In some ways, it’s very ironic. After training for about 33 years to be good at something, the biggest gig you play is on a crappy electronic instrument in a basketball stadium. The graduation ceremony was the only time I was regularly playing in front of about 10,000 people. The University brought in a crappy Allen electronic organ with two big speakers that rested on the floor facing straight up to the ceiling. I worked in tandem with a brass quintet, but my primary job was to play music while the various colleges marched their graduating classes across the stage.
If you didn’t know, organists carry around a special book of music. In this book is the music we use for weddings, funerals, and graduation ceremonies. It’s all the same. So, I pulled out my trusty copy of the book and began to play as the College of Engineering meandered across the podium. Due to historical reasons, many ceremonial pieces are written in D major. My job became even more exciting when I realized that I was situated about 20 feet below someone in the stands that had an air horn that sounded on an E flat. There is nothing like a sports auditorium to invoke the quiet reverence that is appropriate for a formal ceremony.
I finished playing the Fall graduation for the first time and received some feedback from the administrative types. “That was really great. We are so glad you are playing. There is just one thing. Could you make the music a little more peppy next time?” I, very graciously replied, “I’ll be happy to do that. Thank you so much.”
When the Spring graduation came around. I once again pulled out the wedding/funeral/ceremony book, and I proceeded to play the exact same selections that I had played for the Fall. When the feedback arrived this time it was, “That was great. Thanks for making the music more peppy! The only thing we’d like to see changed is that some of the selections seemed a little bit like ‘traveling music’. I think you are playing some Baroque music (is that the right term?). Focus on that, and leave out the ‘traveling music’.” Once again, I replied, “I’ll be happy to do that. Thank you so much.”
So, Summer graduation came around. I once again pulled out the wedding/funeral/ceremony book, and I proceeded to play the exact same selections that I had played for the Fall and the Spring. Soon after, I received an email that said, “Thanks so much! You played exactly what we wanted that time. Stick with those choices for the future.” “I’ll be happy to do that.” I wrote back. “Thank you so much.”