According to John Rydman, President of Spec’s Wine, Spirits and Finer Foods and current Houston Symphony Board President, his experience with music education led to his success in life and business. Rydman began piano lessons in third grade, began playing saxophone in middle school band, and taught band to younger students in high school and college as a music education major at the University of North Texas.
It was at the University of North Texas where he met his wife, Lindy. Following graduation, the two joined Lindy’s family business, Spec’s, in 1971. Throughout his career, the lessons Rydman learned in music education have stayed with him, highlighting the benefits of music education in ones’ life. Rydman shared his first-hand experience with us.
A lot of things wouldn’t have happened had my wife and I not had this music background, and it’s driven by where we came from. Lindy’s mother was the organist at their church and a long-time choir director, so she was surrounded by music from an early age. I was brought up in a church choir. Music has been around us and we’ve been around it forever—it’s a big piece of us. I learned to do several different things through music that I use every day.
I’m always doing several different things, it’s important to be able to think through things on different planes. Music teaches us how important it is to multitask. One of the requirements for UNT’s band is that you have to be able to conduct a piece and keep conducting while a student asks for a piece of paper to be signed, and you have to be able to sign it while you’re still conducting without breaking stride.
Empathy is intrinsic to being a musician. You need to have the ability to think through with sensitivity and to be empathic or sympathetic to people around you, and that only gets drilled in the more you appreciate the music.
One of the skills I gained from my music education is dexterity. I don’t play any instruments anymore, haven’t in years, but everybody has always been amazed by how fast and accurately I can type. It’s a motor skill, but you learn those things somewhere and I attribute that to piano and saxophone.
People need be held accountable for things that are not done well and you learn that in music—learning to critique and be critiqued. One time, while we were practicing marching, I was on the microphone calling out problems in the show. Some parents said that the critiquing was tough on the kids after a great performance. You develop thicker skin because there are people are around you whose job is to tell you when you’re doing stuff wrong to make you better and helping you see how to get better.
You have to be flexible—you have to be able to jump and move around. Music educators do that all the time because they don’t have the luxury of a textbook that contains it all. There’s a lot more to music and these educators have to find ways to get that across to their students.
This month, we’re honoring the outstanding work of music educators in Houston and beyond, with the annual Spec’s Charitable Foundation Salute to Educators Concert on March 20, during Musical Storytellers: Winds of the Houston Symphony, part of the Bank of America POPS series, led by Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke.