I’m feeling super smart tonight because I have actually met one of the MacArthur “genius grant” winners. Twice.
That makes me one degree of genius, right?
Mandolinist Chris Thile has played at the performing arts center twice, once with Nickel Creek and the other with his current band, Punch Brothers.
The first time I had just started working for the organization and this guy wanders into the office. He asked if he could use a computer. I knew we had a concert that night and guessed he was with the band, so I said sure and offered up our spare desk.
He sat there for a while, maybe an hour or so, checking email or surfing the web. (This was before everyone had a smart phone in their pocket or laptop in their bag.)
Then he thanked me and shuffled out the door.
That’s when a co-worker told me that he was Chris Thile, the band’s mandolinist.
I wasn’t all that familiar with the band, but was suitably star struck.
My next meeting with Chris Thile was more memorable.
By the time he came back with Punch Brothers I had become Executive Director of the performing arts center. I knew more about bluegrass music in general and had become a fan of Nickel Creek.
I also had the opportunity for more artist interaction, no longer being stuck in the box office.
As I stood backstage waiting to the curtain speech, Chris Thile walked up next to me.
From the wings we could see the first couple of rows on the right hand side of the theater and sitting in the front row was a man with an audio recorder on a stand.
The Punch Brothers didn’t mind someone recording the show, but Chris became very anxious that the man’s equipment was blocking the view of the people sitting in back of him.
“He can record. I don’t care. But he has to take that stand down. They can’t see behind him. He has to take it down.”
At the time, he had this hairstyle that was longer on the top and gelled up straight into a slight Mohawk of sorts.
As he urged me to go tell the man he was not allowed to use a stand, the hair on the top of his head shook back and forth like a comb on a rooster.
I had all I could do to not laugh.
I did my curtain speech and then asked the house manager to have the man in the front row take down his stand, unable to get the image of a mandolin playing rooster out of my head.
And I still think of a rooster every time I listen to his music. An agitated rooster worried that his audience wouldn’t be able to see the show.
Little did I know that rooster was a genius.