Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “Events”

Legacy (Los Altos Town Crier, June 2016)


A few weeks ago I attended a couple of celebrations which set me thinking.

The first was a reunion of  my high school alumni and faculty members from the ‘50’s, 60’s and 70’s  , a picnic where students had a chance to tell some of their teachers  as well as each other how things they had learned decades ago had affected their lives.

To Claire Pelton, English Teacher:  “I went into tutoring students for AP exams because of your class.  And I can still quote the witches’ spell from Macbeth.”

To Marilyn Young, French teacher: “Because of you I was an exchange student in France.  You met with me and my mother to encourage both of us to travel to France.  I’ve loved France ever since and am going back next month to celebrate my birthday.”

Of Betty Allen, Public Speaking teacher :  “She forced me to get up and speak.  “Impromptu or extemporaneous?” she would ask.  And she allowed no mumbling.  I can still hear her saying,  “Diction,Gary, Diction!”

Of Principal “Dude” Angius: “He knew my name.  He was the principal, and I was a snotty little kid, and he always called me by my name.”

Of Leonard Helton, American History teacher:  “Those little pamphlets on American Problems – it was the first time I understood that there could be more than one view of history, more than one side to a question.”

Of Virginia Kurzweil, typing teacher:  “She made me stick to the rules, and practice. She showed me if I worked hard I could get better, I could do well, not be a nothing.  She changed my life.”

I used to be a teacher, and loved preparing lessons and lecturing, didn’t mind paper-reading, but was a washout at keeping order in the class.  The more academically -inclined students and I had great learning experiences together, but the ones who were just serving chair time made me miserable.  Eventually I was able to switch to another line of work where I got to prepare “lessons” and “lecture” only to interested “students”.  The “lessons” were sales pitches, the “lectures” were sales presentations, the “students” were executives in large companies who needed to be educated on why they needed to purchase the high-end business software I was selling.   I got to travel around the world and enjoyed almost every minute.  The downside:  I don’t think any of my customers is ever going to approach me years from now as I sit in my wheelchair and tell me how purchasing that software changed his life.

The second celebration was a presentation of awards in appreciation of people who had made a difference in their community after retirement.

One man had seen how the character of his town was changing as historic buildings in his town were being replaced by ever-bigger and ever-blander structures, and spear-headed the establishment of an Architectural Review Board to make sure that new buildings conformed to some aesthetic needs as well as engineering and functional ones.

One woman established a non-profit which began as a drive to put books into the hands of children who had few or none, and expanded to include literacy programs and tutoring for parents as well as children in her community.

One man became interested in the trees lining the streets of his town, and became a champion of the Urban Forest, planting and maintaining thousands of trees to refresh the air and eye.

One couple plunged into their community’s government, , serving on committees and taking leadership in local, and state politics, long before politics meant polarization.

Another couple began a scholarship fund to assist students who are just on the cusp of being able to afford college, enabling over 250 students to attend four-year schools.

All this after retirement from their first careers.  I guess it’s not too late for me to leave a legacy. But I’d better get cracking.



Light Hearts and Heavy Metal (Los Altos Town Crier March 2016)


I am at the Caravan Lounge in San Jose, the darkest, smallest public space I have ever visited.  I am surrounded by black T-shirts, black denim jeans, and black leather jackets. A singer at the other end of the bar is screaming over the noise of two extremely amplified electric guitars and a snare drum set.  I have earplugs in my ears, but the vibration of the base guitar is still rattling my breastbone and echoing in my shoulder-blades.  I am wearing black slacks and a black T-shirt emblazoned with two skeletons, one of which is stabbing the other.  My sister M is standing next to me wearing the same shirt.  She turns to me with a wide grin and mouths above the din, “Isn’t this great?”

I am here basically because my sister’s husband was brought up in Brazil. When M heard that a trio of Brazilian women musicians needed a place to stay while they recorded their next album, M and her husband  volunteered their spare bedrooms, expecting perhaps a nice string trio.  Instead they got Nervosa, an up-and-coming Brazilian thrash metal band. thumbs_nervosa-4

They had a fine time.  M and her husband B introduced the band to zydecko, bluegrass, and some of the African artists they had learned about in the Peace Corps.  The Brazilians loved “listening to vinyl.” They danced to the new music, played foosball, and cooked dinner for M and B one night. 

Then Nervosa suddenly and unexpectedly got an invite to participate in “70000 Tons of Metal” a four day Caribbean cruise featuring performances by sixty (!!) heavy metal rock bands from all over. They dashed off to Florida leaving a lot of loose ends behind them, including two large crates of T-shirts and CD’s that ended up loaded into my husband’s car for transport to Nervosa’s first California gig after the cruise, in San Jose.

Which leads me to the Caravan Lounge.  My husband was fairly beside himself at the thought of two unescorted women at a dive bar full of black-clad metal-heads.  He hinted darkly of various forms of disaster lurking as we wandered around the mean streets  of San Jose in the depths of night. He insisted that I call several times during the evening to confirm we had not yet been assaulted.  In fact, the streets of San Jose on a rainy Wednesday night are not so much mean as they are empty, and the only approach made to us was by a sad-faced lady outside the Greyhound bus terminal begging for bus fare.

At the Caravan Lounge we introduced ourselves as Nervosa groupies, showing off our T-shirts.  It was early, but the security guard found the girl with the cash box; she took our money and fitted us each  with a plastic  bracelet decorated with skulls.  As we walked off to find dinner M overheard the ticket seller saying to the security guard, “Aren’t they cute!”20160217_222824crop

 20160217_221004cropApparently silver hair at a heavy metal concert is irresistible.  No less than three different groups of black-clad, pierced concert-goers approached us to ask “Can we have our picture taken with you?”  We were turning from the last set of admirers when Pitchu appeared beside us and invited us backstage.  Behind the shelter of a cinderblock wall and a steel door we were able to remove our earplugs and enjoy watching Pitchu practicing her drumming on the steel locker, Prika in lotus position on a crate checking notices from the previous gig, and Fernanda applying the makeup which transformed her from a clear-skinned smiling All-Brazilian Girl to a wild-eyed punk rocker. 20160217_224756crop

The place is packed.  We stand in the wings as Nervosa comes on stage to wild applause.  Thrash metal seems to require having long hair and waving it wildly – one young man near us has a shaved head with a top-knot of long blonde hair which he whips around and around at the risk of dislocating his neck. Another fellow waves a Brazilian flag to the beat of the drums. Two burly security guards keep the pulsing crowd at bay while somehow seeming to dance to the rhythm also. Almost everyone is smiling.

My sister and I are smiling too. Our real lives are just outside the door, and we will re-enter them as soon as we step outside and put on our brightly colored raincoats, but for this moment we are visiting another planet, where everyone wears costumes and it is always Halloween.




Read This Book (Los Altos Town Crier, Feb 3, 2016)

Imagine a dolphin swimming through the ocean depths, and suddenly becoming aware of the water’s being salty – something it had never noticed in the environment surrounding it every day – something it had taken as a universal fact. Then imagine that dolphin struggling with the concept of fresh water.
That would be something of the way I felt on reading Between the World and Me, Ta- Nehisi Coates’ award-winning exposition on what it is like to be “black” in America.51nX2wGTFXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_[1]
It had never quite gotten through to me, despite reading a fair number of books by African and Afro-American writers, that the concept of “race” which so permeates our society is almost a uniquely American idea. Other societies also make distinctions by skin color, preferring light-colored skin over dark-colored skin in their ideal of beauty, but only America makes the abrupt unilateral distinction between “black” and “white” which places a segment of our citizens irrevocably on one side of a chasm which the rest of the citizens do their best to ignore.


Coates refers to “those who believe they are white” to remind us that pink, peach, ivory, yellow, honey, or copper –colored skin is no more “white” than tan, chocolate, coffee, or ebony – colored skin is “black”. He tells us that racism is part of our American heritage, the dark side of the Constitution, Mt. Vernon, and Monticello. And he offers no suggestion of how to rid our society of this pervasive poison.
My parents grew up in Salt Lake City Utah. Until they were in their twenties and moved to the Bay Area, they had few ideas about race, as they had seen almost no African Americans in their lives thus far. Ironically, their innocence was a direct result of the Mormon Church’s deep-seated racism of the time, a doctrine which identified black skin as being “the mark of Cain” and excluded anyone with this taint from participation in Mormon society.
When my parents moved to East Texas, with two small children in tow, they entered a segregated society, complete with water fountains labeled “White” and “Colored”, separate waiting rooms for “Negroes” at the train and bus stations, segregated schools, and a shantytown. They did their best to keep us innocent, but racism was in the air. My parents almost never resorted to physical punishment, but I can remember my mother slapping my 5-year-old sister for hollering The N Word out the car window at a passerby. I knew what The N Word was about years before I had a clue about The F Word.
Decades later segregation is officially gone, and everyone drinks from the same water fountains. But Coates’ book opened my eyes to the constant and enduring presence of the idea of race in our American lives. Last month’s headlines about the lack of “black” actors and directors in the list of Oscar nominations could be understood only in American newspapers. The “Black Lives Matter” protests could only have caught fire in a society that accepts an artificial distinction between “black” and “white”.
If a dolphin discovers that the water he has been swimming in all his life is toxic, he has no choice – he has to keep swimming in it, even though it poisons him. Coates offers no easy fix” to our deep-seated beliefs about race . But perhaps as he makes us aware of the poison we breath in with every headline, we can somehow purify our toxic environment, thought by thought, word by word, deed by deed. Read this book.

