In Praise of Ralph Hardimon

When I was in high school and college I performed with a drum corps called the Santa Clara Vanguard (SCV). This weekend at their annual banquet, one of my instructors, Ralph Hardimon, is being inducted into their Hall Of Fame. Ralph is a percussionist and a world class musician, arranger, adjudicator, teacher, composer, clinician and performer. 

I could easily go on and on about Ralph’s achievements and qualities, but I want to talk about the influence he had on me as a person.

His primary influence on me was that of a positive, male role model. For someone like me, this was REALLY important, so I need to give you a little background so you can fully appreciate this.

All of us have challenges we need to deal with in terms of our emotional lives. Mine was that I had ‘daddy issues’: My biological father left my mom and I before I was born and my stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who wanted me to be something that I’m not. To give you a sense of my relationship with my stepfather, he died when I had just turned 12 and to this day, I’ve never felt sad that he passed, only relief. Serious relief. (I’ve certainly felt guilty that I never felt bad about him dying, but that’s different than being sad about it.)

I met Ralph at my audition at SCV when I had just turned 14 (two years after my stepfather passed away, almost to the day–weird), and I can guarantee you I had no idea I needed a positive male role model. I absolutely did, but this was all happening ‘behind the scenes’.

In him I saw an artist, and a man who worked hard at what he loved–what he was put here to do. I had never been around an artist before and it was amazing. (“You can get paid for doing this?”) He also believed in who I was, in his own way. He was always asking more of me, and had a much bigger vision of what I could be than even I did–but he never, ever asked me to be something I’m not. In fact, he wanted more of what was truly me. This was huge, HUGE…you cannot imagine how huge this was for me.

This faith he had in me changed my own thought process about what I could become. I still had lots of issues, but having a positive vision for what I could become as a person was no longer one of them.

Ralph was not the only positive male role model I had in SCV (there was Fred Sanford, Pete Romo and others), but he was the first, and the only one that was with me throughout my stint with SCV.

Ralph is being inducted into the SCV Hall Of Fame because he did this type of thing not only for me, but for tons of other folks like me.

…and I haven’t even said a word about his musicianship, his sense of groove as it relates to all music, or his sense of humor. Saving that for another post I guess.

So congratulations, Ralph. Praised be Ralph Hardimon! Luv ya, man…

“Whaddya gotta SAY, Jonz?”

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5 comments on “In Praise of Ralph Hardimon
  1. Hey Miguel,

    I am so glad I took time to read this mini bio and major influence from Ralph, shoot dude I had no idea of your backdrop.
    I do know this-your writing skills are certainly admirable and I’m proud to be known as your friend, I just wish we could have been closer younger or in SCV, it appears we all had our gig .
    So cool to be reunited on fb and it’s awesome reading your inspirations and watch your continual growth, always SCV brothers,

    • says:

      Thanks Matt! Very nice of you to say.

      I’m the one that’s in awe of you–I read a lot of the info connected with the reason you were doing the parade on that float (was it the Rose Parade?). Totally inspiring as a story, but the bigger thing for me was your attitude and outlook on life. This stuff could have totally dragged you down, but you refused to let that happen. In fact you made the opposite happen. Just incredible.

      I’m proud to have YOU as a friend (and SCV brother)! Cheers buddy…

  2. Diane Figueira says:

    Hi Miguel,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us. Like Matt, I wished I had been better friends with you when we were younger. I felt like you were always a little cooler then me so why would you want to hang with me. You & Pete were always fun to watch, not only were you guys good looking you could play. I always noticed your loose wrists, I thought there’s a natural, that isn’t taught and you always made it look so easy.

    I’m glad I’ve had the chance to get to know you better this past year. You still inspire me with your Brazilian adventure, teaching kids and being a terrific dad to your daughter.

    Thank you for being my friend 🙂

    I love you always <3

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