Hard Day's Delight: A School Of Rock, At The Office

Play associated audio

It's 4 o'clock on a Thursday, and instead of sitting in front of computer screens, a group of software engineers and customer service reps from M5 Networks is in the middle of band practice.

M5 is a telecom company based in New York City that offers Internet phone services. But it offers something else for its employees: At the Rochester, N.Y., office of M5, workers are gearing up for a companywide battle of the bands against other branches.

"The great thing about this program is that you're required to learn something new," says Myriah Marsh, the Rochester office manager who's learning how to play the bass.

"I have small hands so they don't really want to cooperate with me. So it's just a matter of getting my fingers used to it and developing that muscle memory," Marsh says of her new instrument.

Marsh is one of about two dozen Rochester employees participating in the music program, known as "M5 Rocks." Bands of about four or five co-workers get together every week to work through covers of rock songs, and the only rule is you can't play an instrument you already know how to play.

Learning New Tricks

Ivan Trevino, an educator from Rochester's Hochstein School of Music, is in charge of band practice. He says the folks from M5 are model students. "They're at work all day, so for them to take a break and do something different, they're usually pretty happy to be there," he says.

Trevino says the school of rock for grown-ups is a first for Hochstein. It all stems from a meeting with the founder of M5's Rochester office, Phelim White.

"The way he put it was really intriguing," Trevino says. "He said, 'We want our employees to continue to learn new things.' "

A driving force behind the music program, White is a musician himself — he was a drummer in a few bands that toured his native Ireland and then later the United States.

White says most people don't want to learn something new they're really insecure about. But the founders of M5 met while playing music, and company CEO Dan Hoffman says he's long wanted to find a way to incorporate the ethos of a rock band into his growing telecom business.

M5 execs say the program is about more than just finding time to jam. There's no better way to build a team than to start a band, White says.

"[There's] the accounting person getting together with an engineer and a sales guy — all these different departments coming together as a band — as a unit — and learning how to be great together," he says.

'Happy Colleagues, Happy Customers'

That's not just lip service, White says — M5 is all about providing businesses with telecom services they will love. The company has about 2,000 client companies nationwide and is a leader in cloud-based phone services.

Ultimately, White says, M5 Rocks is about enhancing the bottom line.

"Happy colleagues, happy customers, right?" he says. "If you're going to have a commitment to your customers loving your service, the first commitment has to be to the staff."

That companywide commitment leads to one big event this coming May: M5's 12th-birthday bash in New York City. The centerpiece is a battle of the bands that pits M5 offices in Rochester, Chicago and Manhattan against each other in friendly competition.

Bands will take the stage in front of an audience of about 2,000 that will include colleagues, customers and even prospective clients.

Copyright 2012 WXXI Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit http://www.wxxi.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Colson Whitehead On The Importance Of Historical Fiction In Tumultuous Times

Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.

NPR

Whales, Sea Turtles, Seals: The Unintended Catch Of Abandoned Fishing Gear

An endangered whale was found dead over the weekend, entangled in derelict fishing gear. Such incidents have been on the rise in recent years. A new California law aims to combat the problem.
WAMU 88.5

Rating The United States On Child Care

A majority of parents in the U.S. work outside the home. That means about 12 million children across the country require care. A new report ranks states on cost, quality and availability of child care - and says nobody is getting it right.

NPR

Tech Giants Team Up To Tackle The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM form a group to set the first industrywide best practices for the technology already powering many applications, such as voice and image recognition.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.