Steve Zelin, “The Singing CPA“, and Edith Orenstein, FEI Blog editor, combined to sing, “If I Were An Auditor.” It looked like they had a lot of fun, more fun that accountants ordinarily have. So, I sent each a few questions to find out more about their experience. In this blog post I first interview Steve, then I interview Edith.
Interview with Steven Zelin
Steven, can you share a little about how you learned to sing, etc.
I sang in the chorus in 6th grade while growing up in brooklyn, new york. I also did a lot of singing at summer camp. I taught myself guitar in high school and in college I took a lot of music courses and started writing my own songs. When I began my career at pricewaterhousecoopers, my work life started to creep into my songwriting.
Was it a difficult decision to move away from providing traditional accounting services to becoming the singing CPA?
Actually, I still provide traditional accounting services to clients. I have a boutique accounting practice specializing in individual taxes, small business accounting and non-profit auditing and consulting. I am very involved in the new york state society of cpas and I also teach accounting at long island university. I enjoy singing and I enjoy cpa-ing. And I enjoy singing about cpa-ing.
What was it like getting involved in this Second Life project?
To be honest, when Edith contacted me, I hadn’t ever heard of Second Life. Edith gave me good background information and then the folks at the Maryland Association of CPAs held my hand in getting around in the virtual world. The project was very well managed and I enjoyed working with everyone very much.
Did you actually get onto Second Life? Do you have an avatar? What is your avatar’s name?
Yes, of course! I went to the second life website and signed up and created an avatar. My avatar’s name is “thesingingcpa actor” (actor is my avatar’s last name).
Do you have a web site promoting your musical career? Any CD’s?
I do have a website (www.stevenzelin.com). There are plenty of samples of songs available. I have 3 cds of accounting related songs “Just Take a Sick Day,” “The Singing CPA,” and “No Accounting for the Holidays.” Each of the songs from the cds is available on itunes.
Do you songs tend to be humorous or serious?
My songs tend to be hilarious.
Have you ever performed at an American Accounting Association conference?
I would love to perform at the AAA conference. However, I have not yet been in touch with those folks.
Interview with Edith Orenstein
Edith, I really like the video. I’m impressed by your musical talent. Where did you learn to sing?
I am completely amateur (unlike my co-musical director on the project, Steven Zelin, “The Singing CPA,” who is a genuine singer-songwriter), but I have enjoyed singing and playing the guitar since I was 10 years old. I guess some of my main musical influences were people like Harry Chapin and Jim Croce, Peter Paul and Mary, if that gives you a sense of perspective …
Can you share a few thoughts about the recording process?
Since we did this project on a shoe-string (aka: no) budget, and since I wanted to maintain some semblance of a live acoustic performance, I was leaning toward using an audio file that I recorded on my iPhone in the first rehearsal session I had with Steven.
However, he told me that in his experience, the sound quality – particularly if we were going to broadcast the audio in Second Life and on YouTube, really required going into a recording studio. He explained to me that he normally spends a week in a recording studio when he records his CDs/albums, but we took a very simple approach and spent about 2 hours in a recording studio in Brooklyn, Rob Taube Words and Music. As Steven suggested, Rob was very helpful not only with the technical aspects of recording the tracks, but in coaching us, and me in particular, and made us feel comfortable. It was a lot of fun, a little nervewracking those as we tried to get the recording done just a few days before the final production.
Whose idea was the video?
I wrote the song parody lyrics a couple of years ago, and last year, I approached Tom Hood at MACPA and Steven about doing the song parody in Second Life. I was a speaker on a social media panel at MACPA’s annual conference in June last year, and participated on a Second Life pre-conference panel as well, but there wasn’t really time to put together the music video at that time, so we kind of put the idea aside and revisited it around the end of 2009. The whole project came together pretty quickly in January and Feb, 2009.
I was especially glad to see excellent bloggers, including yourself, join our ‘cast’. I reached out to some additional bloggers as well, who were tied up with other obligations and could not participate on the scheduled production day, but they shared their good wishes and I hope everyone likes the final product, and enjoyed the experience.
There are a few lines dealing with, “will you hold or trade me.” What does that line mean?
I was trying to draw a couple of parallels, like marriage being hold-to-maturity (or at a minimum, other than temporary!) vs. just dating someone being more like a trading account.
Secondly, I was trying to draw a parallel between ‘sale treatment’ that is based on a foundation of a transfer of substantially all risks and rewards, vis-a-vis marriage being ‘for better or for worse,’ ‘in sickness and in health,’ etc. I guess there’s also a model on which ‘sale treatment’ hinges on ‘ownership’ but I don’t like to think of marriage as transferring ‘ownership’ but rather a sharing of risks and rewards.
Why second life? Why not film a skit with the principals?
I guess a couple reasons for ‘why second life.” First, the song parody is a bit on the ‘silly’ side, and I was hesitant to try to play a ‘silly’ role, or have others play what may be viewed as a ‘silly’ role, in a real-life video. But second, I thought it would be ‘cool’ to film the video in Second Life: among other things, we could get a diverse and eclectic group of bloggers together from all over the country (in fact, including our friend Darla Sycamore in Canada as well!) together in one place at one time, through the wonders of the virtual world of Second Life.
Plus, I had direct experience over the past year or so with Tom Hood, CEO of MACPA, who was really helpful in providing some Second Life training (an introduction to SEcond Life, really) to FEI staff a year ago, and through MACPA’s SEcond Life programs on CPA Island. I’m also a fan of the FASB Research Initiative programs that are conducted in Second Life, featuring speakers from FASB, IASB and others, which area available for viewing as a regular webcast (and archived on their site as well, www.fasri.net). All in all, I thought recording the video in Second Life would be something ‘different’ in terms of attracting viewers, and would also help spread the word about Second Life and what it has to offer, particularly in terms of programs that are useful to finance and accounting professionals, such as MACPA’s programs on CPA Island, and FASRI’s programs, led by Prof. Rob Bloomfield of Cornell University.
Was the video a difficult project to pull off?
Honestly, in some respects, yes, in that everyone involved in the project had a job to do which took up time, including nights and weekends, whether it was working on the audio recording, building the set, training the avatars or being trained, and coordinating various aspects of the production. But, I think it was worthwhile, in that I got to know some bloggers and ‘meet’ them in Second Life, when I have not yet had the pleasure to meet them in real life (including you!). Also, to the extent the project introduces the FEI blog, or your blog, or MACPA, The Singing CPA, or the other bloggers’ blogs to a wider audience, I think that it’s a win.
Any final comments?
It was a lot of fun, and I appreciate your participation in the project! We’ve certainly had some weighty discussions (by email and via our blogs) about very serious subjects, and I know we have a particular interest in accounting theory, so this music video was a bit of a break from that, semi-serious, but semi-entertaining as well.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht