INTERVIEW WITH MIKE BALTER

(Fall 2006)

Mike Balter graduated from Oakview Junior High School in 1966. Earning his collegiate degrees at DePaul University, Mike has studied under several of the nation's most respected players and teachers. He later taught drums and percussion at Governor's State University, The American Conservatory of Music, and DePaul University.

As a player, Mike Balter has performed for the National Touring Company of such Broadway hits as "A Chorus Line", "Pippin", "Dancin'", "Annie", "Evita", "They're Playin' Our Song", "Jerry's Girls", "Beatlemania", "The Wiz", "Joseph", "Dreamgirls", "Best Little Whorehouse", "Grand Tour", "Pirates of Penzance", "42nd Street", and "Cats" to name a few. The list of stars Mike has played with include such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Bette Midler, The Pointer Sisters, Melissa Manchester, Nancy Wilson, Patti Labelle, Doc Severinson, Pearl Bailey, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Steve Allen, Steve & Eydie, Dean Martin, Bobby Vinton, Eddie Fisher, Rich Little, Carol Channing, Marvin Hamlisch, The Letterman, The 5th Dimension, Helen O'Connell, Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Buddy Greco, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Eddie Arnold, Stephanie Mills, The Smother Brothers, Tex Beneke, Sammy Kaye, Kate Smith, Roger Williams, Kaye Ballard, Robert Goulet, Ann Jillian, and many many more.

In 1977, Mike founded Mike Balter Mallets which he has built into one of the leading mallet manufacturers in the world. Easily one of the most recognizable names in his field, Mike has remained a steadfast supporter of the McCracken Middle School Bands.

What motivated you to join the band at Middleton School?
Don Stahlberg, the Middleton School and Oakview Jr High Band Director. He encouraged young students to experience the joys and happiness that music can bring. During school band concerts, he would always tell the audience how he has the best students, who have the most fun in the school.

What are some of your favorite memories of band at Oakview?
Being percussion section leader and having the trust of Mr. Stahlberg of adding percussion parts to the music. I would take clarinet and flute parts and write bell and xylophone parts. I would also add gong, tambourine, conga, triangle, etc. parts to the music. The experience enabled me to express musical taste in a structured setting.

Looking back, how did your middle school education, specifically your time in band, influence your career choices and life? Why is music education important in our schools?
Without question, playing in grade school, junior high, and high school band taught me self-confidence, self-motivation, and the fact that I could accomplish anything if I worked hard, had the correct attitude, and believed in myself. Music education (instrumental and/or choral) is important in today's schools because it will teach the student discipline, time management, and self-confidence.

Tell me about Mike Balter Mallets. How did you go from professional performer to business owner?
I was playing professionally in Chicago doing night clubs, recording sessions, and working with the major stars. I was not happy with the limited number of tonal choices commercially available at the time. So, in turn, I started to develop a line of mallets that would expand the tonal colors of the instruments. The more tonal color choices available, the more the player can express themselves. Over the years we receive more and more demands for our products. Today Mike Balter Mallets, and mallets we make for other companies, are used all over the world.

Mike Balter Mallets is an exhibitor at the Midwest Clinic. What is your experience with the Midwest Clinic? Why is it important that your company be represented there?
The Midwest Clinic is a venue where Band Directors and students can see and try all of the latest instruments, see the newest music publications, and hear performances of new arrangements by various bands, orchestras, choral groups, and guest artists and conductors. Mike Balter Mallets exhibits at Midwest so we can have direct contact with students and Band Directors, in order to showcase our products and learn what the Band Directors need.