My mother would just die if she ever had the opportunity to meet Barbara Streisand. I would probably become speechless if given the chance to meet Stevie Wonder or Allison Kraus. Having been in the business of presenting artists, I have met a few. Sometimes, as you would suspect, expectations are not always met and sometimes, sometimes…expectations are far exceeded. So was the case this past Saturday evening following the Auditorium’s performance of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Being a “jazzer,” I have often wondered what Wynton Marsalis would be like in person. Musically, few are more respected. The man has played such an important role in the preservation of one of America’s proudest artistic achievements – jazz. As the Smithsonian Jazz Appreciation Month poster in my office reads – Born in America. Enjoyed worldwide. Wynton Marsalis has played no small part in that statement. But what is he like at the coffee shop or after the show? We’ll, just ask DaRon Fanniel.
Post show Saturday evening presented an opportunity for Wynton Marsalis to meet with a small group of individuals – sponsors, family and friends of the artist, etc. At Karen Lynne Deal’s request (Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra), Bob Vaughn and Auditorium staff were able to arrange for DaRon Fanniel, a local young man, age 12, with trumpeting aspirations, to meet Mr. Marsalis as well. The meeting of the pair couldn’t have been sweeter. As a bystander, I was very impressed that Wynton took time to ask the young man if he practiced, if he got good grades in school and shared that a good musician has to be a smart musician. After a few minutes of conversation Wynton said, “Did you bring your horn? Is it in the car? Go get it, were going to have a lesson.” The young man and his mother went to fetch his horn and upon return Wynton took this young man, his mother, and others that were there with him, back to his dressing room for a private lesson.
Can you imagine? I was among the small group that was still in the reception area outside the dressing room. Scales were practiced, knowledge was shared and advice given. After about 20 minutes the lesson concluded and DaRon came out first to put his horn away. I asked him if the kids at school were going to believe his good fortune on Monday? He smiled and said, “probably not.” “It’s a good thing you have pictures,” I replied with a smile.
This scenario, though unique to DaRon, is one that plays out night after night. As the rest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra musicians retire back to the hotel or the bus, Wynton Marsalis often stays behind to greet those that await the opportunity to meet him or give a short lesson to an aspiring musician that was just lucky enough to have his horn in the car.
The scene has left me to wonder why does he do it? Such dedication is a sign that he loves what he does and knows that music education positively affects young lives. It did mine. His kindness was something I’m glad to have witnessed and will not soon forget.
Though the before mentioned was the highlight of my evening, the show could not have been better. Pulling from the orchestra’s extensive repertoire (they travel with an archivist that oversees 3000 some odd charts that can be called at any moment) the evening featured a heavy dose of T. S Monk inspired pieces and arrangements that left many saying it was the best show they had seen yet at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS.