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  • Jessica McAllister

Top 5 Most Memorable Moments

Updated: Dec 2, 2018

I'm quite convinced that I have one of the best jobs in the world.


Granted, I don't have the opportunity to save lives or help children in need, but I do get to help make dreams come true. . . so, yeah, I guess that makes me part fairy godmother. Admit it-- that's pretty awesome.


Now, there's one common thread that weaves through every fairy tale. . . GOOD vs. BAD.


My "Top 5 Most Memorable Moments" are no exception, my friends. You can't be a fairy-godmother-event-violinist without following the fairy tale rules.


{Now, don't read these and think, "Hmmmm... she complains a lot." I have had so many good experiences! For every bitter one, there are at least 10 sweet ones. It's just that the "bitter" ones tend to stand out a bit more in my mind and make for more interesting stories. Ya know?}


My most popular type gig is, by far, wedding ceremonies. I absolutely love them! One of my favorite things is seeing how each wedding is different. . . the venue, the decorations, the people! I love being behind-the-scenes. This memorable moment happened because I was LITERALLY behind the scenes. . . well, the line of groomsman, at least.


#5. There was a little boy (maybe 7 or 8 years old) that was standing in the line. At one point during the ceremony, he let loose a little toot. He slooooowly turned around to see if I had heard. I gave him a small smile and a wink and he sloooowly turned back around.


It was the cutest thing! It still makes me smile to this day. It's the little things that really help make my job special!


#4. My fourth most memorable moment was not quite so entertaining. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding and I was busy playing prelude as guests found their seats. I kept thinking, "Wow! This sure seems like it's taking a long time." I took a peek at my phone, and sure enough, I had been playing prelude for 20 minutes (I usually play for around 10 minutes before the ceremony starts). I kept a sharp eye out for the signal to start the ceremony, but it just wasn't happening. ONE HOUR later, I finally got the cue. The poor guests kept coming up and asking me what the holdup was, to which I could only shrug.


#3. This next wedding was memorable for two reasons. The first reason was because the bride's brother hired me as a surprise. It was so fun! The second reason was because. . . well, you'll see.


Since I was a 'surprise', I couldn't talk to the officiant beforehand. I like to communicate with them so I know exactly when to start the recessional (you know, the part where the husband/wife walk back down the aisle together). Turns out there's a very good reason I do that.


The officiant pronounced them as husband and wife, so I started the celebratory recessional (per the norm). Well, the officiant started talking again. I immediately stopped and felt a little sheepish. When he finished up, I started playing. I no sooner started than he began talking. Again. So, I stopped. The couple sitting in the back row turned around and gave me a sympathetic look. I gave them a nervous smile.


He stopped talking and I waited. I felt like I waited forever. He seemed like he was really done this time and the bride/groom looked a little lost, so I started playing. Well, the officiant decided that was as good a time as any to explain what happened next. So, yeah. Suffice it to say that I made sure to wait until there was absolutely NO doubt before starting up again. Fourth time's the charm, eh?


#2. One of my first gigs ever was a surprise engagement (lots of surprising going on, apparently). If you're familiar with the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, you'll know it's a pretty neat place for tourists to see. Well, let me give you the run down of "The Plan" for these particular foreign tourists:


Their RV would pull into the rest stop while I was hiding (there aren't that many places to hide a violinist at this rest stop, btw). The soon-to-be fiance would then change into her formal wear in preparation for the photo shoot on the Salt Flats. The gentleman that hired me would go out onto the Flats first and get a few pictures taken, then she would follow him out. Once she was in place, I was to slowly approach while playing a certain piece. After arriving at the group, I would switch pieces during the actual proposal.


Sounds simple enough, yeah?


Well, for starters, I'm not really a strolling violinist. I don't like memorizing pieces, especially ones I don't previously know. But, hey, I arrived early at the rest stop and had been practicing for, like, 25 minutes. I was feeling pretty good and plenty warmed up.


I saw the RV approaching, so I ducked behind a pillar (not even kidding). They were already running late, but, hey, I get it. Other tourists were looking at me funny, as I'm sure you can imagine. Anywho, it took this sweet woman probably 30 minutes to change into a dress. Not really sure how that's humanly possible, but who am I to judge? Now, remember how the gentleman was supposed to go out first? Well, she came out of the trailer and went onto the Flats. I couldn't find the man who hired me anywhere.


By this time, a huge storm was rolling in. I'm talking huge gusts of wind and impending rain. Still couldn't find the gentleman who hired me.


I'm gettin' nervous at this point. Have you ever tried to play the violin in the wind? How 'bout the rain? Not so good.


I finally saw the man who hired me walking out onto the Flats. I came out from around the pillar and tried to catch his eye. There's nary a weed to hide behind on the Salt Flats, so once I was exposed, I felt like I was pretty committed. I got his attention and he held up his hand. Perhaps it was the wind, but it looked like he waved me forward. I started playing and quickly realized that the wind was NOT going to let my bow stay on the strings. That flustered me.




It flustered me more when the woman turned to watch me approach and the man made no move. By now, other tourists were taking pictures of me and "awwww"-ing. The man was still not proposing. The woman was looking at me quite strangely (I don't blame her). Between the ferocious wind and my insane nervousness at jumping the gun, my memory completely blanked.


I'm talking "clean slate".


I couldn't remember anything and I floundered around like a fish out of water; trying desperately to remember how to play pretty much any of the two pieces he requested.


He finally took pity on me and proposed, and I slinked away in shame. I was so embarrassed! The whole thing was a total nightmare in my mind. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Thankfully, they were very gracious and understanding!


#1. My most memorable moment was at a very formal wedding last year. It was at the fanciest hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, where everything looks like it's gilded in solid gold. In hindsight, I had most definitely stretched myself too thin that day. You see, I was in the process of recording a Christmas CD and had spent 4 hours at the recording studio earlier that day.


Fast forward to the ceremony. There were quite a few bridesmaids; too many for my brain to keep track of. To this day, I swear I saw the bride at the start of the aisle. I dutifully wrapped up the bridesmaid's processional and began the piece selected for the bride, which just so happened to be the most iconic bridal piece ever: Wagner's Bridal Chorus.


Well, in case you haven't already guessed, it wasn't the bride. There were still, like, 4+ bridesmaids to go!


I was horrified.


I fumbled to a graceless stop and switched back to the bridesmaid's processional, but I felt like the damage had already been done. I had ruined her perfect entrance!


I felt so bad that I went up to the bride and groom after the ceremony to apologize. I expected the worst, but they were the absolute sweetest! The groom laughed and gave me a side hug. "I'm actually really glad you goofed up! Everyone was so serious, and that really lightened up the mood."


Some of the other guests claimed they didn't even notice my mistake. I'm sure they were just being polite, but it sure helped me feel better.


. . . .


So, basically, the moral of this humongous post is -- it's true! I really have the best job in the world. It comes with muscle soreness and stiff fingers; nervousness and mistakes. It includes hours upon hours of practice and miles upon miles of travel. But all of that can't compare to getting to spend my time performing passionate music in the company of some of the kindest, most generous people on the planet.


May the memorable moments continue for years to come!


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JESSICA MCALLISTER

 FIRST STRING VIOLINIST 

801.828.6860

 FIRSTSTRINGVIOLINIST@GMAIL.COM  

         . . . SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH . . .