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Nick Akins of AEP plays drums AEP
Nick Akins of AEP plays drums, keeping alive a teenage dream.

Electrifying Musicians

Executives Tap their Creative Side

Three of the leading lights in America’s world of electric power tap their feet to a different rhythm when it comes to seeking personal inspiration.

It takes them to an oasis of peace, far removed from the threats of Russian cyberpunks out to crash our grid, getting their arms around something as huge and amorphous as the future of our climate and whether everybody in town can live with the electric bill that falls into their hands each month.

Nick Akins, chairman, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power, oversees the production of 26,000 megawatts of electricity that courses across a 40,000-mile transmission grid – the nation’s largest – to 5.4 million customers.

He plays drums.

“I’ve played the drums since I was 12,” he tells the Energy Times. “I was certain that I’d be a rock-and-roll drummer when I grew up, but luckily I had an electronics teacher who sparked my interest in electricity and energy issues, leading me to a career in electrical engineering. This way, I can pay the bills and still ‘live the dream’ playing rock-and-roll drummer several times a year to raise money for charity and other special occasions.” 

Akins also gets close to the rock legends while on the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Elliot Mainzer of BPA on sax.

Across the nation, perched in the Pacific Northwest, Elliot Mainzer is the administrator and chief executive officer of the Bonneville Power Administration.

The BPA has laced 15,212 miles of transmission lines across its 300,000 square mile service territory in eight Western states and operates 31 hydroelectric facilities that crank out 28 percent of Northwest electricity.

Among his challenges has been helping to orchestrate the coordination of burgeoning wind and riverine sources of power.

“I have been playing woodwind instruments since I was a young child,” Mainzer tells us. “Playing jazz helps me practice my listening skills and keeps my creative spirit alive.”

West of AEP’s domain, on the eastern side of Kansas and northwest Missouri, sits Kansas City Power & Light, which serves 800,000 customers.

Terry Bassham of KCP&L plays a guitar riff.

Terry Bassham, chairman, president, CEO of KCP&L, recently played with several utility employees at an ArtsKC function.

While KCP&L is smaller than AEP and its operations less extensive than BPA’s, it has not been short on vision. It has elected to meet and shape the future by deploying 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations across Kansas City, more than any other city, according to the company website.

Off the job, Bassham has his own strategy for recharging,

“Everybody is different,” he told the Energy Times. “Music is the rhythm of life for me. I work to it, I exercise to it, I am happiest when I am learning from it.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The new Energy Times, launching its brand new website this week, is dedicated to covering the business and strategy of utilities, newly empowered electric customers and the energy policies of tomorrow in fresh, provocative ways. If you are interested in tapping into the jazz of electricity, we invite you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter. And if you know of industry thought leaders who watercolor, bike the sub-Sahara or have fresh insights into the plans of Rick Perry, send them our way. [email protected]


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