Avalon Foundation and Chesapeake Chamber Music volunteer Janet Pfeffer shares with us her experiences of channeling her inner Suzy Moore, and describes her duties of managing the Avalon Theatre during this Labor Day Weekend's Monty Alexander Jazz Festival. You can learn more about the Festival and purchase tickets by visiting the Chesapeake Chamber Music website. The Festival runs from August 28th-31st, with shows at the Avalon Theatre starting Friday, August 29th.
I love to usher at the Avalon. It’s fun to greet people on their way to a concert, a show, a simul-cast of an opera; and to help resolve the occasional seating challenges that arise. My favorite concerts are those provided by Chesapeake Chamber Music, CCM, the non-profit organization based in Easton that provides world-class Chamber Music Festivals every June, Chamber Music Competitions every second March, and the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival every Labor Day weekend. The Jazz Festival is celebrating its fifth year in 2014. It has grown from a few performances at the Avalon to a four-day, six- concert event which opens at the Academy Art Museum on Thursday evening, includes a free outdoors jazz concert and parade on Saturday morning, and provides performances at the Avalon Theatre on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The program is at http://www.chesapeakechambermusic.org/jazz/index.htm I was a volunteer usher for CCM during the first years of the Jazz Festival. As the number of performers and performances grew, so did my job: Don Buxton, the CCM Executive Director, offered me the chance to be house manager. In this capacity, I communicate with the performers; I coordinate with Suzy Moore and other Avalon Theatre staff on theater readiness, and I recruit and orient volunteer ushers for all of the performances. The people I work with are talented, good-natured, and excited about what they do. The house manager helps make the music happen, without picking up an instrument. I get to hang with the musicians a bit. I’m the one who sends welcome emails to the performers, who arranges for them to sell CDs at their performances, who stocks the green room for them, who gets to shake their hands and introduce myself when they arrive and to eavesdrop on their warm-ups. A month or so before the Festival I meet with Don to work on logistics. Then I send an invitation to the cadre of volunteer ushers that we’ve developed over the years, asking for their performance choices. Assigning volunteers to performances – this year, we’re using between 8 and 12 for each – is matchmaking at its best. One of the challenges of the 2014 Jazz Festival is that all of the Orchestra and Mezzanine seats at the Avalon are reserved. The ushers will be directing concert-goers to seats that are numbered on the seating charts, but not on the seats themselves. So, Lois Campbell, the CCM assistant to the director, will see that labels are attached to the rows of moveable orchestra chairs, and I will send advance directives to the ushers, as well as have them come to the theater early for practice. (Don says that I am ‘earnest’ and I take it as a compliment.) Maybe I won’t be in the orchestra or the balcony to enjoy every performance; I might be in the Avalon lobby, monitoring the CDs on sale and dealing with late-comers. Even if I end up listening through the door, I feel the great satisfaction of knowing that I helped to manage the house.