Letters From Leton: Those Aha Moments!

We have all had those moments. You know those “aha moments” when the clouds part and we understand.

Maybe one of your aha moments was in school as a teacher was explaining an algebra word problem. Perhaps it was when you were watching that mystery movie and the detective explains who did it (a great new mystery movie is “Knives Out”).

But have you ever been a part of a larger group – perhaps hundreds of folks who had an “Aha Moment” all at the same time?

Over the years, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BCMA) would sponsor music events at the Paramount Theatre in Bristol. I say events since my good friend Fred McClellan would line up great musicians behind a particular theme.

Because of the quality of the professional musicians Fred engaged, many of the folks in attendance were musicians as well.

One year in February we were having a show celebrating Black History month. African Americans played (and continue to play) a significant role in the history of Country Music.

Hosting the show was Mike Seeger, a brother of Pete and a noted musician and music historian. We often used Mike to emcee shows as his knowledge of our region’s music was vast.

The featured act that night was Cephas and Wiggins, a Piedmont Blues Band. If you are not familiar with them or the Piedmont Blues, check them out.

Mike began the show by bringing out and playing a wide range of African instruments brought to America by slaves. Among them was the banjer (variations to spelling and the word exist), now known as the banjo, a staple instrument in any blue grass band.

Later Cephas and Wiggins, the featured act, began to play. John Cephas was a carpenter by trade, and for most of his life that was his primary source of income. Only later in life did a certain degree of fame and payment come from his music. He was truly a working man.

About two thirds into the show, John invited Mike on stage to join him and Phil Wiggins.

John was a storyteller and had shared the background of the songs they were playing. He explained that for the next song they were going to start out with the Piedmont Blues version, roll into the Bluegrass version, and then go back into the Piedmont Blues version.

The song started out similarly to the other songs. Then a third of the way in Mike joined in with his banjo, and John changed his picking style to Bluegrass.

I looked around. All of the professional and very good amateur bluegrass players in the audience mouths were wide open! They had had a “collective Aha moment” as they realized how close a Black man’s working music was to theirs – the music of many a working man in Appalachia.

In business and banking we are having now many collective Aha moments.

Having to schedule appointments for our loan customers or folks who want to open accounts is actually a good thing. More time with the customer. Being prepared before they get to the Bank is making for a better customer experience. And if making an appointment with your Doctor, Lawyer, Dentist, Hair Dresser, Car Mechanic, Plumber is ok, why not with your Banker?

We are also having a collective Aha moment as we realize that folks are gravitating to businesses that deliver the best customer service and which are truly committed to them.

So this coming weekend or one cool mountain evening, pull out that old guitar, banjo or other musical instrument you may have set aside for a long time.

As you tune it up and perhaps pluck a few strings, be reminded that yes, the world has changed – but what makes you a caring person, our Bank a caring Bank, and others in our communities caring people will not change.

That is a real Aha Moment.

– Leton

“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.