The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Let us now praise all the invisible people behind the scenes who make concerts and culture possible.

May 14, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

It takes a village to raise a child, goes the proverb.

And The Ear says it takes a team to present a soloist.

We said goodbye last Wednesday afternoon to Ann Miller Chastain (below) – who went professionally by Ann Miller — the former marketing director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for the past five years.

We said it at a 90-minute tribute and memorial gathering (below) in the Promenade Hall of the Overture Center, where almost 300 people gathered to pay their respects to a woman who struggled valiantly but ultimately in vain against an especially aggressive form of cancer. She was 62.

If you go to MSO concerts, you might remember seeing her in the lobby at intermission, where she always had a friendly and enthusiastic word for you.

Here is a link to her obituary:

And here is a link to her Facebook page, where you will also find sone of the causes she championed:

As usually happens at this kind of event, we relived much of Ann’s life through co-workers, friends and family members as well as through Ann’s own wishes and plans for the celebration of a life well lived.

We heard about her indefatigable good humor, her ever-present smile and her professional commitment based on both passion and expertise. We heard live and recorded music, songs she loved. We heard how she worked to hone her formidable selling skills at her own dress shop, at a radio station, a TV station, at Madison Magazine.

MSO artistic director and conductor John DeMain (below) spoke simply but eloquently and touched on a special skill Ann was particularly proud of: Drawing young people to classical music concerts that generally attract an older audience.

But even as John and others spoke, and music (Puccini’s string quartet “Chrysanthemums”) was played by the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), I kept thinking that it is too bad that so much applause and recognition go to the person or group in the spotlight, while so many of the people who – like Ann — make the performing arts possible and successful remain in the shadows and dwell in silence.

I think of all the music providers I love and work with in Madison — the UW School of Music, the MSO, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Opera, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival and so many others.

And I think of how many people it takes to make each concert possible.

I wonder: Maybe at the end of each season, those people – or at least a representative sample of them – could come out on stage to take a bow and receive our gratitude.

They are the people who publicize the event and make sure we know about it.

They are the people who plan the event and book the artists, which is far more complex and time-consuming than you might think.

They are the people who keep the show running on schedule.

They are the people who solve problems, major and minor, for both the performers and the public.

They are the people who seek donations and balance the books.

They are the people who do the sound and lighting, the sets and costumes.

They are the people who plan outreach, educational and fundraising events.

And they do so much more that I haven’t even mentioned.

They are the so-called “small” people who have such a big effect and without whom Madison’s thriving performing arts scene would simply not be possible.

And The Ear thinks they deserve more recognition than a name printed in a program or a memorial service when they die.

Now, you should know that nobody among these people, or in Ann’s family, has asked me to write this.

But I know and you know: Even the greatest individual soloist needs an entire team to be able to perform in public.

So I say: Thank you, Ann.

And thank you to all the others who, like Ann, bring me the news of beauty, as American poet William Carlos Williams once wrote.

We, like the performers, appreciate all that you do – and we want you to know that.

You do so much for us.

We should do more for you.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,264 other subscribers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,393,913 hits
%d bloggers like this: