Sandy Feldstein (1940-2007): Friend, by Robert Morrison
This is probably the hardest column I have ever tried to write. How do you pay tribute to a legend? How to you adequately describe the incredible contributions to music, music education, and the music industry of someone whose impact has transformed the way many of you reading this column teach your students to love music? How do you recognize his role in shaping the modern music publishing business? How do you honor the legacy of someone who has touched so many lives through his expansive body of work? The answer for me is you can't. So I won't try. But what I can do is pay tribute to the person I know as my friend, Sandy Feldstein.
An excerpt from the family's announcement:
On August 30, 2007, Dr. Sandy Feldstein, percussionist, composer, arranger, author, teacher and innovative publishing executive, loving husband and father died following a long illness at his home in Tarzana, California. He was 66.
Born Saul Feldstein in Brooklyn, NY in 1940 and known as Sandy to his legion of family and friends, he was a man of boundless energy, enthusiasm and zest for life. Sandy was a visionary leader who impacted millions of musicians around the world through his over 700 compositions and books. He helped to shape the music publishing business into what it is today.
As president of his own company, PlayinTime Productions, Inc., Sandy combined a wealth of knowledge and success in both the business and music aspects of music publishing and music education.
Sandy maintained over 30 years of publishing experience as an industry executive having been the executive Vice President of Alfred Publishing, the President / CEO of Columbia Pictures Publications and Belwin Music Inc., the President / CEO of Warner Bros. Publications and the President / CEO of Carl Fischer Music before devoting his full time to his own company, PlayinTime Productions Inc. He was actively involved in the music industry as past president of the Music Industry Council, the Percussive Arts Society and the National Association of Band Instrument Manufacturers. He was on the board of Music for All, the American Music Conference, the International Foundation for Music Research and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. He was also active in the International Music Products Association (NAMM), the Music Achievement Council and the NAfME Foundation. Sandy was very involved with NARAS, the Grammy organization. His roles with NARAS included being a Trustee, a Governor and Chair of the NARAS (Grammy) Educational Committee. He has worked closely with music industry giants including Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Carlos Santana, Dave Weckl, and countless others. Dr. Feldstein has been bestowed numerous awards, but his most meaningful was being inducted into the Percussive Arts Society's Hall of Fame in 2005.
ASCAP recognized his excellence by granting him an ASCAP Standard Award for Composition every year since 1964. Among his numerous commissions, Sandy was most proud of being selected to compose the theme song for the Music Educators National Conference sesquicentennial celebration. The composition "America Takes Note!" was performed by thousands of school children during the years 1987 - 1988. While his professional achievements are immeasurable, his love, generosity, and commitment to his family were always his top priorities. Sandy is survived by his wife, Wendy, his son David, his daughter Tracy, daughter-in-law Wendy and his brother Barry.
Sandy and the love of his life, his wife Wendy, have been friends of Nora (my wife) and I for more than 20 years. I first met Sandy when I was a percussion student in college and when he was already a legend in the percussion field and well on his way to making his mark as a composer and publisher. From that moment forward Sandy stood by me through some of my greatest triumphs and darkest hours. Through it all one thing remained constant: he was always my friend.
Much of what I have learned as a music executive and an advocate for music education and as member of the music products industry I learned from Sandy. When I was at Pearl Drums and we were starting to build our marching and concert division to get into the educational market he was very encouraging. He urged me to volunteer with industry groups, to network with and learn from some of the legends of the industry. When the opportunity to go to work for NAMM came along he helped me weigh my choices. When NAMM engaged in an aggressive campaign to support music education it was Sandy who helped guide our work. When Save the Music was started he was the first person I called on to serve on the Board of Trustees. The model Save the Music uses today to restore music programs is the very same model Sandy helped design back in 1998 when the original model was struggling. When I started the Music for All Foundation, Sandy was right there with a guiding hand, a wise word, and an encouraging way. There is not enough space in this magazine for all the Sandy stories I have!
Sandy had a tremendous sense of style to go along with all of his substance. He was a sharp dresser and, in my opinion, was always the hippest guy around, even when Wynton Marsalis was in the same room. Sandy taught me that dressing well was part of doing well. Whenever anyone compliments me on a suit, tie or handkerchief - I smile and know that Sandy's influence on me is once again making itself known.
He was funny. He had a great sense of humor, most of which I could not repeat here. There were many a reception, event, industry function or moment where the four of us would run off for a quiet dinner together where we would share stories, discuss the fate of music education, tell jokes, lay plans to save the world, and just enjoy being together. But Sandy was always, subtly, teaching. His commitment to Wendy and his family as his top priority is a lesson I have learned well and applied to my own life. I am who I am because of Sandy.
The fact that someone as successful as Sandy would befriend and guide someone who was just on the first rung of the career ladder made me think I was really something special. I guess it must have been the arrogance of my youth that blinded me to the real truth about what I have come to learn over time.
What I have come to understand, and what I am reminded most of today, is that I was never the special one. It was Sandy. I felt special because he made me feel that way. It was a gift he gave to me, and a gift he has given to many others. Sandy made everyone feel special. Over the years I have come to know of hundreds of people who feel the exact same way: individuals who attribute their successes in publishing, music education, music industry, and recording to Sandy. Some of these people you would recognize, many you would not; all have been influenced by the same incredible man.
Sandy is best described by this quote from colleague Larry Clark: "Sandy's charismatic personality influenced all of the people he came in contact with throughout his illustrious career. He was the consummate teacher and mentor helping to guide the careers of countless students, employees and associates. Sandy was beloved by all who knew him and his impact on the music profession will continue for many years to come.
Larry is right. Sandy had that great way of encouraging, guiding, mentoring, and gently showing the way. Sandy made us all feel special.
In the end, that was what made Sandy special. He was my friend. And as a tear gathers in the corner of my eye I am reminded of just how special he was and how much I will miss him.
To celebrate his life, the Feldstein family has established the Sandy Feldstein Music Education Fund. It is their hope that the generosity of those who loved their father and husband and those who love music will ultimately lead to a scholarship in his name. Please join us by recognizing Sandy Feldstein's incredible impact on music education by donating to the Sandy Feldstein Music Education Fund. To donate, please click here.