Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Among the concerns raised by (Aspen Music Festival and School Music Director) Zinman’s departure, the most pressing is finding replacement conductors for the concerts he was scheduled to lead this summer.”
– The Aspen Times
TO: Aspen Music Festival and School
FROM: Barry Smith
RE: Conductor Position
To Whom It May Concern,
Let me get right to it – I’d like you to consider me as the replacement conductor for the summer.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself in regards to this topic. First of all, I’ll admit to not being very well versed in classical music, but I’m eager to learn. Well, maybe not “eager,” otherwise I probably would have done so by now. But I think you’ll find that what I lack in specific knowledge I more than make up for in overall ignorance.
Which is why I’d be perfect for this gig – my fresh, “outsider” perspective may be just what you need.
I’ve been to a number of performances at the music tent over the years, and although I usually sat on the lawn, I did occasionally peek inside to see what was going on. Based on what I saw, I have a few ideas on how I can breathe new life into the field of conducting.
I’ll go point by point …
1. As far as I can tell (granted, I was kind of far away) the conductor isn’t actually playing an instrument. Is this true? He (or she, I guess – are there girl conductors? How would I know?) just kinda stands in front of people who are doing all the work and flaps his arms around. Then, when it’s all over (DON’T clap ’til it’s over – learned that the hard way), he turns around and takes a bow and everybody leaps to their feet. Wha?
Call me old fashioned, but if I’m gonna get applauded, I feel I should have at least busted out with a harp solo at some point – which I’d do during each concert. Not the big harp with all the strings. I’m talking about the mouth harp. The tin sandwich. The Mississippi saxophone. Bravo, and have mercy.
2. I realize that economics are part of your hiring decision. Well, in addition to my harmonica abilities, I’ve also been learning the washboard. Should the regular orchestra washboard player not be able to make a performance, I’ll be able to fill in. Double duty. Twice your money’s worth.
3. I can’t be the first person to have pointed this out to you, but it appears to me that the conductor has his back to the audience – THE WHOLE TIME! What happened to stagecraft? I would/will not do this.
4. In addition to facing the audience, I intend to incorporate a number of gymnastic feats into my conducting performance. You know that thing where you grab your right foot with your left hand, forming kind of a loop, then hop through that loop with your left leg – without letting go? I can do that! Or I could. I haven’t in a while, but I’m sure I could nail it after a couple of tries. And even if I fall down trying, how classic would that be? Let’s be honest, a classical concert has the potential to be a bit of a snoozefest – imagine how welcome a few pratfalls would be. Like a refreshing slapstick breeze in stuffy room. I always hear about the classical music world’s ongoing concerns about attracting more young audience members. Well … kids love that people-falling-down stuff.
5. I can juggle. Kids also love juggling.
6. Would I get to set the schedule? ‘Cause if so, I’m having Edgar Meyer there twice a week. That guy’s awesome.
7. Two words – disco ball.
8. Just in case my position doesn’t work out, I’ve already drafted a guest editorial detailing my grievances. So … no delays in getting that in print. I’m a pro.
9. Later this week I’m gonna learn how to pronounce “Shostakovich.”
I think you’ll find that my references, though at first glance may seem to be comprised of hilarious made-up names, are top-notch. I’d be happy to come in and demonstrate that hopping-through-the-leg thing (see item No. 4) in person, just so you can see the level of professionalism I’ll be bringing to the team.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Etc, etc. …
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