Just so you guys know, it’s a Trust Fund gig. That is, a gig funded by the Music Performance Trust Fund. When you go, you sign these green sheets of paper so the union can pay you the lowest possible negotiated rate. Then several months later, a bunch of checks arrive, on different days, for about $44.33 each. There is a prevailing grumpiness surrounding these concerts, mostly because of the payment. But I do feel it’s all worth it.
The trust fund was founded in the 1940s in an agreement between the American Federation of Musicians and the recording industry, and it uses money from the sale of recordings to fund live concerts for the public.
So far this summer I’ve played two such gigs. The first was my Fourth of July job, playing the “1812 Overture,” with fireworks, in a ballpark. Thousands of people came and heard that famous Tchaikovsky overture, along with “Porgy and Bess” and other numbers from musicals.
My latest Trust Fund gig was geared towards families and children, who could come to Griffith Park in L.A., sit on their blankets, have a picnic and listen to music. Before, the conductor of the orchestra (Symphony in the Glen), Arthur B. Rubinstein, got together with about 50 kids and taught them a version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” that he had arranged for kazoos. The kids then got to play it with the orchestra -- much to their delight, their parents’ delight, and my delight, too!
The program was just perfect, I thought, because after the kazoo prelude, the rest was not gimmicks. We played the Warlock “Capriol Suite” (which comes together quite nicely if you are short on rehearsal time), and a new piece called “Dreamscapes,” composed by the conductor. It featured soprano sax and violin and had a modern yet movie-ish sound. Then we closed with the Tchaik Serenade, and who can complain about that?
Apparently the Trust Fund is the largest single sponsor of live music in the world and those concerts reach an average of 15 million people throughout the United States and Canada every year.
That’s some serious PR for us, folks. Many of those ears never hear classical music until going to one of these free concerts! So do it with a smile -- you don’t know whose life you may be changing.
I had not been heavily exposed to classical music in my life, but a few years ago began attending an annual "free" concert given by our state symphony every year as a part of an "end of summer" festival.
I was absolutely mesmerized at that first concert by the beauty in the sound of the violins and the gracefulness of the violinists as they played.
I feel like "everything about me" began with that "free" concert that, BTW, my now teacher, was playing. To take up the violin in middle age has been daunting but so joyful and rewarding.
I'm a season ticket holder and donate at other times when I can. Who knows but what one individual concert is the first time that someone gets "turned on" by classical.
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