How We Present
From Madison Avenue to Meditative Chopin
by Rolf Erickson
Enlightenment - The Transcendental Meditation Magazine Translate This Article
24 December 2014
Roy became the first black ''Mad Man'' to do creative work on Madison Avenue. In the next two years at Young & Rubicam, he created 75 percent of all the music produced by the firm.
Roy Eaton was born in 1930, the son of Jamaican parents, and grew up in Harlem, New York. This was before Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, a time when most African Americans were denied a higher education and barred from many professions. Roy proved to be up to this challenge and many others that came his way.
Roy's mother had a major influence on his success in life. She told him, ''You are whatever you feel you can be.'' She said that in order to overcome racial prejudice, he would need to do 200 percent to get credit for 100 percent in life. ''That became my life mantra,'' Roy says. Roy took up classical piano when he was six. At the age of seven, he won his first competition and performed at Carnegie Hall. He went on to attend New York's High School of Music and Art.
Roy's next challenge was to attend two colleges simultaneously—City College of New York (CCNY) and the Manhattan School of Music. In his sophomore year, Roy was ranked number three in his class of 3000 students at CCNY, and won a Naumburg Scholarship to study abroad at the University of Zurich during his junior year. At that point a New York Times story quoted Roy as saying that completing degrees from two colleges at the same time ''required perfecting the art of eating lunch in five minutes or less.''
June of 1950 was a remarkable month for Roy. He graduated from CCNY, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. He also graduated from the Manhattan School of Music. He won the first Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Award. (The pianist Van Cliburn won it two years later.) And he received a fellowship for graduate study in Musicology from Yale University.
While studying at Yale, Roy had successful concert debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1951 and at New York's Town Hall in 1952. He was drafted into the army during the Korean War, and spent two years writing and producing programs for Armed Services Radio. This was his first introduction to the infant Radio-TV business.
Breaking Barriers on Madison Avenue
Returning to civilian life, Roy was faced with a new challenge—turning his musical talent into a paying career. One hot July day, without an appointment, he walked into the offices of the advertising firm Young & Rubicam seeking a staff position producing background music for the Goodyear Playhouse dramatic show, which he believed they produced.
The personnel director explained that they did not produce the actual show, only the advertising. Roy notes that the popular TV show Mad Men is a ''pretty accurate snapshot'' of the ad world at that time. There were no black creatives on Madison Avenue. When the personnel director questioned Roy's ability to write ads, he responded to the challenge by writing ten TV ads overnight!
Charlie Feldman, a creative director at Young & Rubicam, seeing this demonstration of his skill, hired Roy as a copywriter and jingle composer in 1955. ''He was open to giving me an opportunity to use all of my talents,'' Roy recalls. ''He called me his Jackie Robinson. Charlie had broken down the lines of race years ago as a Jewish person in this business. He saw my talent and not my skin color, and therefore gave me a chance to do what I love: create.''
''When I was working full-time in advertising, after my evening meditation I was energized enough to practice two or three hours every evening, enabling me to maintain and enhance my skills as a concert pianist.''
That's how Roy became the first black ''Mad Man'' to do creative work on Madison Avenue. In the next two years at Young & Rubicam, he created 75 percent of all the music produced by the firm. In 1959, Roy moved to the firm Benton and Bowles as Music Director.
If you're over 30, you may still have some of Roy's jingles floating around inside your head. Let's see, how about: ''You can trust your car to the man who wears the star . . . .'' Did your brain respond: ''The big, bright Texaco star!'' (Mine did.) Roy produced and co-wrote this jingle with Bill Fredericks in 1962. In September 2007, Advertising Age named that Texaco jingle as the foundation for one of the twentieth century's top 100 creative campaigns. And on March 26, 2010, Roy was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.
But there were still more challenges for Roy to overcome. In July 1957, he was declared dead after an auto accident that killed his first wife Margaret and the driver of the car they were in. Roy says his second lifetime began ''when I emerged from a six-day coma with the clear mandate that God had spared my life to take a message to the world. I am still exploring this possibility.''
Meditation and Chopin
In early 1968, Roy attended an introductory lecture on Transcendental Meditation in New York City given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden. He learned TM on February 15, 1968. It was a life-changing event that Roy will never forget. In fact, as a reminder, he still carries the canceled check that he used to pay for his TM instruction.
''Initially I started TM to help relieve the constant pain I'd been experiencing as a result of the automobile accident,'' Roy says. ''It did help. But in addition, when I was working full-time in advertising, after my evening meditation I was energized enough to practice two or three hours every evening, enabling me to maintain and enhance my skills as a concert pianist.''
Soon he returned to the concert stage. In 1986, Roy performed a solo concert in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall titled ''The Meditative Chopin.'' Tim Page, music critic for the New York Times wrote: ''The cumulative effect was deeply satisfying. One came much closer to the heart of Chopin—and by extension, to music itself.''
Roy explains, ''After I started meditating, I felt that same 'silence' that one experiences during meditation during my practice and performance of Chopin. I sought to share this experience with the concert audience by asking them not to applaud between selections, but rather to experience the silence that Chopin prepares them to feel.''
''That's what my mother taught me. You aren't here just to take care of yourself. You're here for a reason. How can you be a source of inspiration, compassion, love, understanding, acceptance?''
Since then, Roy has toured internationally, recorded albums featuring the work of Chopin, Joplin, Gershwin, and others, and is on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music. He also regularly plays free concerts for nursing homes, churches, and charities.
I remember Roy's beautiful performances of ''The Meditative Chopin'' at TM events. He began at meditator weekend retreats in Connecticut with Richard and Gail Dalby, and then performed at larger World Peace Assemblies held in Fairfield, Iowa, Washington D.C., and in Holland.
''Due to TM, my life is clearly richer, happier, and more successful,'' says Roy. ''I have more to contribute to others, and I'm more appreciative of every experience, regardless of first appearances. I attribute this primarily to the enhanced insight into 'reality' that daily meditation has given me. In fact, I haven't missed one meditation since my instruction in 1968!''
Seeing the Best in Everyone
In February of 2014, Roy was interviewed by Harris Faulkner for a Fox News special on Black History Month. At the end of the interview, she asked Roy how he would like to be remembered.
Roy replied, ''If I was going to use one word, I guess it would be acceptance. I'd like to feel that I am honing the ability to see the best in everyone that I come in contact with.''
When Harris asked Roy why that was important to him, he replied, ''Because that's what my mother taught me. You aren't here just to take care of yourself. You're here for a reason. How can you be a source of inspiration, compassion, love, understanding, acceptance?
Maharishi said that as we develop our consciousness through regular practice of the TM program, we begin to live 200 percent of life—100 percent of outer success in the world, along with 100 percent of the inner silence we discover at the quietest level of our mind, pure consciousness.
Child prodigy. Exemplary student. Barrier-breaking Mad Man. Award-winning concert pianist. 46-year TM meditator. Roy Eaton is a shining example of how to do 200 percent, give 200 percent, and live 200 percent of life.
Enlightenment - The Transcendental Meditation Magazine
Translation software is not perfect; however if you would like to try it, you can translate this page using: