LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
Playing for change,
by Feature Writer,
When a professional basketball team strolls through the lobby of a hotel, they are recognizable by their altitude. Football players are easily identified by the absence of a neck, and ballet dancers all have that Peter Pan figure. But when it comes to physical appearance, democracy reigns in an orchestra. Not during the practices or the actual performance, of course, but if you can make the music at the orchestral level, you get the job. One evening some friends and I gathered at the Symphonic Hall in the Ukraine to experience some high culture; namely, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky. Over there, you can get culture cheap.
The tickets were 12 grivna ($2.50). It was a small hall though. From my seat I could have thrown popcorn into the cellos. After being seated, I joined in the buzz of social chatter that permeated the room while the orchestra warmed up. Shortly the conductor took the podium, raised his baton, and the crowd fell silent, and music written centuries ago filled the room. As the evening progressed a familiar feeling awakened, walked to the front of my mind, and threw open the window. I closed my eyes and the genius of a classical composer sent waves of excitement across my imagination. I opened my eyes and there was a motley collection of musicians, each individually plucking or bowing or tooting or tapping some instrument. To the eye, they appeared to be doing different and unrelated things. I closed my eyes again, and their individual efforts blended into beautiful music. I loved that a bunch of such seemingly diverse people could come together and produce something so wonderful.
I wanted to hold my hands up to the sky and say, “Hey, if anyone out there is watching us, look at this!” Yes, we humans make mistakes, and yes we are not always nice to one another, but look how good we can be when we get together!” In the orchestra I saw people who looked like a housewife, an accountant, a go-go dancer, a McDonald’s clerk, a soccer mom, a Greek model, a plasterer, the jerk you didn’t want your daughter to date, and a grandpa. There was a Twiggy and an Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was a Michelle Pfeiffer and a Rose Ann Barr. They were all there, or so it seemed to me. In reality, I was only looking at musicians; artists who practiced their craft several hours a day, for years. And they were people, with all the short comings and frailties that attend the human condition. The drummer might have resented the snooty attitude of the first violin. The oboist may not have liked the trumpeter.
But that night, and each night they perform, they put aside such differences, and gather together to make beautiful music for the delight and satisfaction of the real soccer moms, plasterers, housewives, accountants and me.
If only our leaders could do the same.
This is Really the Bright Side