I used to work in technical theater, so I’ve seen about a zillion lectures, concerts, plays and performances of all shapes and sizes. Still, I have to say, I was not prepared for Bernie Williams In Words and Music at William Paterson University on Friday, November 12.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a pen, so details are going to be sparse. I thought referring back to the program might be helpful, but not as much as I would have liked. First, Mr. Williams played a song with the William Paterson Jazz Orchestra. Then, he joined Phil Pepe, who peppered Mr. Williams with questions about this and that. I’m no Bernie Williams scholar, so I was particularly interested to learn that Mr. Williams went to a performing arts high school. Otherwise, the interview was not particularly revealing. After the interview was over, Mr. Williams rejoined the William Paterson Jazz Orchestra and played several songs – again, what songs were played was not noted in the program and I didn’t bring a pen and paper, so I don’t have that information.
I’m really happy that William Paterson University is really happy with their jazz program, and I enjoyed listening to the students play as well as recognizing the music theory students who wrote the arrangements the jazz band played of Bernie Williams’ songs, but in all honestly, I must say that I didn’t buy a ticket to the event to listen to Dr. WHATSHISNAME sing his own praises, Mr. Williams’ praises, his student’s praises, or practice his stand up comedy. I would agree that the night was about music as much as it was about anything else, but it was supposed to be about Mr. Williams’ music, not the University’s jazz program. Now if Mr. Williams wanted to take a time out and speak for ten minutes about the University or if it was necessary to fill time while Bernie was in the men’s room, that’s one thing, but again, I didn’t buy tickets to this event to watch Bernie stand there awkwardly holding his guitar.
The information I had said the event would last from 7 to 9, but they must have meant they had the Shea Performing Arts Center booked until 9, because they wrapped things up closer to 8:45 if not earlier, which I thought was disappointing. This cut the Q&A terribly short and only allowed maybe six or seven questions from the audience; in my experience, Q&A sessions usually last an hour, or at least an hour is allowed for them. I think a half hour would have been fine, but it went all too quick, and many people who waited patiently on a very short line didn’t get to ask their question. The moderator even suggested that they were running behind… how that could be, I couldn’t guess. The most interesting tidbit to come out of the Q&A was that Bernie has an interest in coaching someday, but he’s not ready yet. Also, Bernie noted that he was not yet officially retired, which might be holding up the Bernie Williams Day crusade.
I also want to say how disappointed I was with a minority of the crowd. People were walking out during the Q&A, like they were trying to beat the traffic or something. It was embarrassing.
Bernie Williams rejoined the jazz band to close out the show with his rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. I found this superior to the version I’ve heard Bernie play by himself; in spite of his superior arranging, I’ve always it repetitive. But I enjoyed the evening, and I hope to see Bernie Williams at a similar event again sometime soon.