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On Chad Thomas and the perception of Music

Soapbox time.

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald posted this piece discussing a number of things, including “The Chad Thomas Music Conundrum”.

Citing a program official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Jackson reported the following:

One UM official (not the aforementioned coaches) told me some people inside UM wonder whether Thomas’ passion for music has affected his drive to maximize his football skills - something UM would never say publicly.

Now, before I go in on this topic, let me state that Jackson himself said nothing of the sort, even going so far as to put a clarifying paragraph of his own thoughts on the situation, which I’ll post below for full disclosure:

Now let me make myself clear on this: Thomas deserves lots of credit for his talents and achievements in that area. College is the time to develop your skills in potential career paths and it’s commendable Thomas is doing it. But Thomas has a lot on his plate - classes, music and football.

That last sentence and the initial quote, and the underlying thought, is what had me quite upset on Twitter last night, and writing this piece today.

The notion that Chad Thomas being interested in and talented as music is a bad thing is preposterous. Absolutely nonsensical.

The reason that anybody would even mention “music” as a problem is the fact that people in general do not value music as a career. Whether it be producer, performer, teacher, or other, music isn’t a viable career or point of interest beyond a hobby.

Another disclosure: I am a trained musician. I’ve been a performing musician since the 4th grade. I’ve been a professional — I.E. PAID — musician since I was in 11th grade in 1998. People said about me what is being said about Chad Thomas, and that is why I feel compelled to defend the art of music.

The thing about music is that it is so ubiquitous to life that everybody knows what it is, everybody has an idea of the broad strokes of how you make it, but few people have actual talent or skills. And make no mistake about it: music takes both talent AND skill to create, on any level.

But, people don’t know their scales. They don’t now chord progressions. They don’t see the work that goes into knowing the theory of music, or the physics of acoustics. They just know “I like this song that I sing in the car” and think that’s as far as being a musician goes.

And they couldn’t be more wrong.

If Chad Thomas’ outside interest was anything — literally anything — other than music, it would be lauded, not derided. And, furthermore, if Chad Thomas’ chosen style of music was classical or jazz or musical theatre or anything other than hip hop and rap, it would be respected. But, hip hop isn’t “worthy” to people, so it’s a bad thing that that is something that Chad Thomas loves...AND IS GOOD AT.

Our friends at the SBNation Mothership wrote this about Thomas producing a song on Rick Ross’ latest album — a MONUMENTAL accomplishment for anybody in the music industry, let alone a college kid, let alone a college football player.

That piece is a positive.

I bet that’s about the last time that Chad Thomas’ music interests are spoken of in such glowing terms.

With one comment from a UM-affiliated person, ostensibly speaking on behalf of multiple people in the program, Chad Thomas’ love of and talent in music has been weaponized against him. It’s immediately become something terrible, something that by its mere mention “keeps him away from football” or “hinders him from being the best football player he could be”. It’s not that players develop at different times. It’s not that Thomas just happens to be a damn good player and a great musician, two things that can exist at the same time.

No. Music is bad. Because it’s hip hop. And because people — including that UM person who wouldn’t put their name on that comment — don’t value music as anything other than background content.

When Joey Harrington was coming out of Oregon, his skills as a Jazz Pianist were widely discussed. But, he only played keys as a hobby, so it was all good.

Hell, Christian McCaffrey got tons of positive mention this past summer BECAUSE he plays a harmonica (and because people love Piano Man).

But Chad Thomas loves hip hop, and is good at it, and that’s “a problem”.

Give me a break.

There are countless scholarly articles on the positive impact that music has on academic achievement. (Google it. I promise). That is both curricular music instruction, private music instruction, and even just listening to music while studying other subjects.

On top of that, the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami — the school from which I graduated — is a top 3 non-Conservatory School of Music, and internationally renowned for the quality of its musicians, professors, and programs. Of the programs offered in the Frost School, Music Engineering — Chad Thomas’ major — is arguably the most challenging.

So, Chad Thomas studies music at a top program in a top school of music at a top university.

But that’s a bad thing.

Yeah, ooooookay then.

Let’s move on from looking at Music for a second. I’d like to remind you that Chad Thomas is a starting DE on one of the best DLs in America. I would like to also remind you that Thomas had 37 tackles, 11 TFLs, 4 sacks, drew a handful of holding calls on the opposition, and was double teamed frequently, which allowed other players — like freshman All-American Joseph Jackson — to flourish opposite him on the DL.

Chad Thomas is a warrior on the field. He played with a broken hand. He deals with getting held over, and over, and OVER again. He disrupts running plays. He pressures the QB on passing plays. He destroyed WVU’s OL in the Bowl Game. And, he’s developed his body — Thomas now stands 6’6” 275lbs according to the latest spring weigh-in — so that he can optimize his performance heading into his senior season.

So, Thomas has good on-field performance, has never been a discipline problem, is developing physically, and working to further develop as a player. And, he loves his academic content area. He is successful in that content area. He delights in expanding his horizons in that area, and has worked with a World Renowned industry leader in that content area.

If that content area was Psychology or Marine Biology or Physics (word to Matt Walters), or Sports Administration, or Creative Writing, it would be a wonderful addition to the picture of Chad Thomas as a person.

But, it’s not. That content area is music, and that means it’s a bad thing.

Which is BULLSHIT.

Chad Thomas is one of the most talented players on the Miami Hurricanes football team. His combination of size, speed, and strength is rare to see at Defensive End. He’s gotten better every year, and should do so again as a senior. DL coach Craig Kuligowski is right: Chad Thomas can get better. There IS more potential inside of him.

But that’s not being hindered by hip hop music. It’s just not.

To think that Thomas’ love of and talent in the area of music is a detriment is small minded and ridiculous. It reeks of someone who hates the artist because they themselves do not have that talent. And, instead of endeavoring to find out more about what goes into music engineering — that’s what producers do, you guys — the UM source just wanted to trash Thomas. Cool.

Like many people — everybody, I’d wager — Chad Thomas has interests outside of his “professional field”, if that’s what you want to think of football as being. Oh wait, NCAA players don’t get paid, so it’s not professional. That notwithstanding (college players should be paid, btw), it’s not a bad thing to be interested in something other than sports.

Former All-Pro RB Arian Foster famously said he didn’t watch football when he wasn’t playing it. So he did football at football times, and (insert other activities here) in non-Football times. And his career worked out fine.

The thought that Chad Thomas’ music interests are taking away from his ability to play football is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Period.

So maybe, instead of hating the fact that Chad Thomas is really good at at least 2 things, maybe that UM source should look in the mirror and figure out why he’s not good at any.