In a galaxy far far away...

So this blog was set up for our house reno but since this opportunity presented itself I thought I would use it as a way to blog about this adventure I am on.  A week ago Sunday I got a call asking if I would be interested and available to join up with a 3 month tour of Star Wars in Concert.  As a classical musician summers are usually lean so I jumped at the opportunity.  Never mind the money is decent and it's a fun horn book to play...and so now I am sitting here at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples Florida getting ready for our only two rehearsals before we start the show tomorrow.  Pretty unreal. I am excited, scared, anxious...etc... This tour went out last year to sort of test the waters.  It was a hit and so it's been extended for this year and thankfully I was asked to join them.  Since the tour is so long they broke it into two segments, the first 5 weeks and the second 6 weeks.  You could either say yes to Seg. 1 or the whole shabang...Momma didn't raise an idiot so I jumped at the whole opportunity.  This means that I had about a week to pack for almost three months of travel which will take me across North America, we are headed to locations in Mexico and Canada as well as the US.  I think I counted 41 cities in 11 weeks.  Mick is hoping to meet up with me in Corpus Christi, TX and when I head back to the midwest I might be able to spend a night or two in my house, other than that we are in hotels, buses and planes.


I wrote the above while waiting for the buses to come and take us to the first rehearsal...since then a lot has happened.  I hope I can catch everyone up!  Wednesday we had two rehearsals.  It's pretty amazing, sitting on a stage designed by Lucas Film...the lights, the sound design...the GINORMOUS screen set up behind us.  When we arrived at the arena I met the rest of the horn section.  One member, Peter, I actually knew from my time at Northwestern.  The other three are so nice (which is a sigh of relief as horn players can be...well...not so nice!) It took some time to get used to each other since we've never played together but by the time the first concert came along we were feeling pretty good.  We've bonded over meals...yah the show provides hot catered meals for us on show days and so far it's been GREAT food! Sirloin, asparagus, salmon...excellent...anyhow...rehearsals were long...and a little scary for us horns.  Rumor has it that last year the whole horn section was fired within the first week and a new one brought in...and that that new one wasn't asked back this year...that's just a little pressure.  Most of us have forgone the chill and bar hang and have been keeping up on sleep etc.. so we are ready for the shows. The first show was last night in Estero, FL at the Germain Center.  It's near Naples/Ft. Myers FL and holds approx 7,000 people.  I would guess there was about 5,000 there...since we rope off the back sections due to the screen.

What made this special for me (other than it's a dream come true to play on something like this) is that I had family there at the show! My cousin Chelsey and her boyfriend Kelly not only came to the show but came and took me to dinner Tuesday night and breakfast Wednesday morning AND we took a walk along the beach.  It was great to see her and to meet her boyfriend and to just feel the support of someone familiar while I was there.  It was so awesome that they could come to the show.  I snuck out of backstage long enough for Chels and I to have Kelly take our picture with Yoda! If you are planning on coming to the show somewhere down the road make sure to come early.  They have a museum of Star Wars artifacts on display that travels with the show.  We even have Storm Troopers walking through out the venue!
The show went well.  It wasn't perfect but it went well and I think that within a week it will feel very solid.  At least that's how I feel.  It so cool to be apart of something like this.  In a weird turn of events at the Germain Center the orchestra did not have their own at the intermission cut to the ladies room line of patrons speckled with women from the orchestra.  We have to wear our "credentials" to get past security...and when these people saw we were in the orchestra they were so so so appreciative! It's cheesy but so true...these people love this stuff and we are a part of providing something that is memorable to them.  That's pretty incredible.  One woman stopped me and a fellow musician, Ruth (violin), and was tearing up, telling us that she used to play cello and that the music was so beautifully played that she was wishing she was still playing...really...she was crying...The kids are also hilarious...they love the lights and sounds...and I will tell you...Mick kept saying before I left that I was going to be treated like a rock-star...I would always reply..."whatever" but when those lights went out...and the spot lights started to roam the arena and the THX start up cued...the crowd went wild...and this horn player from Alaska was like..."Hells..yah.. rock-star!" So now I get to do it again and again...I haven't totaled up how many concerts we're doing...maybe I will on Sunday on our bus ride...

Well I've pretty much told you what's happened so far...this morning we left the Ritz Carlton in Naples, got on our buses and headed toward Orlando.  On the way we actually passed the Kennedy Space Center when the  shuttle was launched...seriously...looking back I sort of remember hearing a rumbling...but I only noticed when a fellow member on the bus yelled..."the shuttle launch!" I looked up and sure enough...I didn't get the shuttle on camera though I did see it..but you can see the "trail" it left...amazing...I guess I will remember to have my camera in hand on our bus rides..never know what you'll see!

So now I am sitting here in Orlando.  Our arena is across the street.  It's the same place the Magic play...I don't follow basketball but I hear there is a big game here after our concert this weekend! Funny huh? Anyhow...we have the night off so I went to try and get some food. Maybe it's where we are but there are a lot of transients and panhandlers and it's really dirty here...I went out by myself...don't know a lot of people here yet...there is always this point in doing a tour where you get really lonely.  And for me it was today.  I've done plenty of these tour things...and it never gets any easier.  More than half of the orchestra went out last year so they already know each other...I am sure we will all get to know each other...I mean...we are spending A LOT of time on a bus but it doesn't make it any easier to start with.  I sort of chalk it up to character building. But in the long run it's worth it because this is EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my music...amazing. God has a plan.

Chelsey and I at the beach...water felt great!

View from backstage or side stage before the show opened.  On the left is the giant HD screen.

My hand, nose and eyes! I'm right next to the tuba player!

View from the lounge at the Ritz.  It was beautiful there.

Shuttle launch as we saw it from the bus.  Cool huh!

View of the Amway Arena from my hotel room here in Orlando.

By the time this trip concludes I will hopefully have all my pictures loaded so you can view them as a slideshow.  Until then I will try to add as many as I can to the blog posts.  Also thanks to Chelsey for sending me copies of her pictures from the arena!


  1. Great post! How exciting! and it is so cool to hear about music biz from a horn player in an orchestra... the fear, the nerves - the need to meld - I never had that experience... or the touring thing either. And I love that you are going five star all the way - Ritz Carlton??? Gotta love George Lucas. This is an amazing gig Mary Jo... what a life you are having: the house, Star Wars - again, can not think of a more worthy person of great things!! Can't wait to read more! Thanks for sharing!


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