History of a Plague (Los Altos Town Crier, Jan 6, 2016)

A quarter of a century ago, our world was threatened with a plague.  We reacted as humans do – first with ignorance (that’s an African thing), then denial (it’s just a few cases, and they’re all homosexuals, so I’m safe), blaming the victims (That gay lifestyle, what do you expect? If they would just straighten out…) and calls for social quarantine (Gay men should be required to wear a badge!) Mainstream America wanted to feel safe, because AIDS was fatal.  In 1990, if you contracted AIDS, there was no treatment, no cure.

At least three of my classmates died of AIDS.  Homosexuality was still mostly kept secret at this time. The obituaries tiptoed around the cause of death: “Complications of pneumonia”  “A long battle against disease”.  If there was no wife at the bedside, if a “long-time companion” was mentioned, one could guess.

And there were other casualties.  If you were unfortunate enough to need a blood transfusion  at this time, you were unknowingly at risk.  Blood donations were not screened for viruses, and the transfusion that saved your life one day could cause your death months or years later

Fast forward twenty-five years.  AIDS is still a tragic diagnosis, but not because there is no treatment. We now know the cause of the plague, we know how to prevent transmission, and we have medicines to treat it.  The tragedy is that people are still dying.

When the AIDS epidemic was first acknowledged, government decisions were made by the World Health Organization and by the US Center for Disease Control.  The epidemic, from being “just a blip on our radar” was now judged too widespread to make preventative measures effective.  The treatment was expensive.  The policy was announced:   There will be no funds for identifying HIV carriers, or for tracking the contacts of known carriers. HIV will only be treated when it has progressed to full-blown AIDS.  This shortsighted policy resulted in hundreds of thousands of undiagnosed, untreated HIV carriers infecting millions more people.

In the US,  private treatment funds have saved many thousands of HIV carriers ,  halting the progress of the disease,  and  preventing its transmission to others. But for many in the developing world, the cost of treatment is unmanageable. The plague goes on in Africa, where it wastes the bodies and lives of one and a half million victims yearly. 

The Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project, founded in 1989,  has adopted the strategy of the US military: Fight over there so we don’t have to fight over here.  Thousands of dollars have been funneled into Africa through the Save the Children Foundation to educate and treat pregnant women on how to prevent transmission of HIV to their children. There have been setbacks: Clinics established in Liberia were left un-staffed and empty when the Ebola scare dominated headlines; these clinics must be re-staffed and re-energized. But the work goes on.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do something to make the world better,  a donation to the Los Altos Rotary Aids project would be a good place to start.   Contact [].

(My thanks to Dr. Art Amman for much of the information about the current state of AIDS worldwide.)



‘Tis the Season, Here’s the Reason to Give the Gift of Life (Los Altos Town Crier, Dec.2015)

‘Tis the Season, Here’s the Reason to Give the Gift of Life

My brother is not allowed to donate blood.  He contracted hepatitis while serving in VietNam.  My brother-in-law is not allowed to donate blood.  He was exposed to  malaria during his Peace Corps tour in Cameroon. My friend Nathan is not allowed to donate blood.  Gay men are not allowed to donate for fear they might be carriers of HIV.  My nephew is not allowed to donate blood.  He has a genetic blood disease. My former boss is not allowed to donate blood.  He travels to India every year to visit his family.  For various reasons, almost two thirds of the US population are disqualified as blood donors.  I am among the eligible 38%. I can, and I do.

Here’s my  Top 10 Reasons to Donate Blood, in ascending order :

The blood center where I donate has lots of fun contests and give-aways to lure me in; for example:

10: The Stanford Blood Center where I donate has an annual competition with rival al’s Blood Center – you can help the local team!

