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My First Full Day on the Job: “An Evening with the American Piano Quartet”

by Abbie Horlacher, a new Student Production Assistant for "Highway 89" on BYU Radio


As show producer Jackie Tateishi put it, as soon as I was hired I was “baptized by fire” by being thrown head-first into the world of live music radio production! Highway 89 was invited to visit the American Piano Quartet’s 30th anniversary concert at BYU’s De Jong concert hall to record it and broadcast as-though-live the following week. My assignment was to film the entirety of the rehearsal, performance and interviews to later compile the footage into a short promotional video.

I showed up at the theater the afternoon before the performance dressed in professional all-black, camera in hand, ready to go but not sure what I was getting myself into. I walked in and was confronted with two of the most beautiful instruments I’d ever seen, being played by some of the most talented fingers I’d ever heard. Sitting at Steinway and Fazioli grand pianos were BYU faculty Robin Hancock, Scott Holden, Jeffrey Shumway and Boise State professor Del Parkinson: The American Piano Quartet. A pianist myself, I know what good piano playing sounds like, and that wasn’t good piano playing—it was amazing piano-playing.

The next hour was spent setting up tripods, meeting House Managers, and running all over the theater to find prime camera positions. I was told that I’d have 15 minutes between when the quartet was dressed up and practicing on the pianos and when they’d leave and the house doors would open for the attendees. Just 15 minutes to have an open, un-obstructed view of the stage, the ability to get up-and-close to the performers, and no noisy audience! Before that happened though, we ran into some trouble!

Because the performers were going to be interviewed by the host Steven Kapp Perry in between piano numbers, we had set out some water for each of them next to the microphones. What we didn’t realize though is that all the water bottles had been left in a hot car and were now more suited for tea than for normal sipping! This resulted in emergency water-fountain runs with fancy glass cups.

Then, the piano tuner noticed a large problem: The Steinway piano, the one closest to the audience, the one that was most visible, had a large scratch, right along its side. Did you know that you can patch the finish on a grand piano with spray-paint? I didn’t! The piano tuner, his assistant and the House Manager brought out black spray-paint and buffing cloths and spray-painted the Steinway back into glossy black perfection. Despite these hiccups, the performers, House Manager, producer and host were all so un-ruffled and confident.

Finally, my 15 minutes arrived. I quickly filmed as much as I could! Fingers, pianos, smiles. The performers were so warm and welcoming and good-natured about posing and ignoring the camera in their faces. Then it was time for the house doors to open and the pianists left the stage to wait in the wings. I moved all my equipment off of the stage and sat up in the balcony, watching the audience trickling in and smiling because I knew what a glorious show they were in for.

During the performance I was constantly running. Running up to the balcony, running across the balcony with my tripod, running down to the main floor, running through the Harris Fine Arts Center to get to the other side of the theater without disturbing the audience, running back up the stairs to the balcony. All to a soundtrack of fantastic piano music! By the intermission, I had an SD card full of footage, a head full of music, and all of us Highway 89 people packed up to leave after a successful show.

Despite limited time windows, unforeseen hiccups and constant running, (so much running) I had a wonderful time during my first experience working for Highway 89. I got to do what I love while listening to what I love and working with talented people. And that was my evening with the American Piano Quartet.

Check out the finished promotional video:

 

Listen to the entire episode


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