St. Louis is famous for being the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, given in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana purchase. Many wonders of the modern world were on display: the X-Ray machine, the infant incubator, the electric streetcar, and perhaps most importantly of all, the ice cream cone. St. Louis was also a major center for ragtime music at the turn of the century. John Stark & Sons, the sheet music publisher, was based in St. Louis. Among a multitude of important works published by them was “The Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, a popular piece of its time.
In May 2002, my wife and I moved up the Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Twin Cities area, specifically, Hopkins, MN (which a few readers may recognize as the previous address of the MS3K Information Club) and bought a house. I started with the labs a couple of months later in July as a remote employee.
As part of 1904labs’ growth culture, employees participate in “innovation hours,'' a program that allows employees to dedicate four hours (10% of the work week) to passion projects that fit into one of four categories: working on your community, working on your startup, working on the labs, or working on yourself. Every Monday and Thursday at 3 p.m. employees meet to tell each other what projects they are working on and to recognize and applaud others’ efforts and accomplishments. Examples of past projects employees have pursued include building a game, how to be a role model for your children, and writing and publishing a technical book. As long as the topic can fit into one of the four categories, the only limit is one’s imagination.
I spent my innovation hours the first few months building a home recording studio in a spare bedroom of our new home. The system chain for this studio consists of several instruments (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, keyboard) hooked up to a mixer, then into a looper, and finally into a Mac Studio computer. The keyboard is also connected to the computer through a MIDI cable. I installed recording software, Logic Pro X, onto the computer and spent some time learning/refreshing my memory on how to use it. Then, I recorded some songs, created a YouTube channel devoted to piano ragtime with these songs, and created an associated website which highlights famous ragtime composers, along with personally curated playlists for their famous songs.
Lunch and Learns
Another part of 1904labs’ growth culture is “Lunch & Learns,'' where an employee gives a talk about any subject of their choice. I took this opportunity to show how to record and edit a song using the equipment and software in my home recording studio. Recently, the labs converted a snack room into a meeting room. A contest was then held to name this newly purposed room. After much debate, it was named “Scott Joplin.” For the Lunch & Learn, I chose Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” as a demo piece in honor of the “Scott Joplin” room.
A hearty thank you goes to the labs for giving me these opportunities.
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