9: The Stanford Blood Center hosts an Annual Barbecue for donors at their Mountain View center  next door to El Camino Hospial – yummy! 

8: You get other excellent freebies every time you donate: movie tickets, tickets to Stanford sports, Baskin-Robbins  ice-cream coupons, photo books – it varies. C

7: If you donate four times in one year you get a really cool T-shirt.

6: Every time you donate you earn points toward more neat stuff – jackets, tote bags, license plate frames – check out what’s going on at your local blood donation center!

5: The cookies and punch in the recovery room are delicious. 

At any blood donation center the following will be true:

4: You can get your blood tested for 17 infectious diseases and your temperature, cholesterol,  and blood pressure checked, with no co-pay.

3: A pint’s a pound:  Donating blood is an easier way to lose weight than three hours on the treadmill.

2: How many chances do you have to lie back in a comfortable chair with absolutely no interruptions for a half-hour?

And the final and best reason to donate blood:

1: You can save a life.

 Less than 3% of the US population actually donates blood.  Reasons given not to donate include”

                 “I’m afraid of pain” (It doesn’t hurt),

                “I get dizzy at the sight of blood” (So close your eyes!), “

                “I don’t know where to sign up” ( or call 888-723-7831 for a convenient time and location) ,

                “I’m too busy” (It takes less than an hour, and you’ll feel so good afterward!)

And the #1 reason given for not donating blood (17%)

                “I never thought about it.” 

If you’ve read this far, you don’t have THAT excuse!  Hope to see you at the Blood Bank!


Freeway Free in Santa Fe


If you are in Santa Fe, stay at the La Fonda. Why not? It has all the historic charm of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, or the El Tovar at the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not located in a national park, so it went through some hard times before being lovingly restored to splendid 1920’s level grandeur. And it is MUCH more affordable than the Ahwahnee with all the wonderful hand-hewn timber, eccentric architecture (there are at least three different ways to get to any given room), interesting restaurant menus and wonderful service.P1020698web


IMG_0471webOnce you are there on the square, take a city tour. Why not? It will give you an overview of what you can walk to or drive to, some historical background, some pretty corny jokes, and an interesting group of fellow tourist to exchange home town data with. It’s a pleasantly slow ramp-up to the day, and you can hop on a trolley right outside the La Fonda. It will take you through the art scene street (see above), some excellent outdoor sculpture, and leave you with lots of ideas on how to spend your NEXT trip to Santa Fe. (Museum Hill?  A whole day we didn’t have to spend this time!)


Once you have finished your city tour, you will want lunch. There you are on the plaza/. Try the Famous Plaza Cafe – lots of history on the plaza, pressed tin ceiling, friendly and fast service, and killer fish tacos.P1020721web


Now it’s time for the museums. The New Mexico History Museum  is a GEM according to AAA’s road guide, and rightfully so. With admission you also get to explore the Palace of the Governors, one of the few surviving real adobe buildings in Santa Fe (the others are brick coated with stucco in imitation) and probably one of the few single-story palaces in the world.  And if you have read Willa Cather’s “Death Comes to the Archbishop” (and I hope you have, as a prep for your Santa Fe visit) you will find portraits of ALL the main characters hanging in the Museum or the Palace – instantly recognizable.


P1020741webOn your way back to La Fonda, be sure to explore inside the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi which faces the square. Again, if you have read “DCttAB” you cannot fail to be moved by the statue of the austere Archbishop Lamy who reformed and re-energized the New Mexico church mission, and by the little wooden Madonna, regally gowned by the devout needlewomen of the Santa Fe diocese, who is the core of Catholic tradition in the area, paraded around the square in her finery once eacy year.


You’ve walked a lot. Time to relax at the pool in the La Fonda central courtyard. It’s shielded from wind and sun and kept at a perfect temperature.P1020734web


Once you are dry and dressed, present yourself at the Bell Tower Bar at the very top of the LaFonda, with a 360 degree view of the square,the town, the mountains, and the clouds. Everyone up here is in a good mood – what nicer place could there be to strike up a conversation with the folks around the firepit or cocktail table?

And if you have not filled yourself up on appetizers at the Bell Tower, finish off your Santa Fe day at La Plazuela, the restaurant in the former courtyard (now roofed with a skylight) around the fountain at the center of La Fonda. There are other restaurants in town which boast Michelin stars, but none that can boast more atmosphere or history. I recommend the pork tamales.


