tales, institutional collisions, even a cape

living it up after a 3 rehearsal, 2 show, 1 teleconference day

living it up after a 3 rehearsal, 2 show, 1 teleconference day

I’ve decided to tip-toe into the ever-so-timely loss of my blogging virginity by explaining, in the horror of nonfiction, how I came to be friends with 3 members of yMusic. The description follows in chronological order.

I met Hideaki Aomori at LAX in February, 1999. There we stood in baggage claim: two nervous east-coasters (I had just finished my first trip on an airplane!) about to embark on a two-week stint as high school jazz all-stars. I repeat, HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ ALL-STARS. You see, we were members of the All-American Grammy Jazz Ensemble. I was lead trumpet, even, Hideaki a mere alto saxophonist. Some Los Angeles highlights included playing with Tito Puente, watching an assortment of adult movies (another first!), making an album in a real recording studio (a third first!), and meeting the widow of my trumpet hero, Clifford Brown.

Incidentally, I found Hideaki to be a good guy and great musician. My interest was particularly sparked by a joke he made on the bus about the phallic proportions/shortcomings of one of the “cool guys” in the band. [Neither Hideaki nor myself were seen as particularly “cool guys.”] Porn, bebop and buses behind us, we eventually became dorm roommates in 2000, a partnership that lasted for two whole years.

I met Nadia Sirota sometime during our freshman year together at Juilliard. [Hereafter the “Juilliard School” will be referred to as “that institution.”] It should be noted that we became social friends at school but didn’t become musical friends until meeting at an after party for the National in February of 2008. [See related story] One of the highlights of my early friendship with Nadia was our partnership as work-study cohorts in that institution’s Box Office. [Hereafter, “Box Office” will be referred to as “sticky 9 to 5.”] For those unfamiliar with that institution’s sticky 9 to 5, it is located directly above that institution’s theater. [Hereafter…never mind] This seemingly unimportant detail inspired us toward one of our shining moments as a work-study duo. We decided that it would be consistently funny to answer the question “Where is the theater?” with the phrase “B’low Me!” I’m proud to report that we kept our jobs through graduation.

I met Alex Sopp in my second year of school but we didn’t become close friends until a Rainforest Benefit at Carnegie Hall brought us together in 2008. The lineup was star-studded, featuring artists such as Sting, Billy Joel, Feist, and James Taylor. Alex and I were performing as members of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and I was proudly wearing my Captain Freelance Cape. When I accepted the gig from OSL, I skeptically told them I had a 9:45 downbeat that same night at the New York City Ballet. The head of operations assured me that I would have no trouble making my second gig as we were only playing on a couple of pieces and would be finished by 9:00. After the dress rehearsal, Alex and I went to dinner and had a delightful experience discussing our lives as freelance performers and collaborative artists in New York City. Things were looking up, but the evening would prove to be a stressful one for me.

Throughout the day, Alex had expressed an endearing level of nervousness about whether or not I would be able to make my gig at the ballet. I repeatedly assured her that every little thing [was] gonna be all right. The Rainforest extravaganza was running slightly behind schedule as we approached our scheduled place in the set list and Alex’s sympathetic anxiety grew by the minute. During the next portion of the program, the screening of a short film, we were supposed to take our places on stage before playing about 15 minutes of music. Instead of turning off all the lights in the house and on stage, however, the crackerjack stage crew accidentally flooded the theater with light, thus signaling to the crowd that it was time to take an intermission. Needless to say I did not have time to wait around for 20 minutes of cocktails, donations and lines at the loo. I immediately panicked. Sensing a role reversal, Alex suddenly emerged in the full regalia of cool, calm, collection at my side. We quickly found the house band’s trumpet player (who couldn’t transpose, wasn’t wearing a tux, and hadn’t ever played in an orchestra) and begged him to take my place at the last minute. As the reluctant words of acceptance were leaving his mouth, I promptly turned around, grabbed my gift bag and tap danced on out of there. I made it to my performance at the ballet safe and sound and weeks later, a check arrived from OSL. But the real payoff (cue cheesy orchestra flourish at 1:37) was my friendship with Alex, born over a concert not played!

There’s no moral to this tale, but I can offer the following factual updates as distracting closing material:

1) Alex moved to Brooklyn, defying all odds.
2) Nadia is now on faculty at the Manhattan School of Music (heretofore referred as “that other institution”).
3) Hideaki still makes the occasional interest-inspiring joke, though his subject matter is much less accessible and teen-oriented.

And if you made it this far, here’s your well-earned reward.