I've done the production manager thing before. Contacted venues, gotten gear lists together, driven a 24' box truck, gone to rehearsals, heck i've even judged competitions before.
But nothing compared to when eighth blackbird came to town.
For those not in the know, check out the about on their page and catch the part where they've won a couple Grammy's (no. 73, a couple down the list, for 2012). They are the premier chamber ensemble in the nation, possibly world. Complete beasts.
I mean their playing. They're all delightful people. I had several great conversations with various members, including a fairly long one with Lisa Kaplan as I showed her cross campus.
Oh, the event! right. Through the Barr Institute at UMKC, eighth blackbird presented various masterclasses for the past year, a concert of music of their choice, and then one other project. The other project was put out as a submission to the conservatory at large. Groups, or individuals, could write proposals.
When eighth blackbird had come to town in April, I was talking to a local museum about hosting a series of concerts through the conservatory. We were in the final stages of putting together quite the idea- a commissioning project where each semester 5 students would be chosen to compose site specific pieces based upon art on display. And the goal was to have a "resident ensemble," maybe start with the university new music ensemble, Musica Nova, then see who would be game. Pretty frackin' cool right? Well, this idea got brought up during a large conversation with 8bb that somehow became them asking questions about what the composers organization on campus did. They loved the idea, the novel concept, the cultural link, and Matthew Duvall said "that's the kind of concert that if someone pitched it to us, we'd consider it." Being an opportunist, I said "Hey, so, we've got this concert we're planning in the fall, and I heard you'd be around..." It was a good laugh.
The this project proposal came around.
And I was flat out told "John, you have to submit that project. but spruce it up a bit." So I did. Instead of just 8bb playing the pieces, I pitched it as a "side-by-side" where UMKC student performers would get to work with 8bb, prepare brand new music submitted by composition students, and we'd hold a concert at the museum. Dance was even added in collaboration, so they get to say they've worked with 8bb (though I'm not sure how important that is to dance. Hopefully really important).
It was accepted. and I thought "woo! venue is already in! I won't have to do anything for this at all. Maybe they'll have me collect the scores or something."
Oh man...was I wrong.
So, long story made medium, the original venue had some issues. There was some turn over, all our efforts were lost in the shuffle, and come August, no venue. Well, shit. We were hell bent on the concert being off campus, so I set to work. Sadly, I couldn't find a "free" place, but I got a decent deal on a space for an all day rental (we had no idea at the time of booking how much time, so i said quote all day, we'll pay all day, and you'll prolly come out ahead. Fast way to get a yes). Alright, great...then came me being the middle man to get everything paid for. If you've never had to deal with that in a university (or other really large company) then I pray you never do. If it wasn't for great administrators, and certain higher ups covering my ass, I would have lost it
Ok, ok, we've got a venue! it's booked! Reception? uh uh uh...ok, held off as long as we could...No! We'll just go to a bar afterwards. we'll all be tired anyway, and we will need to get everything put away. Ok, great. Piano? SHIT, PIANO! WE NEED A PIANO!!!! WHY IS IT IN FOUR WEEKS AND I FORGOT TO EVEN GET A PIANO?!?!?!?!
To be fair, by this time about 5 people were involved in various fashions with ordering, coordinating, etc, and none of us remembered piano. Ok, no big deal, piano received. Great, how do we get equipment to the place? I suggested a 14' truck. Oh, good, someone else is driving...
Wait, what, he can't drive? Ok, fine, that's fine. OH, it's a 24' truck? well...shit...at least it's automatic. one less thing to worry about.
So here I am, night before, tired as balls, can't sleep. Have to be up at 7 to be at rehearsal (just in case, I was at almost all the rehearsals). Get there, drinking coffee, ok, I'll get the truck, load it...
And then the day went normally. Loaded a truck, drove it downtown, set-up stuff, drove truck back, got some lunch. The, uh, normal people in the venue complained about the noise...yeah, Stamos' piece is hella loud after all. But we did SAY from the beginning "rehearsals start at 2, show at 5:30." Guess that didn't make it throughout the company. Alright, fun. We're here, we paid, not much can be done.
Show is beyond packed. Standing room only, and we're in there like sardines. John Corigliano is in the audience, in town to begin his Barr Laureate status. And here I am, hopping up in front of everyone. Little sleep, only a couple weeks after comps, during which I was dealing with every pitfall possible in getting this concert to happen. I'm sure I looked like hell.
Then the concert happened. It was fantastic. 8bb and all the conservatory students played the hell out of the pieces.
In the aftermath, even more great news. Hey, remember that $4K you asked for, and proposed that since it's a project effecting at least 4 different student groups, that'd only be $1K a piece? Yeah, we decided it's really only for 1 group, and we're giving you a total of $1780. Oh, no no no, not for this one project...for the year. Yep, you're actually getting less than every other year. Have a great year!
But, ya know what? the concert was awesome. 8bb was awesome. The food afterwards was delicious
And, I learned I can still back a 24' box truck down a narrow alley without trying