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?”