Kevin McKeown still remembers the campaign posters bearing his name, a somewhat odd sight considering he wasn’t running for office.
He soon learned it wasn’t some sort of practical joke, but rather a quirk of fate: another Kevin McKeown.
An email exchange followed. A crossing of paths eventually ensued. And the tale of two Kevin McKeowns was born, an amusing coincidence that has played out in Santa Monica in humorous and often confusing fashion.
The two men find plenty of overlap in music and politics, and each has been involved in the other’s primary domain.
You would probably expect the band director to have music experience, which he does in droves: He started playing clarinet as a fourth-grade student at Grant Elementary School, studied music at UCLA and pursued a career in music education.
As for the mayor?
“I tried to learn guitar as a kid, but could never afford one that would stay in tune long enough,” he says. “I turned out to be skilled at ‘playing’ turntables.”
The mayor says he was lucky enough to be in the first wave of FM rock jocks, “when putting together sweeps of thematically consistent music, often with a social or political message, was still an art form. We had no computerized playlists — where I went with my music was entirely up to me.”
Although he’s not involved in music much these days, the local politician believes the band director would identify with the challenges of being mayor.
“I’ll bet it’s not that different from what the other Kevin experiences leading the band or conducting an orchestra: letting every voice be clearly heard, while keeping the melody clear and players in harmony,” he says. “I’ve always been a vocal advocate for progressive issues on our Council, but as Mayor I have the added task of listening closely to what everyone in the community wants, and helping them get where they want to go.”
The band director doesn’t live within Santa Monica’s borders, so he can’t vote for local candidates. But in election years, he often hears from students who say their parents voted for him.
“I have to explain that it’s not me, but someone who has been doing great work for this city,” he says. “I really admire Kevin’s beliefs in our community so I happily endorse him — and his name. … He would have my vote on his character, not because of our shared name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Asked what he would do if he had his namesake’s mayoral chair for a day, the band director says he would allocate more money to school arts programs.
But he’s also thankful to work in a district that generally supports these and other enrichment activities.
“As a music teacher, being part of one of the best music programs in the State of California is a privilege, and I enjoy being able to give back to a community that has given me so much, and values music as part of the curriculum in the school district,” he says. “That unfortunately is not the norm for other school districts, and puts Santa Monica on the map nationally as leaders in this area.”
The band director has no plans of pursuing a career in politics. The mayor won’t be teaching music any time soon. But the two Kevin McKeowns will continue conducting business in separate Santa Monica spheres that, every so often, amusingly intersect.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.