Joe Mahoney (1972) Percussion
My Life After New Trier
Four years at New Trier West High School, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. What a blast!
But let’s talk about Jazz Ensemble. I remember the day I was asked to be in the Sextet, on Sunday nights. This blew me away. Playing with Rich Ruttenberg, Scott Rosenthal, Richard Oppenheim, Erich Hochberg. But it was Isidro Perez who got me grounded. I finally started to learn about hand independence. Changed my life!
But it was the June concert of my freshman year that I finally figured it out with the big band. The guest soloist was Phil Wilson. Many of you may remember him as the trombonist who would play with a plastic toothpick in his mouth. The chart was Big Shwing Face. Until that night I was still timid behind the drums, but it finally kicked in on the back half of the tune. Wilson gave me wink and I just took off. At the end of the tune, Rutts, Rosenthal and Isidro high fived me like I had just hit a grand slam. That was the day I became a drummer.
So where did I land?
I went to Loyola, New Orleans, on scholarship. The interesting point is that on day one, feeling heady over the Montreux trip and awards and all-around big shot, I met the drummer who had won the same awards the year before. Bobby Breaux has remained a lifelong friend.
I learned a lot that first year. I was fortunate enough to play gigs all over New Orleans…at all hours of the night. Also, being roommates with Bill Purse taught me that I would never have perfect pitch, nor develop the talent to write music. I started to burn out.
One day, a friend asked if I could play some music in the television studios at Loyola. I had no idea that they existed, even though Loyola owned the CBS television and radio affiliates in New Orleans. I jumped at the chance. I also fell head over heels with the thought of being in the television end of entertainment.
Although I kept playing, my chops soon fell way behind as I spent more time in the television studio, as well as the classroom, working on my other writing skills. It is also the television studio where I met the future Mrs. Mahoney. We will be married 45 years in 2022. We have two great kids who are also in the television/film and education business.
After graduation, I got a job as a media buyer at The Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago. The real Mad Men. I really loved the job but loved the sales guys who called on me even more. They were natty dressers and had tickets to sporting events and great tables around the city. I started interviewing.
The interesting serendipity is that I lived next to an insurance agent. He got wind that I was in the market for a new job and called to chat. That was May of 1978. Still playing the drums for fun and money, I was on a break at a Memorial Day yard party. Tuxedo and all, I asked the piano player, Bruce Blanck, if I should consider the insurance business. Most insurance guys play music on the side. He was a great musician who sold insurance on the side. Long story short, I have been in the financial service industry, for 43 years.
Looking back, everything I have ever done has been that of an independent sole; Golf, Drummer, Student Director, Television Director, Insurance Agent, Business owner.
Simply put, as many of you may remember, I have never liked being told what to do. Even as a student director, I was the guy up front, for better or worse. (By the way, I still have the putter that the Lab Band gave me when I graduated.)
Those Jazz Band days were the best. I’m not sure where I would be without them. Indeed, we were a lucky bunch. Think about the moving, and uncontrollable parts to make it all happen.
1. A group of unbelievably talented individuals all getting to NTW at the same time.
2. Committed parents with the money or time to support us.
3. Faculty and administration backing
4. Student backing…we are still famous.
There are talented kids everywhere, but this was the perfect storm.
Also, we had Roger. He was willing and able to be patient and bring out the very best of a group of people who, by nature, don’t like direction. Artists, that is. We should all be grateful. I am.