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  • Jessica McAllister

The Wild Adventures of An Event Violinist




I know what you're thinking--


"How wild can your adventures be? I mean, you play the #violin, right? You're not a lion tamer or a steamboat captain."


This is all very true. But somehow I still manage to scrape up some pretty entertaining #stories, and until I decide to become a chew toy for a 400 lb cat or cruise the Mississippi, you'll have to make do with what I have :)


. . . . . .


Back in July, I was contacted by a man whose fiance was tragically hit by a car. Her parents had flown in from Finland and they were hoping to hold a #memorial at Bridal Veil Falls.


There's a tradition in Finland that involves throwing rose pedals into a moving body of water (i.e. a waterfall) in remembrance of those who passed on. It sounded like a beautiful idea, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.


"Wear some hiking shoes underneath your dress," the client mentioned offhandedly.


I remember chuckling about that and decided on my regular leopard print flat-style shoes. After all, I figured A) we would likely hold the memorial at the bottom of the waterfall because everyone would be in nice clothes, and B) I don't really have good hiking shoes. I donned my typical floor length black dress and loaded up my violin/stand/music bag.


Fast forward to when everyone was finally assembled at the bottom of the waterfall. It quickly became apparent that we were all going to hike up the side of the mountain IN SEMI-FORMAL WEAR.


If you've never been to Bridal Veil Falls in Provo canyon, lemme paint the picture for ya real quick. There's a nice wide wooden bridge that stretches over the bottom of the falls where many people like to mill about and take pictures. To start the actual hike up to the side of the waterfall, however, you have to hunt down the narrow, shady-looking dirt trail that winds its way into the trees at an alarmingly sharp angle. If you think, "This looks like it's made for mountain goats," then you're at the right place. Once you find that, you'll notice a rickety sign posted by its side that says something along the lines of, "It's not our fault if you fall off and die. Good luck."


I was giving that warning sign the side-eye when the client came up to me with a frazzled look on his face.


"There's another violinist here. I just found out that one of the professors at BYU (Brigham Young University) heard about my fiance and sent one of his students to play for her. But don't worry, I'm thinking about having you guys take turns playing up there since you're both here already."


As I searched the crowd for the tell-tale violin case, my first thought was, "Greeeeeeeaaaat."


BYU musicians are well known for being really, really, really good. Suffice it to say, I wasn't super thrilled about performing on the side of a mountain next to a potentially snooty violinist who would inevitably judge my every note.


I put on my figurative big girl panties, however, and went to introduce myself despite my initial reservations. Thankfully, he was very nice and seemed quite personable. Now all I had to worry about was the mile-and-a-half uphill hike along an exceedingly narrow path in a full-length dress with a violin case, full-sized stand, and bag full of sheet music. . . in smooth-bottomed shoes.


Ain't no thang, right?


One of the guests offered to carry my stand, so that freed up a hand with which to clutch the front of dress, thereby enabling me to vault up the extra steep bits. Thank goodness for that.


Once precariously perched on the damp rocks next to the waterfall, my new little violinist bud and I quickly realized that we were going to need to combine forces and play at the same time in order to be heard over the roar of the water.





Violins might be small, but they are mighty... unless they're competing with water. :)


I really can't quite describe how crazy it was.


Someone had to hold the music stand the entire time because there was no ground flat enough to set it up. The music kept trying to blow away, and we often had to play while turning our backs to the waterfall to try and protect our instruments from the inevitable spray. Everybody was basically standing on top of each other because there wasn't very much room.


But all in all, it was a beautiful service for a beautiful woman and I was very honored to be included.


Next time someone encourages me to wear hiking shoes under my dress, though, I'mma be prepared.


. . . . . .


This next story doesn't involve any dangerous feats of physical exertion, but it DID pretty much give me a heart attack.


A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to perform for a #wedding ceremony at a place called Cactus and Tropicals in Salt Lake City. It's a plant nursery that you can also book as a venue. I was worried that it was going to be like playing in a moist sauna, but it was actually one of my favorite venues to-date.


Naturally, when I was hired for another #ceremony at Cactus and Tropicals for early-October, I was thrilled! This was going to be at their second location in Draper, but I was confident it would be every bit as beautiful.


Come to find out, one thing I apparently WASN'T confident in was my ability to record the correct address in my planner.


I have fail safes in place to prevent my mom-brain from reeking havoc on my business, but, apparently, I'm still prone to human error.


I wrote the SLC location in my planner, and then plugged that address into my phone's calendar.


So there I was, driving on the freeway on my way to the venue. I always give myself a cushion of 10 minutes in case I get lost/have trouble finding a parking spot. It has saved my bacon many times (I'm lookin' at YOU, certain Park City hotel with your impossible-to-find-a-vacant-spot-parking-lot).


Now, I'm a firm believer in God the Father, and let me tell you, He was working overtime to try and save me from myself. On my way to the venue, I kept feeling nagged.


Before leaving my house, I had an argument with my phone regarding the address. It hadn't saved the entire address, so I just used Google to navigate instead of plugging in the address manually.


"Maybe I'm feeling uneasy because Google isn't taking me to the right place. I'll call my hubby and have him check the address in my book," I thought.


You can imagine how that went.


My poor husband had to dive head-first into my giant planner and dig his way to the correct page (no easy feat, I assure you). Meanwhile, I'm still driving and rapidly approaching my destination.


As he was searching for the page, I thought to myself, "I remember this freeway exit. This is the same one I took to get to the Cactus and Tropicals location in SLC. There's no way I'm in Draper right now... Did I misunderstand the location, and it's actually in SLC? I'm so confused."


We verified the address in the book, and sure enough, I was going to the right place.


Or WAS I?




I hung up the phone and breathed easy for approximately 27 seconds. Then that nagging feeling crept back in. I was maybe 3 minutes away from the venue and pulled over on a residential road. I managed to find the contract PDF in my e-mail and zoomed in on that sucker.


You know in the movies when disaster is imminent and time slows down dramatically?


I sure do. Seconds seemed like minutes when I saw that the address on the contract didn't match where I was.


At this point, I had about 11 minutes until I was scheduled to start playing prelude, and I was 23 minutes away from the RIGHT Cactus and Tropicals.


I'd love to say that I graciously admitted my mistake and calmly drove to my new destination, but if you know me well, you know that I swear like a sailor when riled. . . and, boy, was I riled. [See? I kind of have the stories of a steamboat captain]


I called the phone numbers included in the contract and left frazzled voicemails.


Traffic was mercifully clear for that time of night, and I was able to make really good time. I pulled in to the parking lot and came across an awesome parking spot. In fact, it seemed too good to be true and I looked around for a sign stating that I couldn't park there. Getting towed would make for a cool story, but not a cool evening.


I couldn't find any signs, so I gathered my goods and all but sprinted to the doors.


There were a few guests already seated, but most were still mingling around the open bar. Since I didn't have time to warm up, I said a silent prayer that my violin was in tune and jumped right into prelude. I'm borderline obsessive about being on time, and there I was, 10 minutes late. Sheesh! I couldn't believe it. I'm sure I had sweaty pits and crazy eyes when I first showed up. hahaha! Everyone was very understanding, which helped take the stress off my shoulders, but I still felt like a dolt.


Another thing that helped calm my racing heart was that the processional went textbook-smooth. To be honest, getting the processional piece to end precisely as the bride reaches the groom/officiant is a little bit akin juggling flaming coconuts while tap dancing.


It ain't as easy as it looks, folks.


At any rate, this time it went off without a hitch and I was able to collapse into my chair and breathe a sigh of relief.


Shortly after sitting down, some late-comers tried to sneak from the open bar into their second row seats. It was going relatively smoothly until one guy tripped on a chair leg and spilled beer all over his shirt. To his credit, he still managed to land on the chair next to his date and I doubt anyone but me noticed. Three quarters of the way though the ceremony, he managed to spill more beer on his clothing while seated, so, hey. Extra points to him.


The moral of this story is pretty simple, friends--


Quadruple check your address before you leave the house, and go easy on the open bar. Everything will go MUCH smoother that way.





Being an event violinist is seriously such a huge blessing in my life. I love making all these memories, and I hope you enjoy hearing about them! What's the craziest thing YOU'VE had happen at your job?

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JESSICA MCALLISTER

 FIRST STRING VIOLINIST 

801.828.6860

 FIRSTSTRINGVIOLINIST@GMAIL.COM  

         . . . SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH . . .