Today we hear from Barbara Parker, our Director, Operations & Initiatives here at Wolf Trap. She's one of our longest tenured employees and is armed with extensive knowledge about the industry, plus can regale you with classic stories of meeting and mingling with some of the biggest artists in the business.
Where are you from?
What is your favorite Wolf Trap memory?
I vividly remember my Wolf Trap interview 15 years ago, so I have too many to count. Picnicking with my parents before many a Summer Blast Off. Sitting on the lawn with my interns watching the Wolf Trap Opera perform La boheme. The lawn sprinklers going off in the middle of a performance… while people were sitting on the lawn. Every dance commission, every conversation I’ve had with an Artist, all the once-in-a-lifetime moments I’ve witnessed.
What is your favorite song now or of all time? What speaks more strongly to you the music or the lyrics?
I am currently in love with two big hits- Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and fun.’s “We Are Young.” They are great songs musically and lyrically, but my favorite thing about them is that they are at the top of both the rock and pop charts right now. That is the sign of a good song.
Do you have a musical guilty pleasure – something you don’t admit to liking in casual conversation?
Milli Vanilli songs were really good. Yeah, so they were phonies who didn’t actually sing, but the songs were really good. *starts singing “Blame It On the Rain”*
How do you consume recorded music? i.e. ipod, Spotify, Pandora, vinyl...
In the mornings and in the car, I listen to the Kane Show on Hot 99.5. At work, I’m on Spotify all day- I can’t work without music. At home, it’s itunes through Apple TV. I also have my Dad’s turntable and a fantastic collection of records that span my Dad’s musical tastes and my own. I still regularly buy Artists who continue to release on vinyl- Ryan Adams, Gaslight Anthem, Black Keys, Mumford and Sons.
I feel like everyone has a bit of a music snob in them. What styles of music, or if you want to get really specific, which bands/artists in particular drive you bonkers?
You know what drives me bonkers? Selected fans. If you love an Artist enough to purchase a ticket to his show, respect him enough to honor his request for no photos, audio or video recording. Don’t talk through the entirety of a show. Be polite enough to not scream and yell when you know they are shooting a live DVD at the show. And, for the love of all things, don’t ever be that guy who shouts “Freebird!” End rant.
Given the nature of your role with Wolf Trap, you quite often liaise with many of the world’s greatest artists backstage before they hit the stage. Can you recount your top three most memorable experiences/interactions with artists?
I once knocked on The Supreme’s Mary Wilson’s dressing room only to have her drag me inside. She needed help zipping a gorgeous floor-length, red sequined gown she was going to wear that night. The zipper was impossible and she and I struggled and laughed for several minutes until I finally got it all the way zipped. She looked at me, and wheezed, “I can’t breathe!” before making me unzip it again.
I am a huge Talking Heads fan. When David Byrne appeared here last, I looked him straight in the eye after his show and said, “I love you.” He smiled and brushed it off, and I said again, “No, I really love you.” File under: The Most Unprofessional Thing I’ve Ever Done. I ran into him several months later at a dance performance in New York where he was sitting two rows behind me. When I went to say hi, I could sense he remembered my crazy declaration, and his question “What brings you from Virginia to Brooklyn?” sounded a bit like “Are you stalking me?”
Hootie and the Blowfish once sang me “Happy Birthday.” Julio Iglesias and J.D. Fortune have kissed my hand. Frankie Valli told me I have nice legs. And I receive compliments on my shoes all the time. Sometimes, it’s the little things.
When was the last time you were truly star struck by a performer arriving at the Filene Center for their gig?
Musicians don’t leave me star struck. I admire them; I am in awe of them; but it’s not star struck. However, in 2006 we had Leonard Nimoy narrate a National Symphony Orchestra performance To Boldly Go…. and I went to say hello (and gawk) and I just kept thinking, “Oh my God, that’s Spock!” There, it’s official, I’m a nerd.
For anyone who is looking to jump start a career in the music industry as an administrator, booking agent or marketing pro, what advice would you offer them?
If you can imagine yourself doing anything other than working in the music business, if you can imagine being a teacher, a stylist, a writer, or a lawyer, then forget about the music business altogether right now. At the beginning of your career, the hours are too long, the pay is too little, and the competition too fierce for you to be trying to succeed unless this is the one and only thing you want out of life.
That is honest but a bit pessimistic. If I were to be more optimistic, I would say first: arrive early, stay late and do the job no one else wants to do. That’s what makes you invaluable. Second, I would say: have opinions. That’s what makes you distinct.
What artist has yet to perform at Wolf Trap that your team is hoping to book in the next few years? Can you give us a glimpse into the research process that goes into pulling together a 92 show season?
Oh, man, here are some of the Artists on my wish list for the Filene Center: David Gray, Ryan Adams, The Shins, Cake, The Avett Brothers (they have been at The Barns), The Flaming Lips, Keane, Matchbox 20, Duran Duran. For The Barns: William Fitzsimmons, Greg Laswell, Glen Philipps (who was supposed to appear in March but cancelled).
The booking process is less summed up as research and more as awareness. It’s being aware of who has new product, who may be touring in support of new product, how many tickets an act is worth. Sure, you could research these things, but by the time you were finished, a season would have passed you by. You must pay enough attention that the knowledge is at the front of your brain.