It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…
I have heard some lawyers referred to as “practicing attorneys.” Although I guess there are some who chose not to practice, it seems a bit redundant. Nonetheless, I sometimes refer to myself as a “practicing bassoonist.” Mostly it is to remind myself, especially when my duties as Artistic Director of Midsummer’s Music seem to eat up much of my entire day, that I have to practice my instrument regardless of other demands on my time
All of this is much on my mind these days because of the time I having to spend on public relations for this season of Midsummer’s Music. With 25 concerts through July 17, including home and restaurant concerts, a fabulous dinner cruise and concert on Washington Island, and a season ending extravaganza at “The Big House” in Ellison Bay, I have been called upon for numerous interviews and appearances on radio and TV.
I have been on TV for interviews several times before. TV studios are studies in contradictions. The sets look intimate and fancy on TV. In person, they seem sprawling and rather junky. All kinds of stuff and equipment lurk in the shadows and never show up on the screen. Additional un-lit sets look like parts of a deserted town. Rows upon rows of overhead studio lights in the warehouse-like ceilings cast intense heat down into a freezing environment.
A recent interview took me from Chicago to Milwaukee to appear on WTMJ. It was a Friday “Wisconsin Tonight” episode that airs live starting at 6:30 pm. Despite a nervous rush-hour drive through Milwaukee construction, we arrived with a little time to spare.
Once in the building, we were taken into the studio. The Six O’clock News was being broadcast several feet from where we were told to sit. The sportscaster and then the street reporter went before the cameras and gave reports, but it was the meteorologist who was getting the most attention. This was the night a gigantic tornado system was barreling down on Oklahoma City.
As the news ended and “Wisconsin Tonight” began, the tornado coverage continued. The meteorologist, instead of going home after the news, scurried back and forth from his computer to his station in front of the camera. The “Wisconsin Tonight” hosts tore up their scripts about Wisconsin and improvised about impending devastation in Oklahoma. One planned program segment after another gave way to tornado coverage. It seemed more and more likely that my segment was also going to be jettisoned.
Robotic cameras moved to and fro. During commercial breaks, the hosts and the producer barked thoughts to each other about what to do next.
All of a sudden, a sound technician came over to me and put a mike on me and said, “You’re on after the next commercial. Stand over there with them at their table.”
“Wait,” I thought, “I’m just sitting here watching TV” (albeit live and in person), “and you want me to get up now and speak engagingly?” I was so mesmerized by the drama unfolding in front of me, I felt like a by-stander.
The next thing I knew, I was with the hosts at their table and I heard Carole Meekins say, “Now let’s talk about something more pleasant. Jim Berkenstock, tell us about Midsummer’s Music.”
My brain received a sharp crack of whiplash, and I heard myself, in a very calm and self-assured voice, start talking about the world-class talent in our group, how splendid our venues are, and our unique season-ending gala at “the Big House.”
“Who is this guy speaking?” I thought. I heard him go on, “We will be performing at the largest private residence in Wisconsin, the Downton Abbey of Door County.”
After a few more comments, the interview was over as updates from Oklahoma again took over.
“Wait,” I thought, “I didn’t mention the dinner cruise to Washington Island, or the restaurant/concert packages, or the concert in the Door Community Auditorium where the audience will all sit onstage with the musicians.”
There was so much to say, but most TV interviews are measured in seconds rather than minutes, especially when tornadoes are threatening. Regardless of the shortcomings of TV interviews, you can get the full scoop on our season here at our Website (and also see the interview above), or by calling 920.854.7088. I have three more TV interviews on different stations in Green Bay in the next two days. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk about our four wonderful home concerts. But one thing is for sure – now I have some serious practicing to do.