the world will follow.
Scott Westerman, III, ’78
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association