I performed in Carnegie Hall as a member of an orchestra a few days ago. I got a "comp" for a guest and on the ticket I noticed an invitation to submit a Carnegie Hall story for their website. Here's what I said:
To the aspiring violin student that I once was and later, to the professional violinist that I became, Carnegie Hall has always represented a very major focal point for the tradition of great musical performances and experiences. A few personal anecdotes stand out in my memory:
I have had the pleasure and privilege to be on the stage of Carnegie Hall a number of times with a few different orchestras. On two occasions, with two different respective orchestras, I served as Concertmaster and had short solos to play. On two other occasions I was granted special permission to play privately on the stage while a colleague listened out in the hall, to help determine the relative projection of violins that I was comparing. Those experiences were strangely thrilling: Here I was in the almost empty legendary hall where Tchaikovsky conducted the inaugural concert, where Heifetz made his incendiary American debut, and I was adding my own sounds as best I could! Exciting and eerie!
Some other colorful experiences happened to me just outside the Hall. Along the side of Carnegie, on 7th Avenue, I have seen a number of celebrities over the years going about their business, including Joe Franklin, Ben Stein and Sigourney Weaver. Honoring New York’s tradition of leaving celebrities alone, I never said anything to them. But once I saw Ravi Shankar and broke with that tradition. As a musician and, it so happened, as a ticket holder to Shankar’s recital for that very evening, I thought it would be OK to greet him and so I did. He was very nice and I told him that I looked forward to his performance later that evening. He thanked me and then asked me if I could do him a favor. I said “certainly, if I can”. He asked “could you direct me to the Artist’s Entrance?” His assistant chimed in “oh, you have forgotten, Panditji!”. I said that I’d be happy to and led the way. When we got to the entrance he asked me my name and thanked me again. I said so long in the traditional Indian way by putting my palms together in a prayerful salute. But he put out his right hand to shake mine, Western style!
Finally, once while walking on 57th Street, on my way to the now sadly defunct music store, “Patelsons” just across the street from the Artists Entrance, a gentleman stopped me and asked me for help. Judging by his manner, accent and confused look, I assumed him to be a tourist from another country and was happy to try to assist him. “What can I do for you?” I asked. And then – I kid you not – he asked THE question: “Could you tell me how I can get to Carnegie Hall?” I paused for a brief moment to offer a silent prayer of gratitude for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and – yes, I said it: “Practice, practice, practice!” “Whaaaat???” came the befuddled response. “Sorry, I was joking. We are very close. Just come with me.”
What are some of your interesting experiences in connection to a major hall?
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