Lights, Camera, Action!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Robert Franz, Associate Conductor
I just recently conducted the Houston Symphony’s 100th Anniversary concert which was simulcast on KTRK channel 13, Houston’s local ABC affiliate, and 91.7 FM, our classical music station. The experience was grand in many ways, and an enormous lesson in trust.

There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 people in attendance that night. On the surface, that may seem daunting, but the truth is anything over 1000 or so all feels the same from the stage. There is critical mass that occurs somewhere in the 1000 person range that remains constant as you go up. The energy is palpable. The excitement is there, and truthfully seeing the faces of all of those people enjoying themselves is what motivates me to do what I do.

The place where I was pulled out of my comfort zone was the simulcast of the concert. There is something odd about performing for many more people that you can’t see or have a connection to. For TV/radio professionals this is an everyday occurrence, but for me something out of the ordinary.

The first sign that this was going to be a wild ride was the script I received. It was clearly marked in neat and tidy 30 second increments. How long will it take to walk on stage before the Star Spangled Banner started, for instance (about 17 seconds). I was told that I would speak for 1:40 at one point. How did I know when I was closing in on the exact moment? There was a producer standing at the edge of the stage giving cues. In fact, the hall was crawling with people. There was a truck for the producers, and our people calling the show behind the building. There were cameras with people attached and without. There were stagehands for the hall, the symphony, and the TV station backstage.

Add to the mix that this concert was designed to celebrate the amazing partnerships that we have created over the years in Houston. We did that by inviting nearly 400 performers to join us on stage and throughout the hall that evening! I’m generally not a nervous person, but the moment I thought about all that was going on around me the panic level began to rise. Each group had been prepared and I made visits to each that week to do touch ups and make sure everyone was on the same page before we put it all together in our rehearsal.

So, what to do? I did what I always do. I found that quiet place inside me and I focused on the job at hand. I had to trust. So much work had been done to bring this all together. I had to trust that all the components would come off as planned, and they did. The University of Houston Marching Band, the Inertia Dance Company, Memorial High School Chorus, the Houston Symphony Chorus, American Idol star, Lakisha Jones, and of course the incredible musicians of the Houston Symphony all converged in a celebration that will be impossible to forget. Joining forces with so many passionate and talented people, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, and trusting are all key to creating something stronger that any of the individual parts.

My partner in crime, Tom Koch of KTRK Channel 13, and I had a blast bantering back and forth. When, despite all of the planning that was done, we were 4 minutes shy before the fireworks were scheduled to begin (did I forget to mention the fireworks at the end?!?!) Tom waltzed out on stage, handed me my microphone and we bantered. There is something very inspiring about being in the midst of all of those talented people and trusting, knowing that there was a team in front and behind the cameras all dedicated to the same goal. We celebrated the dream of our founder, Miss Ima Hogg and because of her hard work, a group of musicians performed for just over 100 people on June 21, 1913. June 21, 2013 is a day that will live in the memory of our community for the next 100 years!

From Robert Franz’s blog Building Bridges with Music. CLICK HERE to read more of his posts.

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