When Seattle’s Experience Music Project opened in 2000, I was a member of a fortunate group of employees who made that highly-anticipated event happen. As the first person hired to be on the floor, working directly with guests as a Visitors Services Representative, I took my job very seriously, and I put my heart into it.
From the minute we welcomed our first guest, people just poured into the museum. I mean, they came in droves. I’m not sure anyone was expecting us to be quite as busy as we turned out to be. But from the git-go, there were often lines of people waiting to view the exhibits and gain entrance to our interactive rooms, such as Sound Lab and On Stage.
Because I was a musician, I was designated a Sound Lab staffer. (In those days duties were assigned according to experience and ability!) Sound Lab was all but swamped, always full to capacity; and we often had people lined up outside, dying to get in. The line sometimes snaked around the second floor! Our supervisors stationed a “VSR” outside the door, to serve as a gatekeeper to Sound Lab. Occasionally, I found myself working in that capacity.
I quickly realized that the folks who were lined up, waiting to try out their vocals, or play guitars, drums, basses, use a virtual turntable, or make a joyful noise in our jam rooms, needed something to do while they cooled their heels. Therefore, I made up music trivia games to play with them as they waited. For example, I invented one game I called “Soul, A to Z”. I simply sang the first line or two of popular soul songs, running through the alphabet, and inviting those in line to call out the name of the singer or group whose song I was performing.
Because we had a seemingly endless supply of EMP guitar picks, I awarded a pick to each winner. Yeah, I went through thousands of picks! — Once, the actor, Kevin Bacon stood and watched me for about ten minutes as I conducted a game. That was fun! I was doing “Rock, A to Z”, and I made sure to sing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. I managed to squeeze in a reference to the “Apollo 13″ movie, while Kevin stood 8 feet away from me. (That really happened.)
One day, while engaging the crowd in a lively game, I suddenly became aware of five smiling gentlemen, attired in beautiful Aloha shirts, strolling up to me. I immediately recognized the great Mike Love, singer of so many classic rock songs. I had seen him many times on Ed Sullivan, and Where The Action Is. I would have known him anywhere. Then I saw that guitarist and singer Bruce Johnston was also among the five men. He walked right up to me, shook my hand, and said, “Hi! We’re the Beach Boys.” While shaking hands with the rest of the group, I replied, laughing, “I KNOW that! Welcome to Experience Music Project. It’s an honor!” Bruce asked, “Would be OK if we said hello to your line?” I said, “This is my line. Get your own line.”
Of course I didn’t say that! I turned to the crowd and shouted out, “Ladies and gentlemen — The Beach Boys!” The five shining lights of American music waved and smiled enthusiastically at the nearly one hundred people who were clapping, screaming and cheering them on!
And me? I felt just like Ed Sullivan!
I have more stories from my EMP days, and more stories about my music career, where I had a brush with stardom, and brushed up against some true legends such as Bob Weir, Willie Nelson, Rose Maddox, Eddie Vedder, Alice In Chain’s drummer, Alan White — the drummer on John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Just go to my archives and click on a month, to see what is there. I’ve got over 80 stories! 🙂