by Trent Rentsch
Everyone seems to take time during the holidays to reflect… about the past year, the people we care about, our accomplishments, our failures. This year, the process started early for me. It’s been a year of incredible highs and painful lows, of wonderful gains and numbing losses. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I began to try to pull some meaning out of the roller coaster that has been my life in 2015, but mostly all I could come up with was, “What the hell?”
So, that opening just screams “Happy Holidays,” doesn’t it? It’s okay… I promise we’ll get to our happy place by the end of this column. Who knows, there might even be a present or two…
Now, where was I? Oh yeah, 2015 has sucked for me, with some moments of great joy. Honest. Check with the guys at the office. Even they have been coming at me with, “Hang in there… 2016 is coming!” (Lord, what a JOY I must be to work with…)
Here’s the thing. Even in those, “what the hell” reflective moments, I’ve been reminded how good things are for me. Loving family, great job with a growing company, clients who are more like Friends, and a life that has taken me far beyond that little college town in South Dakota I grew up in. I mean, come on, my Stepson and his fiancé asked me to get ordained so I could perform their wedding this fall… how much more can I ask for?
Funny thing, reflection. It doesn’t allow you to dwell on the recent past. You get the whole shebang, years of where you’ve been, what you’ve done (or didn’t do), people you’ve known… one big jigsaw puzzle, that’ll keep you awake, night after night, staring at the ceiling and wondering if there’s any meaning at all. Luckily, after about the 37th night, I began to make some sense of it all. Yes, it’s possible it was only sleep deprivation, but still…
I kept going back to one puzzle piece. It was the late ‘80s, I believe -- not that it matters. What did matter was a kindness and the lessons I took away from it.
J.R. Nelson was “The Man” in the production room at Z100 in New York in their early days. As a young DJ/producer, I was nuts for his work, buying up cassettes of air checks of the station to catch bits and pieces of his genius (yes kids, that was once a thing). At some point after he left the station, he ended up at KDWB in Minneapolis, not long before the company I worked for bought them. For me at the time, it was a perfect storm, with potential for me to meet my idol, if I played my cards right. I’d like to believe that it was the one time in my life when it seemed that I was cut out for politics: I played every contact in the company I knew to figure out a way that I might get to Minneapolis and meet the Big Guy. In the end, our General Manager at KELO said, “Just call him.” Right. Surely it couldn’t be that easy! However…
“This is J.R.” Good God. I’m on the phone, with a legend. I’ve always been easily star struck, but I was honestly a babbling fool during that conversation. Yet, somehow, by the end of it, I had an invitation to drive up and spend a Saturday afternoon in the studio. Stupid, baby producer, me, in the hall of the Prod God!
I could write several 1000 words about how our meeting went, but here’s the nutshell: J.R. was a kind, gentle man with a hell of a lot of talent, wit, and skill, and he spent several hours that day sharing some of it with this nobody from South Dakota. I learned more about gear and audio production and the business of radio production that day than I imagined even existed. What’s more, his mentorship didn’t end that day… he called to “check up on me” now and again, and I know he was instrumental in a couple of PDs asking for my tape and resume over the years. I’d often try to thank him for, well, all of it, but he’d shrug it off and tell me that I “had the stuff” and “didn’t need him” to make it in the business.
He didn’t have to do any of it. He chose to. As I got to know him, I discovered that he had the same highs and lows as everybody else. Did he really need to take on some squeaky-voiced kid from the Dakota’s, with more dreams than talent? Nope, he did not. But, he did. God rest his big-hearted soul, he did.
So there’s the puzzle piece that brings it all together. Highs, lows, that’s life. How you choose to deal with it, and more importantly, what you give back, that’s what matters. Whether it’s taking that call from some kid who wants to be in the radio business and encouraging their efforts, or giving a colleague advice about their signal chain, or simply saying “thank you” to those who give you the chance to live your dreams, it’s those positive gifts, giving of yourself and what you know, that make life worth living. That’s my present to you… a reminder to be present. It truly is the greatest gift you can give to others… and yourself.
Trent Creates words, voices, audio & music. His current professional home is Krash Creative. Reach out at