The evening is up to you.

Accident (Los Altos Town Crier December 2013)

My brother had an accident.  He was working overtime on the weekend, on a 10-foot ladder.  The ladder slipped backwards from under him, and he fell with it onto a wood-composite deck.  He broke both wrists, his shoulder blade, and every bone in his face except his lower jaw.

Day 1 –He spends in Intensive Care, in critical but stable condition, in an induced coma.

Day 2 – my brother is in surgery for nine hours, first for a tracheotomy to enable breathing, since his nose and sinus cavities are shattered, then to reassemble his face.  The reassembly requires  eleven titanium plates and ninety-three screws.

Day 3 – The doctors bring my brother out of the induced coma so they can test for possible spinal injuries.  As he regains consciousness, according to a family member in the room “he made a sound of such excruciating pain that no human should have to make.  He won’t remember it, but his son and his fiancée who were in the room will never forget it.”

The doctors put my brother  back down into coma while they “adjust the pain-killers.”

Day 4 – With better pain management, my brother comes out of his coma.  He can respond to questions with eye blinks, head shakes, and nods. Feeding tube and tracheotomy limit his speech.

Day 5 – His son brings in a white board. Holding a marker between two numb fingers, my brother can write a wobbly word or two.  His first word: MOM?

Day 7 – My brother is out of Intensive Care.  The doctors have found no damage to his spine, brain, vision.  When he first put his feet to the ground he discovered another injury – a broken toe that had gone un-noticed earlier.

Day 8 – My brother goes home from hospital.  Both arms are in splints, and his jaw is wired to prevent chewing , which might dislocate his carefully re-assembled face.  He has lost twenty pounds during the three days before the feeding tube was inserted.

Day 15 – My mother and I fly up to help the care-giving team.  We are apprehensive about what that new face will look like, but to our delighted surprise my brother’s new face looks pretty much like the old face – maybe the nose is a little shorter, a little straighter.  My nephew shows me a picture of what his dad’s face looked like shortly after he was brought in to the emergency room – like a puddle of lemon jello with red eyes. Amazing.

I take my brother to see the facial surgeon who put him back together.  A lady in the waiting room notices his arm casts and comments  “I thought they only did facial surgery at this office.” With her attention drawn to the twin casts, she had not noticed anything odd about his face,

My brother’s family thanks God for his recovery.   I’m grateful too, but I can’t help thinking  “God, what a waste of Your time!  It would have been so much more efficient if You had just steadied that ladder!”

Once A Year Day (LATC August 2013)

Gaypride4Everyone’s entitled to be wild/ be a child/be a goof/ raise the roof/Once a year – lyric from The Pajama Game
On the last Sunday in June, it seemed as though everyone had taken this old Broadway patter song to heart. It was Gay Pride Day in San Francisco, and 1.5 million people were celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision earlier the same week invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. Eighty unisex couples had married on the previous day at San Francisco City Hall; the party on Sunday was, in the words of a Mercury-News reporter “like the biggest, happiest wedding reception you could imagine.”
My husband and I had ridden BART up to the City to attend a San Francisco Symphony program, and were swept up in the festivities as we made our way from the Civic Center BART station to Davies Hall. All around us were men and women wearing rainbow colored tutus, fanny wraps, neon lace stockings, and costumes creatively cut out to show off tattoos in peculiar places. We saw a man on stilts clad head to toe in purple feathers, another person of indeterminate sex clad from top-knot to platform shoes in silver glitter, and T-shirts emblazoned with rainbows and mottos ranging (among the printable) from “Some Chicks Marry Chicks – Get Over It” to “Christ is Coming – Look Busy.”gaypride2
As we threaded our way through the crowd, a conservatively dressed middle-aged fellow with a well-trimmed beard spoke me. “Are you two a couple?” he asked, gazing from me to my husband, both in our Sunday Symphony best.
“Yes, we are.”
He broke into a huge smile. “It’s so great to have people like you here in support! This is such a great day! I never thought I would see this day!” I didn’t tell him we were there for the symphony, but agreed with him and wished him a wonderful afternoon. “It will be!” he replied, as the crowd separated us.
The symphony performance was terrific – a first-time performance of a concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, led with gusto by Bernstein’s friend and protégé, Michael Tilson Thomas. The lead singer, a minor TV star named Cheyenne Jackson, has an amazing vocal range and great ability to sell a song. He was also listed in the Pride Guide as one of the Celebrity Grand Marshalls of the Gay Pride Parade.
At the intermission we wandered out to the balcony from which we could see a corner of the celebration still going on at UN Plaza. Traffic was at a standstill on Van Ness Avenue, and people in costumes, carrying balloons, flourishing signs, and holding hands were crossing below, waving up at the balcony-viewers. We waved back.
After the concert we made our way through the packed throng to the BART station. We passed a group of people dancing and shouting along with a rap group on one of the side stages. We passed another side stage where a cheerleading squad was performing acrobatic flips and pyramids. We saw black guys in blonde wigs and high heels. We saw white guys with buzz cuts and bright new Intel@Pride T-shirts.
gaypride1The BART station was solid people, a big friendly mob – no pushing, no elbows, just laughter at our common sardine-hood. We inched our way to the turnstiles where a guard was assisting people with Clipper cards – we made it through. I have never seen BART so crowded, but a young couple in cut-away jeans and pink tank tops jumped up and offered us their seats.
It was a party. It was raucous and joyful and raunchy and sweet. There are different opinions about the Supreme Court decision and about what marriage means, but it is hard to resist something that made1.5 million people so plainly, euphorically, unreservedly happy.

