The last time pianist Orion Weiss took the stage at the PAC, he was not supposed to be there.
Three years ago, during my first summer as Executive Director, Orion Weiss and his wife, pianist Anna Polonsky, were booked to perform the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra as part of the Festival Mozaic Orchestral Series. The concert was scheduled to take place at Cuesta College in their new Cultural and Performing Arts Center. On the morning of the concert, I headed to Cuesta to observe the orchestra rehearsal. I said hello to our music director, Scott Yoo and chatted with a few musicians backstage while they scarfed muffins and coffee before heading on stage to rehearse.
It was a typical Festival morning, with a flurry of emails, text messages, and phone calls.
And then the lights began to dim.
The power at Cuesta College had gone out.
In 2011, budget cuts at Cuesta had shuttered the campus for its normal summer session, and Festival Mozaic was the only group on campus. After several panicked calls to security and facilities, we determined that the power outage was irreversible, at least for the next 24 hours.
The band played on.
Our inventive techs gathered up coleman lanterns and floodlights, hooking up to a generator so that the rehearsal could continue. Battery-powered stand lights were brought out. And then we began to search for a suitable replacement venue.
We had sold 400 tickets to that’s evening concert. Venues of that size are hard to come by in this county, and a venue that size with two grand pianos? There was only one possible alternative. And somehow, by some stroke of luck, the PAC was open that night, and the staff was professional and open to helping us make a miracle.
Over the course of the next five hours, we moved the concert to the Performing Arts Center. This involved re-seating every single one of our patrons and re-ticketing them, contacting all of them by phone, email or carrier pigeon. The board of directors and the staff started a phone tree and we were all put to work. Our volunteers pitched in to make sure everyone knew about the change. That day remains one of my proudest moments of leadership. It’s also a strong testimony to the passion and creativity of the people who make this festival possible. The show must go on!
That night the concert was stupendous. The orchestra never missed a note, and Orion and Anna played beautifully on the two Steinways.
This summer, the Festival Orchestra will perform at the PAC again—this time, intentionally!—and Orion Weiss will return to dazzle the audience with a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.
We know it’s going to be fantastic. And it will be that way because it’s the PAC.
Join us Saturday, July 26 at 8:00 pm for the Festival Orchestra’s concert: Beethoven and Schumann.
Written by guest blogger Bettina Swigger,
Executive Director, Festival Mozaic
In affiliation with: