It’s not al­ways easy going against the tide

Antelope Valley Press - - SHOWCASE - JESSE DAVID­SON

The so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions of our life’s un­fold­ing is in­grained in us. It’s not al­ways easy to go against the tide of what is ex­pected of us.

In this edi­tion of “Sto­ries from the Other Side,” we pro­file AVC Pro­fes­sor Michael J. Mc­Cully — some­one, who in the mid­dle of life, faced an important cross­road. Jesse David­son: How long have you been in the mu­sic business?

Michael Mc­Cully: Pay­ing the bills and keep­ing the lights on, I have been mak­ing a liv­ing in mu­sic since 1997. I had been in the in­surance/ in­vest­ment in­dus­try since 1983, af­ter grad­u­at­ing col­lege. For the most part, I hated my job. So at the age of 36, in the midst of a mid-life cri­sis, I sought a ca­reer change. Dur­ing that time (1983-1997) I took lessons and was a week­end gig war­rior. My first big op­por­tu­nity came when I was con­tracted to record for a PBS/TimeLife Films record­ing in Hol­ly­wood, for the life of silent film star Mary Pick­ford. To this day, I am not cer­tain how I got the call, but it changed ev­ery­thing. My wife and I talked about a com­plete ca­reer change into mu­sic. I prac­ticed hours on top of hours. I stud­ied with Les Bene­dict (Tony Ben­nett, Frank Si­na­tra) went on au­di­tions, re­hearsal bands at the union and play­ing any­thing I could. The hard work paid off. I got a steady gig with Wayne Foster En­ter­tain­ment (a ca­sual agency) and played high-end cor­po­rate and wed­ding gigs across the United States. That net­work­ing led to re­fer­ral gigs for me with The Temp­ta­tions, Bobby Cald­well, The Funk Brothers, Natalie Cole, Rod Ste­wart, Snoop Dogg and oth­ers.

JD: How long have you been teach­ing in the com­mer­cial mu­sic pro­gram?

MM: I have been a fac­ulty in­struc­tor teach­ing mul­ti­ple sec­tions of History of Rock ’n Roll with the AVC Com­mer­cial Mu­sic Pro­gram since Au­gust of 2008. For a brief time, I was the pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor (di­rec­tor) from Au­gust 2009 to Au­gust 2017. I loved help­ing the stu­dents discover their place in mu­sic as per­form­ers, sound engi­neers,

pro­duc­ers and song­writ­ers. We had great success with the stu­dents com­plet­ing the pro­gram dur­ing my time and it is con­tin­u­ing to­day. I love see­ing the success of the stu­dents mak­ing their mark and pay­ing it for­ward. JD: Who were some of your men­tors when you first started?

MM: Laura Hem­inway was run­ning what would be Com­mer­cial Mu­sic dur­ing my time in the early 1980s. We called our band “Show Band” and we gigged ev­ery­where in the AV. I can’t say enough about what Lee (Mat­alon) did for me. As a 19 year old, he would take me on gigs with the pro play­ers from LA. He showed me the ropes, al­ways teach­ing me and bap­tiz­ing me into what it would take to be a mu­si­cian. From the songs, to how run a band/gig and how to treat a client. Al­ways teach­ing. Les Bene­dict was my first great trom­bone teacher. A one-hour les­son of­ten lasted three hours, eas­ily and could have gone longer if I didn’t tell him I had to go. Al Jama­tis was of­ten the piano player on Lee’s gig and for­mer mu­sic di­rec­tor for Donna Sum­mer. Like Lee, he was al­ways teach­ing. Mark Divers was my best friend and a master mu­si­cian. From ju­nior high to com­mu­nity col­lege, I al­ways wanted to play as well as he did. My wife Marla gave me the love and sup­port of some­one who would never let you give up and al­ways had my back.

JD: Ad­vice for up and com­ing mu­si­cians to­day?

MM: Though the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the in­surance/ in­vest­ment in­dus­try still pays div­i­dends to­day, I hated al­most ev­ery sin­gle day. I have been blessed with the op­por­tu­nity to do what I al­ways wanted to do, travel and play gigs at amazing venues across the U.S. I’ve worked with in­sane mu­si­cians and re­ally cool people. There have been dif­fi­cult days. How­ever, the good days have ex­ceeded the bad days 100-fold.

So my ad­vice is work hard, be dili­gent, re­spon­si­ble, ac­count­able to your­self and oth­ers. Take chances and get out of your com­fort zone. Never give up! You will have nay-say­ers from fam­ily to close friends. Ig­nore them. Follow your love and your pas­sion. Plug into people and a pro­gram that has re­sults. Learn from ev­ery­one. We live in an education sys­tem that doesn’t sup­port the arts and wants young people to be what­ever job is cur­rently trend­ing. In order to have a bal­anced so­ci­ety, we have to have the arts.


Michael Mc­Cully has been mak­ing a liv­ing through mu­sic since 1997.

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