A New Band Member's Perspective

Posted on Jun 25, 2019

Musician, Betsy Ure reflects on the first days of tour

I heard about Chautauqua from my friend Fiona, who has been Chautauqua-ing for the past 8 years. From her colorful descriptions, I created an idea of what the experience would be; a picture of people juggling, hula-hooping, and playing marching band music.  


I remember protesting to Fiona that I wasn’t a good candidate for Chautauqua, because I didn’t have any real talents, that I just dabbled in different things. She encouraged me - or rather, she mandated that I apply. And so, I did, and I wrote about being able to play the trumpet, sing songs with my guitar, and teach yoga to kids and grown-ups.  I was accepted!


When I arrived at the home of an Anchorage-based tour member, Meghan, to report for transportation duty on my first day, I was greeted by about 10 folks in and around a multi-colored, short bus with cleanly laminated wood floors. This bus belonged to a man called Stix, who wore interesting purple pants and whose teeth lined up like ducks in a row within the picture frame smile of a white beard.  


Meghan’s house was brimming with people, but they all seemed to move in harmony; some organizing their suitcases, others munching on an assortment of foods splayed out in the kitchen. There were children, teens, adults, and elders. I didn’t know anyone there, and I felt nervous, like a kid on the first day of sleep-over summer camp. But the violet and blue wildflowers arranged in and around Marybeth’s home inspired me, and I began to introduce myself.  


I immediately made 2 overly boisterous comments to the group. And a woman named Morgan introduced me to Mark and Scramble, from Homer and Portland respectively, who would be riding with me to Talkeetna. We loaded up my car and set sail.  


During the car ride, I learned that Scramble is a professional juggler creating a life for himself through sharing his craft. I could sense the gigantic amount of time, effort, and behind-the-scenes grunt work that Scramble is putting into this life goal. He talked about several paid gigs he’d been offered during this part of the summer, but he said he’d turned them down because he loves Chautauqua so much. He loves the people, the community, and the creative freedom he has when he can perform purely because of the joy it bring him and others. To me, it sounded like this tour was the re-fresh button Scramble was looking for.


Mark was, like me, a first-timer. He would be playing the euphonium in the show and marching band, and would act as our “Campground Buckstop,” meaning it was his job to select and scope out all the campsites before tour started, and if anyone on tour had any issues with the campsites, it was on him to try and resolve them. 


Mark is a professional whale-watcher, so he spends 6 months of the year on industrial ships tracking the health of the whales in the areas where sonar signals are emitted.  Mark said he spends a lot of time just watching the ocean, lost in thought. He said he was excited to be on this tour, and that he looked forward to playing in the band and juggling.


I am being summoned to the park now, the sun is out, and Chautauqua is afoot. I hope you all enjoyed this brief taste, and maybe I will have time to come back and write more soon. If I don’t, you’ll know its because I’m out there living the Chautauqua life, and if you come see us, you’ll know what I mean!