Friday, December 4, 2009

By Popular Demand...The Story About Me Horrifying My Child In The Middle Of Her Orchestra Concert

One of my daughters plays the violin and the other plays guitar, so in our house, it's not unusual for one to hear questions like, "How loud can I be?" in reference to whether the amp gets turned up or whether or not you can set up to practice right there in the living room.  After all, we have neighbors.
Correction: The guitarist has declared that anyone who moved into our four-plex AFTER we did is "on their own".  We made no attempt to be especially quiet if we knew that potential tenants were looking at the other apartments, so, they knew what they were getting into.  Besides, she rationalizes that the neighbor's crying baby is far more annoying than she could ever be with a guitar, plugged in or not, and she is correct about that.
Last night, I went to my daughter's orchestra concert, and though I have been to several of those, I've never really given any kind of in-depth reports about them, in part because the funny bits all have to do with other people's children and/or spouses and I don't exactly know the local school district tolerance for my particular brand of Point and Laugh humor.  I thought about and realized that ultimately, I mean no harm, and funny is funny, so, here ya go...
When Punky was attending school in Duluth, orchestra was a formal thing.  The musicians wore black, filed into the auditorium in a specific order, then first violin came out, then conductor, blah, blah, blah.  I was quite comfortable with it--Applaud for the orchestra, applaud for first violin, applaud for conductor, etc.  That's just how orchestra is--it's formal.  There is a certain order to things, set by years of tradition.  My own musical training was equally stringent in the formalities.  Our director was tough as HELL.  She was famous for making you wear chewing gum on your nose if you happened to get caught with it in her class, and she pounded lessons into us like she was slinging a sledgehammer.  She was an intense person.  I'll be damned if it didn't do the trick, though--miracles happened.  She put pieces of music in front of us that, at first glance, made us absolutely shudder.  Very, very difficult stuff.  I could never tell if she had that much confidence in us, or she was just so sure of herself that she knew she could knock Grade A performance out of anybody, no matter how incompetent we might have been.  Probably the latter.  But we learned those pieces, and, we won awards and recognition.  Like I said...miracles happened.
To my mind, Strict Works--or at least it works if you want to really, really learn what you and your instrument are truly capable of, and in my humble opinion, it's important to have an intense person as one of your mentors, at least somewhere in the mix.  You want something to aspire to, and somebody who has made it their life's work and focus is always going to be better than you (they practice more) and more daring (because they practice more) and more confident with it than you are.  Because they practice more.  And they tend to be, well, intense, at least about that one thing.
Meet my daughter's orchestra conductor/instructor.
He is, quite possibly, the single most relaxed human being I have ever seen in my life.  I mean...he is an extraordinary musician and composer and music historian, but, he's soooooo chill.  Chill, like, he calls the kids in the orchestra "dudes".
Chill, like, if a kid walks up to him and says they have a string they can't get in tune, his first response is to kinda nod and say, "cool...".  Then pause (for the laugh?).  Then he fixes it.
Chill, like, he refers to every composition, every movement, every song, every melody, as a "tune".  He writes little scripts for the kids to read to the audience, about each song and composer before they play it, and even the scripts refer to them as tunes.  He writes songs and can't think of what to call them, so names them "_____ Tune."  As in, "Tuesday Tune", or, "Rain Tune".
All of them.
But...he's no slouch.  "_____ Tune", all of them, are really good.  The kids enjoy playing them, and we enjoy hearing them played.  And the guy knows a LOT of stuff, about music, and composers, both classical and contemporary.  You can tell that he is a big, big fan of...everybody.  (I always say, it you can't be a big fan of somebody, or admire somebody else's work, you'll never be any good as a musician.  Just my opinion, anyway.)  Also, he really feels all of the little bits going on in a song--the different parts and instruments--and he LOVES it ALL.  Big love.  No question.
You can imagine that because he is such a relaxed guy that his concerts are relaxed, too.  You would be correct in that assessment.  Where my instructor used to do everything short of smack us with a baton to assure that we were as serious as possible about the whole concert experience (OK, I think she actual did smack somebody with that baton, but I'm a little foggy on the details), this conductor is kinda, " worries.".  Where we used to spend a half day practicing WALKING IN to the stage area, this guy is not all that concerned about how everybody gets there.  You know...just get's cool...
All of this relaxation is what led to the dumb thing happening, by the way, in case you were wondering where I was going with this.
So, it's Spring-time, and there we were, at a middle school orchestra concert.  One daughter IN the concert, the other sitting next to me, having survived the orchestras of kids in the lower grades, which, quite frankly are always a bit brutal no matter who is conducting.  They're new.  Anyway, it comes time for my daughter's group to go onstage and a big bunch of children in various forms of the same outfit (white top, black pant or skirt) begin to wander onto the stage from both sides, in no particular order, no rhyme or reason.  They're moving chairs around and chit-chatting a little--very INformal--and, because almost the entire violin section is girls and middle school girls are FREAKS about everybody wearing the same styles and having the same hair, they all pretty much look exactly alike. 
For this reason, I did not panic when I couldn't see my kid, even after the conductor came out and the orchestra started playing.  So what if they didn't all walk out single file, past the sea of Grandma's taking pictures?  So what?  They were all there.  Probably.  I mean, most of the seats had kids sitting in them.  My kid is probably up there.  Right?
But then something happened:  My daughter leaned over to me and asked, "Where's ______?" (her sister).  I was a bit startled by this because La Diva is very good at spotting things--better than me, anyway.  And she asked me this just as I was about to ask her if she could see her sister!  Weird! 
All of a sudden, it occurred to me that Punky had not been feeling well earlier in the evening, soooo....
...maybe, she's NOT up there!  Maybe, the reason I didn't see her walk in is because she DIDN'T walk in!  Maybe she in the orchestra room, barfing into her violin case!  Oh. My. Gaawd!  What should I do?  Get up and go look?  No...can't do that, because I'm sitting in the middle or a row, and the music has started!  Crap!  Where is she?
So, I whipped out my phone.  I figured that if she WAS on the stage that surely she would not have brought her cell phone with her.  I mean, who does that?  And what teacher would allow that?  My instructor would have thrown a cell phone off a tall building before letting it anywhere near her stage!  OF COURSE she doesn't have it with her!  She couldn't have her cell phone with her on stage.  So...thinking harm, no fowl to send a text to her phone, just in case she is on death's door and needs Super Mom to take her home, or, to Dairy Queen, or some other important place.  By sending a text, I could solve the mystery of the missing violinist.  If she didn't answer, that meant she was up there somewhere, and if she did answer, I could excuse myself and go rescue her.
Straight thinking, right?
I had peeled off two texts (no harm, no fowl, remember?) when my daughter suddenly found her sister on the stage.  Whew!  There she is!  OK!  No Worries!  Back to the show!
Well, as it happens, Invisible Child did indeed have her cell phone with her.  Right there in the back pocket of her pants.  Right where she was sitting, there on the metal chair.  She had taken the step to turn the ringer off, but, not the vibrate feature.
And that, my friends, is some funny, funny stuff.
We somehow managed not to disrupt the entire concert with the sound of a phone rumbling against a metal chair, so that was all good, but apparently some young violinist just about jumped out of her skin when her butt started vibrating in the middle of a song.
Uh-huh.  Funny, right?
When Punky got out of the car last night, to go in and prep for her concert, the last thing she said to me was "Do NOT send me a text!"  Gee....who knew this would be a problem?  Who knew this was something I would have to be scolded for?  She did take the extra step of adjusting her phone all the way to silent before taking the stage, however.  She needn't have--this time, I saw her walk in.  ;-)

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