Wednesday, February 22, 2012

a sparkly poetry story.

Once upon a time, I was a freshman in college. A great many things happened during my freshman year: I made new friends, learned that I wasn’t meant to be a psychology major, and found out what it was like to have to buy my own groceries. I did a lot of things that year, some memorable, some not so much. There is one thing I will never forget about my freshman year, and it’s not even something I did: for this memory, I can thank my dad.

I’d better start at the top. I signed up for college band when I registered for classes the summer before I began college. I had my doubts, but it fit perfectly into my schedule, and a little dorky part of me knew I’d miss playing my horn. Turns out it was the best decision I could’ve made. I played some truly strange music and met the greatest people. Concert band led to jazz band, where I met even more great people and got to go to New Orleans. This story, though, is about the final concert of my freshman year.

Our concert band director was a crazy guy. He was only around for my freshman year, but he certainly made an impression. He had this grand idea for the last concert of the year: one of the pieces was going to be a multimedia performance. Yes: multimedia. Keep in mind that this is a liberal arts college that I’m talking about. We were performing a piece called “Sparkle” that was composed by a UMM alumnus. This concert would be the world premiere of “Sparkle,” and our director wanted to draw a crowd. He was going to bring in painters and dancers; he was going to create a slideshow with photos that sparkled, and he was planning on handing out paper and pencils to the audience so they could write “Sparkle”-inspired poetry. It was very liberal arts of our director, and he was sure it would be a hit.

We spent the entire week before the concert rehearsing in the concert hall. It wasn’t until the last day or two, though, that the dancers were brought in. The dancers were instructed to do interpretive dances in the concert hall’s walkways. I can’t speak for my fellow musicians, but I found myself incredibly distracted. I wanted to see what “Sparkle” would look like as a dance, and the dancers mostly just looked uncomfortable. As for the slideshow and the painters, we weren’t going to rehearse with them. The slideshow screen would hover above our heads, so as long as nobody stood up, that would be fine. 
I have no idea what the director put in the
"Sparkle" slideshow, but I'd like to think
that this picture was involved.
The artists, however, were not invited to the rehearsals. The director didn’t want the painters to hear “Sparkle” ahead of time: they were supposed to create paintings based on their initial reaction to the music.

My parents had been incredibly faithful concert attendees. My mom actually knew my concert schedule better than I did. When I called to tell them about this concert, I hesitantly mentioned the multimedia portion. I didn’t want them to come all the way to the concert without knowing what to expect. My mom and my sister couldn’t attend this concert; Mom was chaperoning Darrah’s high school band trip to St Louis. Dad planned on coming, as did my brother Mitch. They also planned to bring along our neighbors: my friend Sarah, her brother Dylan, and their mom, Sharon.
Sarah and me after the concert. See how happy we are
that it was finally over?!
The day of the concert arrived, and I spotted my cheering section in no time. The first half of the concert was fairly normal; I don’t remember what we played, but it certainly paled in comparison to the freak show that was the second half. As the painters were setting up their easels and the dancers were taking their places, our director gave his spiel about what was going on. I could see the befuddled looks on the faces of the concert-goers; clearly, not too many of my fellow performers had warned their families beforehand. Out front with the programs, there had been a basket of paper and pencils free for the taking. The director then explained what these were for: he wanted the audience to write poems based on “Sparkle.” They were supposed to let the music inspire them. The audience members’ eyebrows rose even higher. I’m certain they were wondering if they could sneak out without anyone noticing.

“Sparkle” began, and the dancers gyrated in the walkways. They were dressed in black and had colorful scarves: it was the closest to avant-garde they could get, apparently. We couldn’t see what the painters were doing; their artwork faced the audience. I could, however, see my dad, and he was writing something. I figured that he and Mitch were just passing notes back and forth about how hokey this whole concert was. I was in for a major surprise.

“Sparkle” finally ended, much to our relief and the relief of the concert attendees. “Now,” said the director, turning to face the audience. “Does anyone have a poem they’d like to share?” To my utter horror, I saw my dad look over one shoulder, than the other. It hit me: he had a poem to read. When Dad saw that there was no one clamoring to read their poem, he stood up to read his poem. I thought I was fairly safe; not too many of my bandmates knew that this guy was my dad. He began his poem:

“Five of us came from SD 
(my thought: “Well, there could be others from South Dakota…”)
To see my daughter, Calla B. 
(every single person in the band turned to look at me. Busted.)
She really makes her father beam
Now, if only the Twins had a team!”

Before he sat down, Dad followed with his alternate ending:
“She’s just about as good as she can get
If only she played the trumpet!”

The concert band members actually applauded, and the audience was also quite appreciative: any poem that mentions the Twins is ok in their book. The director, though, was not quite as amused. He was looking for something a little more “sparkly.” He said, “Uh… thanks. Anyone else…?” There was silence: how could anyone follow my dad’s poetic work of art?! Finally, someone (the director’s wife) did stand up and read a poem consisting entirely of adjectives.

Mercifully, the concert ended there. As soon as we were off the stage, the other band members clamored to talk to me. “Calla, that was your DAD?! He’s AWESOME!” was the consensus. Many of the band members (and the audience members, come to think of it) actually sought out my dad to introduce themselves and tell them how great his poem was. James (the boyfriend, but not at the time) played trumpet in the band, and his parents had come to the concert. I’d met them once before, but they had never met my dad. After the concert, James’s parents (who had been sitting right in front of Dad) introduced themselves to Dad, saying, “We KNEW there was a reason we liked your daughter!”

For the next three years of my college career, I remained in at least one band: jazz or concert (and sometimes both). At any performance, there was always someone who said, “Calla, remember that time your dad wrote that poem? That was the best concert EVER.” There were a few prospective students in the audience that day, and they eventually came to Morris and joined the band. They would hear someone mention that poem and say, “Calla, that was YOUR dad?! That was amazing!”

And that, my friends, is how my dad became better known at my college than I was. To this very day, my college friends will mention that concert fondly. Without my dad, it would’ve just been some weird liberal arts conceptual mumbo-jumbo, but he brought it back to where everyone wanted it to be: Twins Territory, that is!
Never forget it.

No comments:

Post a Comment