David A. SmallEntertainment Attorney,Law Offices of David A. Small
“I was hell-bent on being a rock drummer, but my parents said if I wasn’t enrolled in college I couldn’t live at the house anymore. So I enrolled at Mountain View, but just to be able to have a place to live. I didn’t go to class much, and my grades were horrible.
“Then I heard about the commercial music program at Cedar Valley, and that turned out to be a great program for me. Russ Benzamin — who was the head of the program at that time — was just such a great guy. Commercial music was a brand-new program, and he was determined to make it work. It was challenging because we performed all of the time, but I loved it.”
“My parents weren’t big fans of the music thing. My mother had a doctorate in education, and my father was an administrator for the DISD in special education. All they understood was a college degree and a regular job. After my dad passed away in 1985, I realized I did want to finish college. So at age 26 I went back to school. I did one semester of music education at UNT, earned my bachelor’s degree at UTA and then went to law school at Texas Southern University in Houston.
“I was an assistant criminal district attorney and then was a corporate attorney in insurance defense and banking litigation. I finally got a handle on billable hours and realized that I could make twice as much working half as much if I went into business for myself. So I went out on my own in 1992.
“I had a lot of friends still in the music business, and it just happened that people started referring performing artists, publishers and labels needing legal representation. I advise clients in all facets of television, music and film.
“The best part of my education at Cedar Valley was dealing with Russ Benzamin. His love for real music was so inspiring; I wish more people had that enthusiasm. Practice was very important to him; he was very proud of our performances, and he wouldn’t allow a student group to go out if our performance wasn’t truly impressive. There were times when he’d go out and get some hotshot session players to come fit in with us, and it elevated the performance of everyone in the band. His love of complex music was really contagious, and it expanded the way I listened to all music and gave me more to aspire to in my own performance.
“I got such a great foundation at Cedar Valley. When you understand basic recording techniques, it really increases your value as a musician, producer or songwriter. You understand how to write what will work well, and you learn to use your time in the studio efficiently. That recording technology education that you can get at Cedar Valley is invaluable knowledge and the best music education for the money that I’ve ever heard of.”
A graduate of Bishop Dunne High School, entertainment attorney David A. Small was in Cedar Valley College’s first Commercial Music graduating class in 1979. He attended the prestigious Berkley Conservatory in Boston, where classmates included Branford Marsalis and Smitty of The Tonight Show’s band. He has played jazz to rock as a studio musician and solo recording artist, although these days his music involvement is “mostly on the business end.” Favorite performers include Stevie Wonder and The Police.