From country singer to computer maven
Lansing man writes instructional guide to database program
By Hugh Leach
Lansing State Journal
10/7/2000

 

   A funny thing happened to Jonathan Stars on his way to becoming national country music star.
   He became the author of a book on how to use a computer database program instead.
   Stars, who grew up in Lansing as Mitchal Stutes before taking on the more glitzy name to help his musical career, played nightclubs around the country and at one time lived in Bakersfield, Calif. where singer Dionne Warwick's manager took an interest in him.
   In the mid-1980s, he decided to try his hand at country music and went to Nashville, Tenn., in hopes of landing a major recording deal.
   "The recording people liked my image, my sound and my music," Stars, 50, said. "But they said I was too old."
   "They said most compact discs were being bought by young women between the ages of 16 and 24 and they were interested in singers in the 20- to 30-year-old group. They said they knew what sold and it wasn't me."
   As a night club performer, Stars said he had difficulty keeping track of all the people he needed to know to keep his career alive. That ended the day he stopped at a computer store in Utah and a store employee convinced him he needed a computer database program called FileMaker Pro.
   "I already had a computer that I used to record my music," he said. "Fortunately, I always kept good notes, so I was able to put the information into the database program so I could quickly call up information on the people I needed to talk to."
   As he headed back to Lansing after the disappointment in Nashville, Stars said he realized his dream of becoming a famous entertainer was over. But he also discovered something he had not wanted to admit to himself before.
   "I realized that, as a performer, I really enjoyed only about 5 percent of what I was doing," he said.
   "The rest was making phone calls to set up performing dates, traveling and setting up and tearing down equipment.

   "Working with FileMaker Pro, I enjoyed about 95 percent of what I was doing."
   He quickly shifted gears, working with various business and government organizations to set up FileMaker Pro systems and adapt them to their specific needs.
   "We worked with him when he was just starting out," said Jeffrey Johnson, general partner in Bake N' Cakes of Lansing. "We found an employee with only 10 minutes of training could do in a minute what it took a highly trained person 45 minutes to an hour a day to do before."
   Johnson said 20 actual orders were put into the program as a test. He and Stars discovered that human errors, such as forgetting to charge for cake fillings or special decorations or charging for the wrong size cake had resulted in customers being undercharged by $100 on those orders alone, a situation that the program helped correct.
   He said Stars was very professional to work with.
   "He really wants to get at your specific problems and work with you to fix them," Johnson said.
   Stars clients have included the Yale University Multiple Sclerosis Research Center, the Ingham County Drain Commission and the Jackson Area Career Center.
   At a convention of FileMaker Pro users, Stars met a man who was planning to write a book about the program for beginners and intermediate users. Stars had already written several articles for a FileMaker Pro newsletter, and his new acquaintance asked him to co-author the book. Stars agreed. Then the other man backed out, leaving Stars with the entire project.
   Stars used his mother, Leora Stutes, who had never used FileMaker Pro, as a test subject for the book. He persuaded her to work through the tutorials and try to follow the instructions. If there was a problem, he reworked the section until it was clear.
   The result was "Learn FileMaker Pro 5.0" available at area bookstores. It includes 400 pages plus a 28-page index. Stars said he hopes the book will allow users to quickly learn what it took him more than 1,000 hours to discover about the program.
   Contact Hugh Leach at 377-1119 or email him at
hleach@lsj.com







Photo by KATHY KIELISZEWSKI Lansing State Journal

Book maker: Jonathan Stars of Lansing published a book to help people learn FileMaker Pro. Stars tried to make a name for himself in country music before working on his book.

To find out more about the Lansing State Journal go to www.lsj.com

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