Music can be balm for the soul.
But it can also be a galvanizing force, especially for leaders – be they working in the world of business, nonprofit or higher education.
As part of its questionnaire for Wisconsin 275, BizTimes Milwaukee asked the state’s most influential leaders to share what song they would choose to be their theme songs or their “walkup song” to have playing as they enter the office or start their workday.
Songs about striving and overcoming the odds, or staying true to oneself, like Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” were pretty popular, as were songs written about sports or for sports movies. (Yes, “On Wisconsin” was mentioned a couple of times.)
Pat English, chairman, chief executive officer of Fiduciary Management, Inc., and Frank Gimbel, founding partner at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP, both selected “Gonna Fly Now,” composer Bill Conti’s instrumental theme for the 1976 movie “Rocky,” while Kurt Gresens, managing partner at Wipfli LLP, selected Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” from “Rocky III.” For him the song embodies the drive to “overcome adversity, stay hungry, and be confident.”
For Andrew Wronski, a managing partner at Foley & Lardner LLP, “Centerfield,” by John Fogerty is a tune that gets him motivated: “It’s about baseball and wanting your shot — what could be better?”
But, on the whole, the songs – from hip hop, soul, jazz and disco and classic rock and dance hall hits – are as eclectic as the Wisconsin 275 themselves. (Although there is a lot of Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC)
Here’s a sampling of some of the songs picked by our selectees, and their reasons for choosing them, along with a playlist that could just give you the confidence, or good feeling, to take on that next big goal or even the morning meeting.
- “Got to be Real” by Cheryl Lynn – Dr. Debbie Allen, president and chief executive officer of DNA Network, LLC in Milwaukee. “This song reminds me to walk into the office and show up authentically daily.”
- “Lose Yourself” by Eminem – picked by both Rick Barrett, chief executive officer of Barrett Lo Visionary Development and Ken Bockhort, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Badger Meter.
- Barrett: “The lyrics speak to me. You get one ‘chance, one opportunity,’ and you need to make the most of that in life. Leave you mark.”
- Bockhorst: “(It’s about) making sure that you do everything within your power to succeed. You never know how many opportunities you will get, so don’t let it pass you by.”
- “Jump” by Madonna – Marty Brooks, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Center District. “The song is about how there is only so much you can learn in one place. The more that you wait, the more time that you waste, so don’t ever look back and the only thing you can depend on is your family. That sums up how I have lived my life.”
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey – Ellen Censky, – president and chief executive officer, Milwaukee Public Museum. “You can’t do a major project like the new museum without believing every day that it will happen.”
- “Vivir Lo Nuestro” by Mark Anthony and La India – Hector Colon, chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. “It reminds me of how much I love my wife, and how hard I want to work to support my family and friends.”
- “Concierto de Aranajuez” by Miles Davis – Dr. Robert Davis, president & chief executive officer at America’s Black Holocaust Museum. “It is bold, beautiful, passionate sweet, subtle and yet explosive.”
- “Growing Older, But Not Up” by Jimmy Buffett – Craig Dickman, managing director at TitletownTech. “First, Jimmy (not Warren) Buffett is my favorite artist, and the song begins with baseball and reminds me to think young.”
- “Take a Chance on Me,” by Abba – Stephen Einhorn, partner at Capital Midwest Funds. “Everyone wants to get a chance to prove their ability and succeed.”
- “U Don’t Know,” by Jay-Z – Que El-Amin, president of Young Enterprising Society & Scott Crawford, Inc. “The lyrics of that song (reflect) where I am professionally.”
- “Bittersweet Symphony,” by The Verve – Jason Fields, president and chief executive officer at Madison Region Economic Partnership. “It feels inspiring, and the lyrics remind me of triumph.”
- “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma!”— Emily Gruenewald, chief development and communications officer at the Overture Center for the Arts. “It’s a song of optimism and opportunity.”
- “I’m The Best” by Nicki Minaj – Dana Guthrie, managing partner at Gateway Capital Partners “It’s one of those songs that make you feel like you can accomplish ANYTHING. It’s a ‘hype yourself up’ song.”
- “Top of the World,” by Van Halen – Dustin Hinton, chief executive officer of United Healthcare of Wisconsin and Michigan. “I am a Gen X’er who grew up with Eddie Van Halen. I think that song translates to the good fortune I have to work with the people I do, and the opportunity I have to make a difference with my company.”
- “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC – Aaron Jagdfeld, chief executive officer at Generac. “I can’t think of a better song to help get me energized about the day ahead!”
- “Better Days” by Bruce Springsteen – Richard Leinenkugel, president and chief beer merchant at Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. “It is a song of hope and a promising future with a woman who is your best friend.”
- “Let’s Live for Today,” by the Grass Roots – Mark Mone, chancellor at UW-Milwaukee. “Surviving cancer makes every day precious, and I want to have all the positive impact I can.”
- “Tightrope” by Steel Pulse – Robert Pierce, executive director at Neighborhood Food Solutions. “Every day is a gamble when farming; you’re in God’s graces.”
- “The Better Benediction” by PJ Morton – Nikki Purvis, president & chief executive officer of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. “It’s one of the most uplifting and encouraging songs (I’ve ever heard), and a reminder that it’s gonna get better!”
- “All I do is Win” by Ludacris, T-Pain, et al. – David Reeves, executive in residence at Marquette University. “I believe in setting the cultural mindset on winning. Building a company is about building belief in a winning vision. Employees want to win for thmselves and the company.”
- “Simple,” by Florida Georgia Line – Michelle Schuler, manager of TechSpark Wisconsin at Microsoft. “No matter what the day throws your way, just remember to keep it simple and it will all work out. Laugh and smile because the day is yours, so make the most out of every moment.”
- “September,” by Earth, Wind, & Fire – John Swallow, president and chief executive officer at Carthage College. “First, it’s a great, optimistic song, combining jazz, rhythm & blues, soul, and funk, and second, I never forget that one of the writers, Maurice White, said ‘never let the lyrics get in the way of the groove’— a life lesson.”
- “Wind Beneath My Wings,” by Bette Midler – Peggy Troy, president and chief executive officer at Children’s Wisconsin. “The lyrics remind me that everything I have accomplished was made possible by people who inspired me and mentored me throughout my life. It encourages me to dream big.”
- “A Yung Gravy song because he worked at gener8tor before deciding to make very unexpected music.” – Joe Kirgues, cofounder of gener8tor.