Monday, May 9, 2011

They didn't know I was listening...

Last week was graduation week at the University  I had the honor of singing the National Anthem and Alma Mater for eight commencement ceremonies: 1 on Thursday, 4 on Friday, and 3 on Saturday.  Now, this is a good thing for me, because I get paid for these, and it is quite a simple and stressless job.  Accompanying me was the Conservatory Brass Ensemble for seven of them and a string quartet for the other.  So, it was a time that I could sit, relax, listen to the same pieces of music - in the same order - while watching several thousand people who are wearing essentially the same black muumuu walk across a stage to a fairly regular tempo set by the calling of mostly exotic names, for many consecutive hours over consecutive days.   Yes, it was perhaps a religious experience, from the droll hypnotic state I was burrowing into out of the drone of names and repitious cycle of Pomp and Circumstance. 

For twelve straight hours on both Friday and Saturday, I sat in a very cold arena, waiting to sing for only a minute or so.  My eyes were heavy and swollen - the lights were bluewhite neon, tiring my brain even further.  And then there were the speakers.  The same script was followed for every ceremony, and the only change in prostration and dogmatic ritual came from the Commencement Speakers.

Rejoicing in my only escape from the monotany, I decided that the only way I could mentally get through twelve consecutive hours of this was to take notes and get my brain active.  I tried my hardest to notice anything out of the ordinary and to write down anything of interest the speakers had to say.  I know it probably appeared odd, that someone would be taking notes during the commencement address.  But as embarrassing as it was, it was the only way I could keep from sleeping (and thankfully, I didn't have to sit on stage with the rest of the Platform Party - that would be monumentally difficult to maintain my composure!)

Well, here are the strange quotes and notes I took:

(I won't tell which graduations they were from, to spare any embarrassment. My comments are in italics)

"In the future, you will have to overcome the problems and difficulties of artificial intelligence.  Computer intelligence increases exponentially and will soon exceed the capacity of the human brain.  You will have to deal with these superintelligent machines, including the moral, ethical, and political ramifications of their actions...Also, in your lifetime, we may become immortal, by living and interacting forever in a virtual and electrical cyberverse.  How will this effect your career decisions and ambitions?" What ambitions? If we were immortal, there would be no limit to procrastinating!

Five gradutates and two professors have tripped down the same three steps next to the stage.  They were all men; the graduates were all getting advanced degrees.  I will break one of my rules here, but besides these engineers, no one else of the thousands of graduates in the seven other graduations tripped. Go figure...

"I decided to change my speech, after listening to the inspiring speeches from several of your compatriots at this morning's graduation breakfast...I briefly wrote out my new speech on this card...I would like to ask you all to take out your phones, get on facebook and 'the twitter', and message the world about how excited you are." To the people watching me not applaud the speaker at the end of his speech, I already facebooked and 'the tweeted' my cheering.

Before the next ceremony began, I went to the bathroom, and forgot to zip up.  I was stopped by a security guard when I was going back stage at the same time that I noticed my fly was down.  I told him that I was the singer.  He looked at my fly, obviously noticing that it was down, and looked back up at me and said "ok" and let me through.  Thank you sir, for sparing me the momentary embarrassment, for your hope of a much more public one.

Osama Bin Laden was mentioned in three ceremonies.

Three people, trying to say the word "success", said the word "sex".

In the only commencement where the speaker began by saying "I will try to make this a short and memorable speech", four of the eight platform party members fell asleep.

My Favorite Quotes

"No one remembers me" (talking about the legacy of a commencement speaker)

"No one cares about talent.  Genius is unappreciated.  Success is only dependent upon your determination."

"There is no greater national security than a well-educated population."

"If you make your profession your job, you'll be unsatisfied."

"Find the courage to do the things you're not ready to do."

"Be a good person, don't roll your eyes."

And lastly, one of my favorite moments came in the final (and longest) ceremony, the School of Dentistry.  In the audience, were two giant toothbrushes and a giant dancing tooth. 



As for the near future, I will be singing the National Anthem for the Department of Energy's Small Business Conference on Tuesday.  And, I have applied to audition for the Kansas City Symphony for their next season.  Hopefully, I'll have some news to report there soon.

I enjoyed a quick trip to Salina, KS this last weekend to see an excellent organ concert and I always love seeing my grandparents and the folks at UUMC.  As to my other summer plans, I am learning my parts for a July/August gig in Chicago for Sugar Creek Opera.  Also, I will be working hard with the Kansas City Vocal Institute in trying to provide more locations, services, and scholarships.  We're offering guitar lessons now, and are working on sponsoring a "Battle of the Bands" type contest here in Kansas City.  We're also experimenting with other forms of media, and hopefully I'll have more news on that later next week.  And, I will be off to Manhattan, KS to help run the 33rd Summer Choral Institute, which I am very excited about as well.


UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • National Anthem - Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/25
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: chorus/cover, opera: Daughter of the Regiment - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

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