graduation 1978

RM conducting the band at graduation.

When I was a young turk at Andover High School, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, back in 1978, I was part of a band of brothers and sisters who happened to play music in the top rated HS orchestra and choir in the state. We were the nerds, the egg-heads, the sensitive artists, the intellectual heart of the school and I was their king, or rather their mascot, probably because I was the only senior who would dare be seen with these dweebs. We were all destined for Julliard and Peabody Conservatory. Many went on to symphony positions, became doctors and were very successful in their respective professions.

Clarinet in collegeAlthough accepted, my father refused to pay my way to Peabody Conservatory, even after an overwhelming vote by the band boosters to set up a special scholarship fund to send me, which was over ridden by the head of the parents of the one who won the official scholarship. Politics!

My friends and I had some strong ideas about the artist life, which they affectionately called, the “RM Theory.” It was a couple years into my college career at Wayne State University, when I was a counselor at Interlochen, the famed summer camp for the arts, when I overheard a few campers from another cabin telling their new friends about the “RM Theory.”

After listening for a while, I asked them where they went to High School. “We’re from Andover.”

Meeting the clarinet deligation in China (we were the first university concert tour in 1982)

Meeting the clarinet delegation in China. The WSU Symphony Band was the first to tour China, in 1982, since it opened to the West  after its Cultural Revolution, 1966-76)

I asked them to explain the “RM Theory.” They did pretty well.  “Well, basically, it means you just kick ass, work your art to the hilt, be prepared, give it everything you got and then like, you just let it go. Like, after you put it out there, it just doesn’t matter. It’s gone.”

“You release it to the Universe,” I added.

“Yeah, that’s right.” They paused. “Hey, have you heard of the “RM Theory?”

“Do you know what the “RM” stands for?” I countered.

“Well, ah, no.  Do you?

“Yep.  I’m Rob Maniscalco, glad to finally meet you.”

They were like, “Woe, no way man. You’re RM?”

I’m like, “Yeah, way man. I’m RM.”

Here is my summation of what I remember of the RM Theory. It is probably not terribly original. Its about integrity. Its about being our best, even when no one is watching — but especially when they are. Its been said many times, many ways. But here is The RM Theory:

Dare to be amazing because no one really cares what we do and nothing really matters anyway. Therefore, anything is possible. So dare to step into the arena, because excellence is its own reward. We will not depend upon some external feedback, expect a particular result or hope for affirmation for our effort. Our work, our way of being, will speak for itself. That’s what will sustain us, whether in our work or in our relationships. We will be impeccable. We commit ourselves to the love of quality and the quality of love, against all odds.

I’ve tried to live into that way of being, sometimes, more successfully than others. As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”




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