What Now Watkins?

Penny Lane Sign

There’s no guarantee that you’ll be memorable when meeting a new person.

Read how my first attempt to be memorable failed and how my revised approach – to be creatively memorable – was a resounding success that opened up new business opportunities that led him to the musical performance of a lifetime.

My friend and middle school band director, Sean invited me to come to his school one Friday morning to meet an accomplished musician.

This musician was performing a concert at the school and Sean was putting a backing band together to support the show.

“Bring your trumpet,” Sean said, “He might invite you to sit in with the band; At a minimum, it’s a chance to meet and hang with a guy working at the highest levels.”

“Sure, sounds like fun”, I said.

Truthfully, when Sean called, I had no idea who this guy was – but – I did a quick Google search.

  • Saxophonist (I’ll call him Mr. Saxman).
  • Regular member of a popular late night television show band.
  • Member of a well known Beatles tribute band.

I don’t really watch late night television, but I’m a big fan of the Beatles and I have heard his band on the radio and live in concert.

We’ll definitely have something to talk about.

I arrived morning of the show and met Mr Saxman. First impression: Nice guy, friendly smile.

“Did you bring your horn?” he said.

“Yep, got it right here.”

“Great! Hang out backstage and I’ll bring you out sometime during the show.”

The morning was structured into three concerts (one each for grades six, seven and eight). There was a short break between shows to change audiences and for the band to relax and chat.

The first two shows went well. Mr. Saxman invited me onstage to play some jazz standards. Things were clicking musically.

Finally, after the second show, there was a chance to hang with him and chat.

“I have to say I really enjoy your Beatles band – in fact I saw you guys in concert last year when you came to town.”

“Oh yeah that group is a ton of fun to play with. Say…can you play the trumpet solo in Penny Lane?”

“Sure! I learned it over 20 years ago when I first bought my piccolo trumpet. I love that solo. Why do you ask?”

“Our regular trumpeter can’t always make a show and sometimes we have trouble finding a substitute who can play the solo and handle the other demands of the show.”

Performed on an instrument known as a piccolo trumpet, the Penny Lane solo, originally recorded for the Beatles by British trumpeter David Mason, is well known by trumpet players for it’s tricky rhythms and upper register playing. It’s a difficult solo to master.

He continued, “You seem like a nice guy and you play your butt off. If you like, I’ll send your name to our band leaders as a possible sub.”

“Sure that would be great!”

We exchanged contact info and, while calmly smiling on the outside, I started doing my super awesome happy dance on the inside.


This was the ideal outcome for a networking opportunity: The possibility of a gig and a commitment from Mr. Saxman to take action on my behalf.

I started thinking to myself that reading all of those articles on networking really paid off.

You know the articles…just do a Google search on “networking tips”.

  • 7 Networking Tips for Introverts, Extroverts and the Socially Awkward
  • 10 Networking Tips for People Who Hate Networking
  • 17 Tips to Survive your Next Networking Event

By the way – a brief aside – if I may.

Here are the 8 reasons why enough is enough already with the list format as a writing style for business articles.

Oh never mind…

So there I was, on cloud nine, waiting to be invited out for the final show.

Then from the stage, I heard Mr Saxman make an announcement to the audience:

“I think it’s time to bring back the full band…and here he is on trumpet…Bob Watkins!”


Note: My inner voice didn’t really say “fudge”.

Saxman got my name wrong!

What happened?

Did I mess up?

Let’s review…

Here’s a list of six things I did correctly during this networking opportunity (that list thing is hard to get away from isn’t it?)

  1. I said yes – I was available and it seemed like fun so I said yes without hesitation.
  2. I did homework – I didn’t know who I was meeting. But there was information available online to learn. I took the time.
  3. I found common ground – Sometimes it’s hard to do, but in this case, my research found the Beatles connection. It was a good fit.
  4. I came prepared & with a good attitude – I brought my trumpet, a firm handshake and a smile.
  5. I demonstrated capability – I performed well and fit into the group.
  6. I found the right moment – I let the morning evolve. I didn’t made the connection until the moment felt right.

All of this networking goodness led to the ideal outcome:

Mr. Saxman saw me outside of our current circumstance. He imagined us in some future setting working together. He asked the question. I said yes!

He also seemed very sincere about offering to forward my name to the decision makers in his band. It was his idea after all.

So what!” said my inner voice.

He has to REMEMBER your name before he can pass it along.

The truth is that when meeting a new person, even if things go well, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be memorable.

In advertising, there’s a concept called Effective Frequency which is defined as the the number of “Exposures to an advertising message required to achieve effective communication.” (Wikipedia)

People are busy. Once they leave a particular moment and move on to the next, their focus shifts, their memories can fade.

I was taught the concept many times during in my 18 year career in technology sales. It’s fundamentally a reminder for sales people not to take disheartening moments like this personally.


“So…What now Mr. Watkins?”

My training and experience reminded me that success was still possible in situations like this.

The key was to keep finding ways to be memorable.

But how?

I could have had a chip on my shoulder and corrected Mr. Saxman’s faux pas right there in the moment.

He’d certainly be more likely to remember my name going forward.

But there could be lingering negative feelings resulting from the correction – especially if I tried to do it right there on stage in front of a room full of 8th graders.

Nope – That approach didn’t feel right.

I decided to be creatively memorable instead.

I went home and re-connected with the Penny Lane trumpet solo – I hadn’t played it in years.

I practiced it over and over again until it was perfect.

I recorded a video of myself playing along to the song and posted it to youtube.

I sent Mr. Saxman a follow-up email.

Great to meet you” I wrote.

After some introductory words, I went in for the creatively memorable kill…

By the way – I uploaded a clip of me playing Penny Lane on youtube.  (nothing fancy, just me in my practice room this morning) – I would appreciate it if you give it a listen and, if you feel comfortable, pass my info along to the guys as a possible sub.

A few hours later, I was copied on an email from Mr. Saxman to his bandmates with the following subject:


The email went on to enthusiastically describe my abilities and include the link to my video. Oh – by the way – he got my name right.

After some time passed, I followed up with the guys in the band, in particular the guy who hires the horn section, and the response was favorable.


But that’s not the coolest part of this story!

Keep Reading…

My creatively memorable video was discovered by two other Beatles tribute bands. Both having a similar need for a Penny Lane performing trumpet player.

Those connections have resulted in some amazing performance opportunities and thousands of dollars in income.

Highlights have included a nine month concert tour, a solo performance in Los Angeles at Disney concert hall, and most recently, a solo performance at Carnegie Hall where I received a standing ovation. (check out the video)

What about Mr. Saxman’s Beatles band?

Ironically, it’s been three years and I haven’t been called for a gig with them.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan.

Did I miss out on other opportunities to be creatively memorable with him?

Well – I do need to be careful. The other part of Effective Frequency is that if exposed to a message too many times, the consumer can tune out.

But that’s not the case here. I have stayed in touch with Mr. Saxman and also continued to be creatively memorable without him tuning out.


Simple, I let Mr. Saxman know how grateful I am that he asked me the Penny Lane question three years ago.

I told him how, in that simple moment, he transformed my life.

Think he’ll forget my name now?

“How’s it going Watkins?”

Sometimes my friend Sean, who is fully aware of the story, teases me by saying “How’s it going Watkins?”

I can’t help but smile.

When meeting new people, my inner voice also calls me “Watkins”.

Watkins reminds me to be humble.

It reminds me to be sure that there’s no chip on my shoulder.

It reminds me of a quote that my step-daughter shared with me in one of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts.


Watkins reminds me of Effective Frequency.

It reminds me to strive to be creatively memorable.

How am I doing?

About Bob Wagner (Bob-Wagner.com)

With a degree from Lehigh University, and training as both an Electrical Engineer and Musician, Bob Wagner spent the first 20 years of his career pursuing both technological and musical interests professionally until 2011 when he chose to focus on music full time.

As a full time musician, Bob maintains an active schedule as a freelance trumpet performer, arranger, bandleader, and musical contractor based in the Philadelphia, PA area.

As a touring artist, Bob has appeared as a trumpet soloist with various classical, jazz, R&B & theatrical organizations throughout the country. His talents have carried him to solo performances at some of the nation’s most prestigious concert halls including Strathmore (MD), Disney Hall (LA), & Carnegie Hall (NYC) where he received a standing ovation for his performance.

With his unique professional background, Bob also serves as a clinician and guest speaker in secondary, collegiate and professional settings covering a broad range topics including business (music and other industries), social media, motivational and career guidance, and of course trumpet performance and ensemble coaching.

Bob is available for consulting and speaking opportunities.

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