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Bernie Williams

bernie williams Somehow our industry has this ability to amaze. As an avid, lifelong Yankee fan I could cheer for almost anyone who donned the pinstripes. Sometimes this was a challenge, as when the snarling Randy Johnson signed on late in his career. Sometimes this was impossible, as Roger Clemens (long before the steroid allegations) could only ever be a hated Red Sox bully. Yet sometimes the player possessed such a rare combination of talent and humility that I would have rooted hard for him irrespective of the team that he played for. Bernie Williams was such a player. Despite his athletic gifts, he was never the perfect fit for New York. They called him Bambi early in his career. He was skinny – close to awkward – and he wore eyeglasses that were so enormous that I always assumed he visited a very sadistic optometrist. He was soft spoken and unassuming – to the point where many a lesser man would have been steamrolled by the New York media. He had a companion, however, and it went everywhere Bernie went. His companion was his guitar. He’d play it after every game in the locker room and it would often help keep the rabid media at bay. His bat did much of the talking as well, and he developed into the centerpiece of a squad that played in Six World Series, winning four of them. Throughout this run, he experienced the thrill of parades through the Canyon of Heroes. Late in his career, his legacy secure, he would be serenaded late in games, with 50,000+ Yankee stadium fans chanting, in unison as song, “Ber-nie Wil-liams…Ber-nie Wil-liams”.  And while hanging up the pinstripes he never put down his guitar, and now his resume lists a Latin grammy nomination from his 2009 album “Moving Forward”. Bernie was part of another team this past week. He joined, as did I, a group of 40 or so NAMM members and advocates for the cause to fight for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (previously known as “No Child Left Behind”) and to ensure changes in the language of the bill to keep school districts from cutting local music programs. Unlike many celebrities who prefer to either lend their name to a cause, or parachute in for a photo-op, not Bernie. He was at every briefing, every training session, and every publicity event earlier in the week, followed by a full day of congressional visits on Wednesday to advocate on behalf of music education. We were fortunate enough, on Wednesday night, to participate in an intimate gathering that NAMM put together on Capitol Hill, in conjunction with VH-1 and the Support Music Coalition. We had tremendous visits and speeches with Gavin DeGraw and Tony Bennett, who movingly lent their weight to our advocacy goals. But when Bernie took to the podium – no bat, no guitar this time – just his words, and they will never leave me. As he stood before this room of NAMM delegates, Congressional staffers, Members of Congress, etc., Bernie was reflecting on the day we had just completed. He adjusted the microphone and said “Today I have just spent one of the coolest days of my entire life”. This four time World Series champ and Grammy nominee expressing with complete sincerity that this experience of advocating on behalf of Music Education might very well have been his most meaningful life experience of all. --Brian

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