Where are the screaming girls?

Joshua Bell – hotter than Justin Bieber!

Long shining hair falls across the musician’s face as he sways to the music he is creating.  His tight-fitting khaki-colored T-shirt is sweat-drenched from his exertion.  He holds his instrument as if it were an object of passion, eyes half-closed.  The back-up group struggles to  match his intensity.

There are plenty of teen-age girls in  the audience – why aren’t they  screaming, fainting, calling out his name?  Because this is not Justin Bieber or Enrique Iglesias – this is Joshua Bell, the former teenage violin prodigy, belting out Glasunov’s violin concerto in A minor, opus 82 in open rehearsal with the San Francisco Symphony  (October 5, 2011).

So why are there no screaming groupies in the classical music audience?  Here are some possible reasons:

1: The Instrument Effect

Unlike Gene Simmons of Kiss and others like him, Joshua Bell does not end each concert by smashing his violin.  It is  as famous as he is in certain circles – the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius, twice stolen , recovered  the second time after a deathbed confession by the thief, and purchased by Bell and his  backers for something around $4 million.  The history (and the price tag) elicits a certain amount of respectfulness not conducive to screaming.

2. The Costume Effect

As a rule, classical musicians don’t get to wear cool duds.  If I had seen Joshua Bell in concert instead of in open rehearsal, his muscular shoulders and narrow hips would likely have been effectively masked in dowdy concert wear – those white-tie and tails were great for Fred Astaire, but in those days the sweat wasn’t supposed to show.

3. The Grandmother Effect

I realized after a casual conversation with the adjacent well-dressed rehearsal-goer that most of the teenagers in the audience on a Wednesday morning in October were music students field-tripping with their teachers and chaperones.  The non-pubescent portion of the audience were mostly silver-haired retirees of a grand-parently or even great-grandparently demeanor.  If any of the teenagers had shown any inclination toward swooning, one of the grandmothers would inevitably have whipped a vial of sal volatile out of her bulging reticule and brought the young lady to her senses immediately.

I have worried, along with other classical music aficionados, about a decline in popular interest in the classical repertoire.  I suspect that some of the hand-wringing is over-blown – there are few among the younger generations of listeners who cannot recognize the orchestral themes from  Star Wars or Harry Potter as easily as they identify music by Rush or the Moldy Peaches.  There is so MUCH music available today that orchestral music is logically a smaller percentage of this larger iPod-fueled universe.   If a groupie fan-base is needed to energize this genre I propose:

  1.  Add some bling to the band.  Maybe you don’t want to stomp the Stradivarius, but does EVERY string instrument have to be BROWN?
  2. Ditch the ties and tails.  Maybe not leather pants and sequins,  but didn’t we all love Lenny Bernstein’s white turtleneck and Count Dracula capes?
  3. Unbutton the audience.  Reserve the boxes and balcony for retirees, and save the orchestra area for  the mosh pit.
  4. Allow social media to do its magic.  What’s with the “Turn off your cell phones, no pictures” mantra?  A few viral You-tube videos and real-time Tweets about what a hot presence Joshua Bell is in concert, and your symphony attendance issues would be resolved!

And don’t forget to sign me up with the groupies!

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