My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lessons on musicking* while flying high in the sky (or about to)

United Airlines, Flight 5696
Chicago to Roanoke

Image by Ralf Roletschek on Wikipedia Commons
Who would have thunk?  Sitting first in an airport terminal for hours, waiting for our plane to arrive after countless delays, waiting somewhat impatiently in the gate for the sign that it was time to board, and then finally sitting on the plane waiting for it to depart, that I would stumble upon one of the best examples of musicking, or perhaps I should say airplaning, that I have ever encountered.

It was a typical situation that was relieved by an atypical flight crew.

It started while my husband and I were waiting in the terminal for our flight back to Roanoke.  Every time we looked at the departure board our estimated time of departure was different.  We wasted time in the best ways possible...lunch at a sit-down place, computer games on the ipad, a splurge at Starbucks (their salted caramel mocha is to die for!), more ipad games, some frozen yogurt...About half-way through our wait we looked across from where we were seated and saw three young men, two pilots and a male flight attendant, sitting among all the rest of us tired, weary souls.  They looked, aside from their uniforms and luggage, just like the rest of us.  But what struck me was that they were even there.  I turned to my husband after a while and quietly asked him, "Hey, can't those guys go to their own private lounge or something?"  We weren't sure of the answer to that but we decided that we would keep our eyes on them, just for something interesting and novel to do.  After a while I began to suspect that these individuals were actually our flight crew.  That made life even more intriguing.  

So we sat there together for hours.  Then here is where it gets even more interesting...

After we had finally boarded the plane, a fairly small one, it was confirmed that those gentlemen were indeed our flight crew.  I have to say it was quite different to walk on and see them after having spent several hours "with" them in the waiting area.  It felt like we were one of them or they were one of us.  Then a few minutes, once everyone was on board, I looked up and the captain himself was standing in the aisle facing us and speaking.  Here is roughly what he had to say...

"Well, here we are...finally, thank goodness.  It's been a long day for us all but we're going to get on our way soon..."

A sigh of relief from us all...

He proceeded with typical info...flying time and so forth but then here's what he said to close his address to us that kind of floored me...

"I want to thank you all for being here because, well, if you weren't here, I wouldn't be here.  Because you're here I don't have to work, I can just fly and that's what I love to  So thank you."

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  This is the pilot, mind you.  He wasn't speaking all this sitting in his comfy big window weat up in the cockpit, he was standing right up there talking to us personally.  Kind of incredible in my mind.

And if that wasn't enough, a few minutes later, while I was busily reading the SkyMall catalog, I looked up and there, standing right next to us in the aisle, was the pilot again, just checking in on us before we pulled away from the gate.  He actually asked, "Everything ok?" while looking us in the eye.

The pilot cares if I'm ok?  How, um, different.  Refreshingly different.

So why am I making such a big deal out of this?  What does this encounter have to do with musicking?

This pilot and his crew, in my mind, did what I am inspired to do with my own musicking.  They didn't stay secluded in their own world, separating themselves from their customers, their audience.  And the pilot chose to just be himself when addressing us at the start of the flight and when he ventured down the aisle to check on us in the very last row of the plane.  There was no cockpit door in between us, no fussy aviation terminology.  It reminded me that he is just like us really and that we do make it possible for him to do what he loves to do.  Does this make him any less of an expert in his area or does it make me any more of a pilot?  No, but it sure made me feel like more of a person and it took my mind off what could have been an even more frustrating and exhausting experience.  It made airplaning even kind of entertaining.

So thank you, O Captain, my Captain.  You made my day and have given me inspiration to be an atypical musician in typical situations.

* In case you're wondering what this "musicking" is all about, check out Christopher Small's book, Musicking.  Tadd and I are currently reading through his book and many of the ideas in there are finding their way into our hearts and minds.  I have a feeling I will be referring to the book more in future posts. 


  1. Music needs to be a joy --for the composer, the performer , and forvthe audience. It doesn't have to happy, fluffy music, but it should be a joy. Thanks, Erica for reminding us...

  2. You're very welcome, Chip. Thank you for reading!


  3. Erica - Wow wow wow, indeed! I enjoyed this snapshot of a familiar experience, yet one that provided some great insight. Count me in the group with you and the fortunate we are to have as our "jobs" that which we love to do!


  4. Many thanks, Bob, for reading. It is so good to be reminded of such simple and true things, isn't it? We are fortunate folks :-)