Jerry Zezima: Music to My Years

When I think of the legendary concerts in music history – the Beatles at Shea Stadium in New York; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other rock giants at Woodstock; me as a guest triangular player for the Stamford Symphony Orchestra – the one I remember as the greatest was my granddaughter Chloe’s third grade recorder concert recently held in the cafeteria from his primary school.

I’m not the kind of person to honk my horn myself – except, of course, the one on my car – but I will honk Chloe’s. Or I would if I could play it. Still, his performance deserved a Granny Award, which is named after my wife, Sue, who happens to be the maestro’s grandmother.

Sue and I were among dozens of lucky spectators who included Chloe’s little sister, Lilly, a kindergartener who skipped school for the monumental event, and our youngest daughter, Lauren, the girls’ mom.

As 80 students from five classes stood on bleachers – Chloe was, appropriately, in the front row – I thought of my only concert appearance. It happened about 25 years ago at the Palace Theater in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.

Even though I don’t master any musical instruments – I can barely get through “Chopsticks” on the small children’s piano in our family room – I somehow convinced the Stamford Symphony Orchestra to let me play the triangle in front of a crowd of 1,500 bewildered but ultimately grateful patrons.

Required to wear evening dress, I rented a tuxedo that made me look like a deranged panda. As the musicians warmed up and unsuspecting ticket holders began to settle into their seats, I introduced myself to the bandleader, Skitch Henderson, who was the original bandleader of the ‘Tonight Show’ by Johnny Carson.

“I’m the guest triangle player,” I told him.

“Do you have any experience with the triangle?” He asked.

“Only in geometry in high school,” I replied. “I got a D.”

Henderson looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Then he smiled weakly and stammered, “Have fun!”

The selection for my solo was “The Yeoman of the Guard” by Gilbert and Sullivan. Considering I was sweating nervously, it should have been called “The Yeoman of the Right Guard”.

I took a step forward, triangle and bat in hand, and unleashed a series of dings, bings, and clings, for which I received enthusiastic applause. At the end of the concert, I received a standing ovation.

As I told myself that I could never top this magical moment, I immediately retired from my brief musical career.

That’s why I was looking forward to Chloe’s concert. Even though she didn’t have a solo, she was prominent enough in my eyes (and ears) to be the star of the show.

Led by Lauren Anasky and with the help of accompanist Rob Ozman, the children began with a moving rendition of “Hot Cross Buns”.

Other selections were “French Song”, “Merrily We Roll Along”, “Old Brass Wagon”, “Tideo”, “All Alone”, “Leapin’ Lizard”, “The Clock and the Moon”, “Starburst” and, the grand finale, “Whacky Do Re Mi”, which the children sang.

Throughout the performance, I focused on Chloe, who not only played perfectly, but squirmed and chirped wonderfully.

At the end of the half-hour show, mums, dads and grandparents in the audience stood up and applauded the talented musicians – in particular, I like to think, Chloe.

She returned her instrument to a member of the school staff and greeted us with characteristic modesty. But I could imagine him moving on to bigger things, like playing the recorder in a legendary concert at Carnegie Hall.

If the conductor could take the shock, I would like to come out of retirement and be the guest player of the triangle.

Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a comedy column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even if You’re Really Old.” Join it at [email protected] or via

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