An Interview With...
As a child, what were your favorite activities?
As a child I grew up all over the country, mainly in small towns, though. I spent a lot of time outdoors making forts, recreating famous historical battles, creating various inventions that I was sure would change the world, and of course climbing trees as we went on our fantastic explorations. It didn't matter if it was a beautiful summer day or if it was below zero with snow falling, you'd often find me outside. I also enjoyed board games that involved strategy like Risk, playing the piano, and cooking when I was stuck inside.
What were your favorite subjects in school? Did you have any favorite teachers?
My favorite subjects when I was young were music and history. That stuck with me right through elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I had a few amazing teachers that helped nurture these interests and help me be successful. In middle school, my band director, Mr. Foss, really encouraged me to go the extra mile and helped cultivate leadership skills that have been invaluable in everything else I have done since then. In high school, two teachers stand out, one was my band director, Mr. Westendorf, and the other was my French teacher, Madame Sylvester. Both of these also encouraged me to go the extra mile and gave me the opportunities to do this. A highlight in high school was definitely getting to direct the symphonic band. In college, another music teacher, Prof. Priddy, did much of the same but also taught me that to be a good leader you have to also be a servant.
I wasn't as big of a fan of math classes. I really had to work for the grades in those classes. I remember failing an algebra test in middle school and being devastated. I had never failed before. It was probably a pivotal moment for me. I could decide I just couldn't do it and quit. Or, I could decide to keep trying and beat it. I chose the latter and while I've never been 100% comfortable with higher math, I did end up tutoring some middle school students in algebra when I was in college. The lesson that I walked away with really has stuck with me. In most situations you have two options: you can succeed or you can quit.
When did you first get interested in music? How old were you when you started taking music lessons? What instruments do you play?
I have always been interested in music for as long as I can remember. I began taking piano lessons when I was four. A few years later I started violin. In middle school I added the clarinet to the mix. I also had been singing all of this time. As high school came along I challenged myself to learn every instrument in a marching band. I got pretty close and only didn't learn the flute and French horn by the time I graduated. At 15, I started directing the church choir at a local Lutheran church. I also picked up the guitar, string bass/electric bass, harmonica and mandolin along the way.
When did you first start participating in band? Did you ever perform in parades or special events?
I began playing in band in 6th grade in school. I went on to play in just about every band available including the local semi-professional community band. We played in all the local events around Proctor, Minnesota where I was living through middle and high school. In the summer there were a lot of parades for both the high school band and the community band. Sometimes this would make things complicated when both were marching in the same parade. The high school band would play at every sporting event imaginable (including volleyball, soccer, and hockey) and the community band would play at a lot of civic functions and even a big-named circus once! I never got the opportunity to perform at Disneyland, though, like some kids get to. I don't think I even realized that was an option back then!
How important is music in education?
Looking back at my education now, I realize how all the different subjects come together to create the entire educational experience. Music and arts are definitely an essential ingredient in that. I would liken it to making a cake. You wouldn't make a cake without sugar or frosting would you? I've had students occasionally complain about various classes, say music in this case, because they aren't any good at a certain instrument or something. I've always encouraged them to keep on with it. Here is why. Every time I play the piano in public someone will say something to the effect of how awesome it is that I play the piano and how they used to take music lessons as a kid but hated it so they quit. THEN, they go on to say they wish they'd stuck with it and regret that they didn't now. I have NEVER had someone who plays a musical instrument tell me they wish they didn't play that instrument or have musical knowledge. Sure, it has a cost and it can be frustrating, but the reward of the accomplishment always outshines that frustration.
When you were a child, what did you imagine you would grow up to be?
When I was a child I imagined that I would be a musical director. As you might be picking up from what I've said so far, I worked very hard to accomplish that goal. I began directing choirs at 15. By 19 I was directing handbell choirs, ensembles, and by 21 I had conducted a professional symphony.
Are you still involved with your music? What instruments do you play regularly?
I still play several instruments recreationally. Mainly I end up on my keyboard, though. It is a beautiful instrument and I can create full orchestrations and it is just a wonderful way to relax and destress after a day at work.
As to directing, I recently moved and so I'm keeping my eye open for a small church that might want a part time director. I also have subbed as a director or pianist in various churches occasionally. Other than that, after getting to accomplish my goal of directing a professional symphony I decided to tackle new challenges. I still love music and directing very much but I also want to experience as many different amazing things in life as possible. When I was working at that job, I was often working 60+ hours a week and a lesson I learned is that there is more to life than just work. I really enjoy investing in people and my new position allows me to do just that. I also have gotten to write a book and travel the world, which my previous schedule would not have allowed me to do. For example, in the last two years alone I've been to five different countries including Europe and Disneyland Paris twice. I love the freedom and flexibility I have now.
What is your current occupation?
Currently I run my own business where I help people with the their health and finances. I kind of stumbled into this business after seeing how nutrition helped both of my parents in dramatic ways. My mom had a massive stroke several years ago and a specific product helped her recover. My dad has had chronic pain for as long as I can remember and it also has him off of pain meds. When I saw how well the products worked for them, I knew I had to be a part of this. I have received my own health benefits since starting in this business as well. I can work it on my own terms and hours. It is also a nice balance to be talking to people face to face and help them have a better quality of life. With my website, I deal a lot with the Internet and email unless I'm at Disneyland so it is nice to have something completely different. I also love that I get paid to help people! I don't think there is anything you can do in life that is more noble than that.
How old were you when you first visited Disneyland? What are your earliest memories of Disneyland?
I was six years old when I visited Disneyland for the first time as we always lived out of state when I was a kid. My biggest memory from that trip was the Main Street Electrical Parade, specifically Elliot and Pete from Pete's Dragon.
When, and why, did you decide to create a fan website for Disneyland?
I actually was told I needed to create a website celebrating Disney and Disneyland by my little brother, who happens to also be our coding guru. I had started a Yahoo! group for Disney fans after realizing a need for an online forum that was going to be governed by respect and dignity and celebrate Disney and Disneyland for what they are and not put it down for what they aren't. My brother thought this was a good start but we should have a website as well. So, with his help, we created the website. The pictures were mainly taken by our original photographer Caleb, who still takes many pictures today. We had a few staff members that helped recruit people, moderate our forums, and write articles as well. The original design was atrociously ugly and I hope today's version is an improvement! I think it is. Going back to your original question, it was in 2004 when we created the first website. We have always been about being a sanctuary where people can be themselves and share their love of Disney and Disneyland without fears of being put down, teased, or being attacked in any way.
What are the best and worst things about being the founder of DapsMagic?
The best things that have come from founding DAPs Magic definitely have come from the people. I have gotten some amazing friends that I would never have met in any other way. There are also the perks of being accredited as a member of the press including access to some awesome special events, meet some famous people, and I get to review a lot of the Disney DVDs/BluRays. As for the worst, I wouldn't say there is anything that is the worst in regards to DAPs Magic itself. I guess if there were to be a worst, it would be some people without boundaries can make things a bit uncomfortable at times. It is also one of the reasons that when a cast member gave me the nickname of "Mr. DAPs" that I really have stuck with that. We have people visiting the website from North America, Central America, Europe, Asia, and Australia just to name a few places off the top of my head. We have over 10,000 who have signed up to receive our posts through various forms of social media alone. When there are that many people connected in one way or another I'm sure you can see how important protecting your privacy is online. While this is a relatively small number compared to someone who is really famous but I can definitely see and feel why actors use stage names and my DAPs stage name definitely has helped me maintain some privacy.
How much time do you spend doing things for DapsMagic?
I only spend an hour or two a day on DAPs Magic on any given day. If there is a press event or a something we are covering or videoing, then it takes more time. This is just a side gig for me, though. I also run an international business where I help people with their health and finances. It is the perfect combination though as my business allows me the flexibility to be available when special events happen. It also allows me a lot of time and extra funds to travel which has enabled me to visit Disneyland Paris twice, Walt Disney World, and this year I'm going to be going to Tokyo Disney.
What languages do you speak? Do you use other languages with your business?
I speak English and a bit of French. I've been working lately to brush up on the French. I have used it when I visited Paris but not constantly. There are a lot of places where you go where they would rather use English than suffering through rusty French! There have definitely been places though where nobody spoke English and we have gotten by just fine. Hopefully by next time I'll have it re-polished and be able to stick with French for the whole trip. It really makes for a much better traveling experience. Language can be such a huge barrier and you can miss out on so much when you don't make the effort to understand the culture and language of where you are visiting. You also can miss out on some amazing experience and foods that don't translate well so people just don't bring them up! Speaking the local language generally also leads to a more positive experience. I always start the conversation in French when I'm in France to show I respect their country. Quite often things switch to English but I feel that the effort to speak French leads to the French being more friendly and welcoming. I have heard so many stories of people saying how rude the French can be and I just haven't experienced that. The only thing I can figure is I made the effort to learn their language.
I haven't had to use French in my business… YET! I would love to, though. So far I've been able to use English and occasionally Spanish. No, I don't speak Spanish, but I have people who will translate for me in that case.
What do you see yourself doing 5 years from now?
Five years from now I see myself still running my business, running DAPs Magic, and traveling even more. I am aiming to have both at a point that I could technically retire but I know that with how much I love what I do, I'll never retire!
Besides spending time at Disneyland, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy traveling, sailing, anything with music (watching or performing), playing with my dog Skipper, visiting with friends, having game nights, movie nights, anything with people, really. I also really love to read. I always have several books lying around the house. I just finished a fascinating biography on Charles M. Schulz. As you may have figured out, I live a very eclectic life.
Is there a favorite quote that inspires you?
I actually have two. The first is from my granddad who said, "always look for the seed of the equivalent benefit." Basically, what he meant by this is look for the good in everything. Obviously bad things are going to happen in life; how you choose to react to them is really who you are and who you will become. I've chosen to be a positive person and hope to help others have more positive lives as well. The second quote is from Dr. Ted Kalogris who said, "be ashamed to die before you have scored a victory for mankind." Victories come in all shapes and sizes. For me, I spend my life trying to offer hope to people.
We live in a very pessimistic world where people have forgotten how to dream big and how to go out and do big things. That doesn't mean that people aren't doing these things, though. For example, my business has actually been growing through this financial crisis. You can do whatever you put your mind to. I have set my mind to changing the world in a positive way by helping people! I want to know that when my life is over, I have definitely scored that victory for mankind.
What advice do you have for the young students who may be reading this interview?
My advice is to anyone reading this is to dream big. I think people don't do that anymore. Think a moment about what you want to be when you grow up. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? If you could change the world in one way, what would you do? There are so many different answers you could come up with but I encourage you to just go for it! I like this quote from Les Brown: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." You can do ANYTHING you want to do, so what do you want to do?
- 13 April 2010
21 April 2010
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