Time waits for no man, but it seems to slow down just a little bit for at least one guy in Amarillo, TX. How else would James Beckham have managed to accumulate 38 years as a symphony percussionist, taught and started percussion programs at three universities, and volunteered on numerous church, civic, and industry association committees, all while building a successful family business with the people he loves? Oh, and he and his wife run a ranch, too.
To hear Beckham tell it, no laws of physics were bent in the making of his life and career. It’s actually very simple: “If I slow down, I get bored, and if I get bored, I get into trouble.”
When he says this, his wife Pam Beckham can be heard laughing in the background. She shares an office and leadership of Audio-Video Corporation with James, along with Jamie Beckham, one of their two daughters (their eldest, Sarah Beckham, is a professional opera singer in New York). That laugh says a lot about how they interact as a family constantly together in motion. Still, they all attest that despite a packed schedule, James always seems to have infinite time available for family and A-V Corporation team members.
In addition to time spent sharing knowledge with those either starting out in the business or adding another decade to their experience, James is also a technical wizard. “All who work here know that James will always find the answer to any technical mystery they bring to him,” Pam observes. As the company goes through an expansion, James himself is installing the data, telephones, and security for the new company headquarters while managing the remodel there. “Good thing that the new offices are just across the street from our present location,” Pam jokes.
Actually, that might be the clue to this whole puzzle. Beckham has a knack for applying knowledge and philosophies from one field to another, increasing his efficiencies in life and across operations for a broad-based technology business that in West Texas “has to do it all, or we starve.” He draws connections easily, noting how his master’s degree in music theory and composition actually aided considerably in his post-graduate work in information technology and computer programming and continue to inform his digital problem-solving skills today.
“When you’re programming, you take a problem and break it into small pieces, A, B, and C, and you use each piece in a sequence, linking everything together to achieve an end result,” Beckham described. “It’s exactly the same thing when you’re composing and arranging music. You have a starting point and an end point, and you have themes A, B, and C that you reuse throughout a composition.” This idea works in AV contracting as well, where business leaders can learn and share techniques to make the next job go a little bit more smoothly and boost profits and client satisfaction along the way.
Maybe it makes perfect sense that for the duration of his AV career Beckham held the post of principal percussionist with the Amarillo Symphony (while also serving on the board of directors and symphony committees) until he recently stepped down to take a lower chair and spend a bit more time at home. In all aspects of work and life, he keeps time to support an orchestra, both leading and following the cues of a conductor, and the result sure does sound good.
Kirsten Nelson is editor-at-large of SCN. Follow her on Twitter @kirstennelson.