Back To The Future
6 May 2011
Inside the Classics

Some days in this job are more fun than others. Today, for example. My morning began with two Young People’s Concerts conducted by Courtney and featuring the orchestra’s fourth trumpet, Chuck Lazarus, who created the show we were performing. The emphasis was on the intersection between jazz and classical music, and in addition to Chuck wailing away on some seriously note-y arrangements of classics like Summertime and It Don’t Mean A Thing, the concert featured a very cool piece by Kenji Bunch (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – kids, who haven’t yet been taught to dislike contemporary music, love contemporary music) and an honest-to-goodness vaudevillian, who came complete with classic comedic shtick and a huge one-man-band apparatus. The kids in the audience were on their feet cheering at the end, which isn’t something you get from fourth graders every day.

After a more leisurely than usual lunch hour, Courtney led us through a touch-up rehearsal on the repertoire we were playing on our outstate tour a couple of weeks back, because we’ll be playing it all again this coming week. Courtney’s time management skills have always been strong, but in the last year or so, he’s become efficient to the point that he might actually rival Sarah in that department. Today, he managed to drill us relentlessly on several important passages in the Strauss Horn Concerto, remind us of how he wants certain sections of Tchaikovsky’s 6th to be stretched out and sped forward, hit the one crucial moment of the symphony that absolutely must be rehearsed at every available opportunity, and still have us all out the door into the sunshine before 3:30pm.

Which was good, because violinists Gina diBello and Kate Bennett, percussionist Kevin Watkins and I had a mission to undertake before heading home for the night. You may have heard that, this weekend, Sarah will be leading us in a pops show of her own creation built entirely around ’80s pop/rock music. And earlier in the week, a memo was distributed to all the musicians of the orchestra letting us know that, if we wanted to take the stage wearing era-appropriate clothing, that would be fine. Furthermore, Gina and I have been asked to judge an ’80s costume contest in the lobby following Friday night’s show, so costumes would be almost mandatory for us.

So off we four sped to Uptown, there to plunder Ragstock for our weekend attire. (And may I just say that acid-wash denim is a lot harder to find than you might expect these days?) Kevin headed straight for the racks of Members Only jackets and cheesy polo shirts, then spent about a half hour dithering over whether he should instead be going for more of a Don Johnson-Miami Vice thing. Gina found a distinctly Molly Ringwald-ish party dress and proceeded to make it actually look fashion forward simply by putting it on. (Seriously, she has that power. Gina could make polyester leisure suits come back into style tomorrow just by wearing one in public. It’s a gift.)

Kate grabbed everything vaguely ’80s she could find (including a truly spectacular Madonna-style bustier that probably was not exactly what our bosses had in mind for us to wear on stage) and hadn’t actually made her final selections by the time I left the store, but I believe an oversized white button-down shirt was involved.

And I… well, I walked in fully intending to go the Anthony Michael Hall-in-The-Breakfast-Club route, because Awkward Nerd is about the only ’80s stereotype I know how to do.

Yeah. That brings back memories.

But as things progressed, a classic pair of acid-wash jeans with the cuffs tightly rolled became involved, as did an unbelievably tacky polyethelene jacket from the 1988 Olympics, a pair of white athletic socks with red striping, and a Cats t-shirt. Yes, a Cats t-shirt. I don’t know why, but it just seemed right. Now and Forever.

So I’m not sure what ’80s character I just created, but I’m thinking it’s gonna come in at something like 60% dork, 30% hipster, and 10% Teenaged Big Lebowski. And I’m comfortable with that.

Just to cap the day off, shortly after I left Ragstock and was waiting to catch the 21 bus back to my side of town, a bike commuter pulled up, stopped for the red light, took one look at me, and asked, “Do you play in the Minnesota Orchestra?” Yes, yes I do. “And you host those concerts with Sarah Hicks, right? I love those!” Crazy – and I didn’t even have my viola with me! Sometimes I swear that Cheers had nothing on Minneapolis – where everybody knows your name…

Hm? Oh. Yeah, I’ll be sure and take some pictures for you tomorrow night and post ‘em here over the weekend. I hear Sarah’s got some impressive outfits planned as well!

<April 2020>

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