Every evening at Carnegie Hall
Bret Silver '88 didn't practice, practice, practice to get to Carnegie Hall. In fact, the world's most famous musical venue sought him out.
Freshly graduated, Silver was hired as a marketing associate by a small New York City recital hall. "This is easy," thought Silver of job hunting, but then days before he was to begin, he was notified the position was no longer available. The roller coaster ride continued when Carnegie Hall called with a similar job.
"They hired me and meant it," says Silver, who is manager of event sales in the operation department. He "takes care of all the special events" Carnegie Hall does. And while there are plenty of music-related events ("I see ten minutes of a lot of concerts") there is also a full slate other activity, everything from business meetings and corporate functions to wedding receptions and college graduations. "I go to some party every night," says Silver.
He goes, of course, with an eye for detail. The flowers, the menu, the stage hands, the ushers -- everything it takes to produce a successful event -- is part of Silver's responsibility.
Carnegie Hall is a remarkable place, constantly contributing to the history of music with its near-perfect acoustics and understated elegance. It is also a cantankerous 108-year-old building constructed in six different pieces with limited backstage space and one elevator. It all means Silver must juggle adroitly to ensure the necessary chairs are coming in while the unwanted piano is moving out. "It can be a challenge to get everything -- and everyone -- in the right place," admits the nonetheless unflappable Silver.
The Carnegie Hall subscription season involves 130 events, but the rest of the calendar is available and usually booked -- whether it's a Black and Decker product launch or six top chefs producing catfish dishes for a splashy affair.
In addition to the fabled 2,804-seat hall, Silver has the 268-seat Weill Recital Hall and three food service spaces at his disposal. "We are all very aware of what it takes to put on a show," says Silver, who trained for his position as a member of the chorus and stage manager at Colgate.
"It foreshadowed what I do now. I unlocked the doors, turned on the lights and made sure everyone had a dressing room." Silver also served as tour manager for the chorus's 1988 European trip.
A portrait of Gustav Mahler hangs in Silver's office. "Gus looks over us," jokes Silver, but unfortunately the famed composer isn't available to answer phones -- four lines ring incessantly. "There are very few places in the world where you can work and everyone knows it. Everyone knows Carnegie Hall and it is a very easy product to sell. The difficult part is making things work in an old building that isn't high tech and has a strict tradition."
Bret Silver makes it happen, though.
The big ride
"It was a big ride," says Abby Russin '98 of the 48-day, 3,250-mile bike trek she and Jill Poulson '98 and more than 700 other cyclists made this summer.
The four seniors from last year's field hockey team decided GTE's Big Ride Across America, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association, would be an ideal way to punctuate their Colgate careers. Russin, Poulson, Karly Henney and Becky Evans all began training and fundraising (each rider needed to have at least $6,000 in sponsorship donations) during the spring semester. Henney and Evans were unable to make the trip but Russin and Poulson found themselves in Seattle on June 15, part of what would become a mass moving village populated by 730 riders, 100 volunteer members and 15 support staff. They were headed for Washington, D.C.
The excitement and nervousness of the opening ceremonies quickly became a harsh reality thanks to the Cascades and 20 miles of six percent grade. By the time Russin reached the top, rain had turned to snow and the 70 exhausting miles the riders covered seemed inconsequential.
While Russin was wondering what she had gotten into, Poulson too was struck by the "enormity of it all. Day 1 and Day 47 were the two hardest days."
In between there was adventure, people to meet and an average of 85 miles a day. "West of the Mississippi it seemed every state was distinct," says Russin. "It was all small towns and farms, and I was going slow enough to take everything in. I could actually smell what was growing."
Says Poulson, "I never settled into the ride because every day was different. Nothing about it was routine. I fell in love with biking -- we had some hard days, but it never got harder than a Cathy Foto (field hockey coach) preseason."
Meals tended to be the most social part of the day and the best opportunity to get to know others on the ride. The cyclists came from all over the country, most were older than Abby and Jill and some were facing physical challenges that became inspirational for all the riders.
Each night, tents were pitched, a shower trailer was hauled into place and caterers refueled the tired riders. "I was feeling like a nomad," says Russin. "Every day we'd pick up and go."
East of the Mississippi, the terrain took on a more familiar look for the two easterners and while the traffic grew heavier, there was also a sense the end was closer.
"The last few days were really, really hard," says Poulson, who likens the ride to "an emotional and physical roller coaster" and admits to having "a very hard time coming off this high."
Both women were greeted by family and friends in Washington, D.C. and were filled with the feeling of accomplishment -- of endurance and contribution.
"It was awesome to know we had come so far," says Russin. "I feel more patient now, having dealt with so much adversity. It was definitely cool."
"It was probably one of the most incredible experiences I've had," says Poulson. "The ride was one of the defining moments of my life." JH