March 27, 2016



It was about this time of year three decades ago that I received a letter from SUNY Fredonia, the college I had applied to and auditioned at with hopes of becoming a Music Teacher. I can still vividly remember the drive to the western New York college campus with my Mom and Dad to see the campus and audition in front of the folks that did that sort of thing at the music school. At the time I felt confident; for the previous five years I had been in every “select” chorus at high school, had solo parts in the school musicals, successfully completed music theory classes, had performed at other civic functions as both part of a group and as a solo vocalist and had been part of All-County and All-State choral concerts. In daily chorus classes I was asked to sit next to those that would struggle with harmony; I could “sight sing” with the best of them. My knack for finding the harmony was strong and though my range was on the low side, I had a decent range to my singing voice (bass, baritone and relatively middle tenor).

I was nervous at the audition. Going into Mason Hall at SUNY Fredonia, I came to the realization that many of the others there had private vocal tutoring as part of their repertoire. I had practiced my three selections with my high school chorus teacher and I felt comfortable, but I had never had formal singing lessons. Going into other auditions as a teenager I felt confident; when I realized that others around me for this college-entry audition had much more training than I did, my confidence was rattled.

I had to sing three songs. One had to be in something other than English. My first song was “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific. I was nervous but felt I nailed it.

“Wow, you have a really pop sound to your voice.”

Next I sang something in Italian and I’m sure it sounded as close to Italian as someone with a nasally Central New York accent can muster. I wasn’t confident with this song. I didn’t know what I was singing so I probably sounded more mechanical than emotional on this song. I could have been singing about unrequited love, a beautiful sunset or a delicious pizza. I had no clue. Phonetics was the name of the game.

I don’t remember what my third song was, but without any response from the audition board to the Italian song, I felt lost.

After my three songs I had to sing by ear. The pianist, a Dr. Hartley, who very much resembled Les Nessman from “WKRP In Cincinnati”, banged out a bunch of random notes and chords and asked me to reproduce the notes. It was like a game of “Simon” but without the lights or colors. Next, I was given a piece of music, this one in French, and asked to sing it by sight. No practice. I muddled through that in a somewhat hesitant fashion.

I was then thanked for my participation. Back then in 1986, one was not given a trophy just for participation. Several weeks later I received a letter in the mail. The letter stated that I was not accepted into the music school at SUNY Fredonia. They then wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors flipping hamburgers at Burger King.

I felt rejected, dejected, hurt and confused. No one would believe that I was not accepted to the music school. My band teacher called SUNY Fredonia and got me a second audition for instrumental performance as a tuba player. It wasn’t what I wanted to really do, playing the tuba was fun but it wasn’t my musical passion, singing was my passion. We went back to Fredonia, I played a couple of songs on my tuba and I was accepted into the tuba program. Getting anywhere with my tuba was easy because there’s not that many tuba players around. By the end of the first semester I was expected to play “Flight Of The Bumble Bee” on the tuba. The tuba professor (he played tuba and was shaped like a tuba) wasn’t really that encouraging. He, like the vocal audition board, really didn’t think I had what it took to be part of the school of music at SUNY Fredonia.

After a brief stint visiting a local school to teach some junior high schoolers, I decided that the cards were stacked too far against me and I dropped out of music. My dream was shattered. My plan to become a music teacher, long enough to get experience and a solid financial footing under me so that I could perform as a vocalist in a semi-professional manner, was crushed.

That year long experience has influenced my confidence, to varying degrees, for the past 30 years. But today, at this moment, right now, I feel the need to say “fuck them”.

I found my way to a technologically based career and I have one of the best gigs imaginable. I love what I do, I love the company I work for and I love the team I work with. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started to become a private pilot that I truly found my confidence. Maybe it has something to do with finally coming to my own in my mid 40s.

The memory of my music school experience has been on my mind and typing out this blog entry has helped me resolve that nagging bit of insecurity that has been lurking in a small little corner of my brain. I don’t know where I would be today had I become a music teacher.

Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m happy right where I am.



As a software engineer by trade with a keen interest in civil engineering, I am always fascinated by the seemingly well-oiled logistics that run behind the scenes at Walt Disney World Resorts and Parks. I’ve been fascinated with the way things run at the House of the Mouse since my first visit in 1997. I’ve tried to find some historical information on how things worked before the Digital Age, but other than references to “E” tickets and the like, there’s not a lot of information on the web.

For those that have not visited the parks and resorts in Orlando, I’ll give you a really brief overview of how it works. When you’re a resort guest (staying at a resort on the property), you wear a “MagicBand” around your wrist. The MagicBand lets you do everything. It’s your key to your room. It’s your admissions ticket to the park. It’s tied to your charge account so that all purchases are paid using your MagicBand. It’s scanned by photographers scattered around the parks taking portraits. And it’s your FastPass+, allowing you to take advantage of the “line hopping” service offered by WDW.

I had the opportunity to see a computer screen as I walked into the Pirates of Caribbean attraction using FastPass+; if the cast member was attentive, he would have been able to say “Welcome back, J.P.” as the screen had my name and the fact that I was a return guest to the attraction. From what I have read online, there are RFID readers scattered throughout the park tracking guests’ movements, so that Disney can move staff appropriately and/or use the data to tweak the magical experience that Disney is trying to offer.

Having this one access point around my wrist is wicked cool. Yeah, there’s a Big Brother concern to it, but anyone that thinks they’re going to be able to wander around such a popular tourist destination without being part of a constant surveillance program is naive. Cameras are everywhere in today’s world. Folks have been able to take a photo of our cat sitting in the driveway of our house long before Google Maps was around. People can take a photo of you from space at their whim, so if giving my touristy habits to Disney through technology is going to make my vacation more enjoyable, I’m all for it.

Not surprisingly, there’s not a huge amount of information available as to the systems that power all of this data integration and interaction, but from my casual observation it looks like a lot of it is running on Linux with Microsoft Windows on the front end in some spots. The point of sale systems are running on NCR terminals but it looks like the same software they were running on the older IBM systems in the early 2000s. The backends are most likely running on a Linux system tied to a giant database.

Disney also offers apps for both iOS and Android devices. These apps show all the photos that are taken by Disney’s photographers and the photos that are snapped on the attractions. They also show what “FastPass+” tickets you have waiting, your dining and other reservations and allow you to do many other things. Wifi blankets all areas of the parks and resorts, so you’re not using your data plan minutes to access any of this information.

Disney has embraced technology and I think the logistics behind it all are well thought out and fascinating.

When technology is used the proper way, the experience for everyone involved can be absolutely magical.