A lawyer, doctor and a disc jockey walked into a performance arts hall.
No, it’s not a joke.
Radio personality Bear O’Brian, attorney Charles Day and pediatrician Joseph Zanga are the 2012 contestants in the third annual Maestro for a Moment competition. The winner will conduct the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus at 7 p.m. April 17 at the RiverCenter’s Bill Heard Theatre.
Executive director Dottie Brown said the competition is the biggest fundraiser for the YOGC.
Money is used for scholarships for tuition and private lessons and to pay for professional music coaches.
Billy Blanchard, president of CB&T, won the Maestro competition the first year. Brown said he arrived at the performance concert before the votes were tallied with thousands of dollars in checks and cash his pockets.
Last year, Aflac’s Joey Loudermilk won.
“Joey got the sympathy vote because he kept saying he was just a guy working for a duck,” Brown said.
Brown said this year’s competition is fierce.
“We’ve gotten out to a great start,” she said. “We’ve almost got 2,000 votes. I hope that’s indicative of what’s to come.”
The public can vote right up until the final concert of the season starts on April 17.
The three contestants will be in the Bill Heard Theatre lobby “campaigning for last-minute votes.”
Now in its 19th season, the YOGC brings young musicians from over 20 public schools and some home schools together. More than 100 students participate in one of the YOGC’s two groups -- the Youth Orchestra is made up of intermediate and advanced string, brass, wind and percussion musicians while the String Orchestra is composed of young string players.
Attorney Charles Day claims to be “not at all musically talented,” though as a youngster, he played baritone saxophone, tuba and trumpet.
“I gave that up for lack of talent,” Day said.
“I don’t do a lot of these things, but this one’s for children,” Day said.
As for trash talking, he refuses to bash his competitors. He’s said it’s not his style.
“They’re good,” he said. “I simply want them to do their best.”
Of himself, he said he’ll ask as many people as he can for their votes.
“If I feel I’ve done my best, I’ve done my duty,” he said.
He’s got support from his colleagues. Fellow attorney and state Sen. Josh McKoon used his newsletter to “endorse” Day.
“Josh works here. He didn’t have much of a choice,” Day said.
Bear O’Brian is a local radio disc jockey who works at Kissin’ 99.3 (WKCN-FM), a country music station.
He admitted he can’t tell the difference between Johann Sebastian Bach and Sebastian Bach. (One is the classical music genius while the other is the former lead singer of Skid Row.)
“I know the 'Grand Funk Railroad Concerto in C-Minor,'” he joked.
O’Brian has an appreciation for classical music, though, and he’s become a better listener thanks to his son, Tristan, 16, who plays percussion in the Harris County High School orchestra.
“He’s really good,” O’Brian said. He enjoys playing in the school’s orchestra and in his punk/rock bands.
Asked if he’s ready to conduct the YOGC, O’Brian brags, “Baby, I was born to conduct.”
When O’Brian, Zanga and Day were first introduced as the 2012 contestants during the orchestra’s pops concert on Feb. 5, each of them told a story about why they wanted to be the conductor.
O’Brian told a tear-jerker about his dying grandfather.
“He told me, ‘You play country music and you know I can’t stand it. You used to play rock music and you know I couldn’t stand that. I want you to play me some Glenn Miller. His last words were, ‘Learn to use the stick.’ He meant the baton. That was what he said on his deathbed. So please don’t deprive me of his dying wish.”
O’Brian had to laugh when Zanga took over the podium.
“I’m a lot older than him,” Zanga told the crowd. “It may be his grandfather’s dying wish, but it may be my last chance.”
“Dr. Zanga got one up on me,” O’Brian said while laughing. “It was so beautiful. I set him up.”
As for trash talking, O’Brian is also holding back.
“Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t need to be nice. Now I do,” he said.
But he said going up against a doctor and a lawyer, he needs the votes.
“I promise that if they let me conduct, I’ll never ever do it again,” O’Brian vows.
“I’m a poor boy from Manchester, Ga.” he said. “I’m gonna be a nice guy on the radio until probably the last week. If I see I’m behind, you know I’ve got an audience every morning and I’ll use them. I’ll trash talk them. I’ll trash talk them so bad they won’t even want to come on stage.
“I’m looking forward to it. It will be funny.”
Of the three competitors, Zanga is the only one who regularly listens to classical music.
“I listen almost daily,” he said. “I listen to other music daily as well. In college, I was a disc jockey and student station manager for WFUV-FM in New York. My own two special programs were ‘The Evening Concert’ and ‘Music from Stage and Screen.’”
He’s been practicing his conducting skills in his sleep, or on his way home from various concerts he attends at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, he jokes.
“I do try to encourage my crying patients to do so in sotto voce (in a soft voice),” Zanga said.
He, like the other two, does not play an instrument, though he has some “experience” singing.
“I have been asked to sing ‘solo,’ so low I can’t be heard,” he said.
As for advice for O’Brian and Day, he has something: “Raise lots of money. It’s for a good cause.”
He’s also not talking trash about his competitors.
“I have no secret weapons. I have no well-to-do clients, no ‘fan’ base. What people saw and heard at the Youth Orchestra’s Pops Concert, from them and me, is who they are and I am. The peers of the children and adolescents who make up the orchestra are the subject and object of my career. They are our largest minority, only about 25 percent of the population today, but 100 percent of our future. Likewise, the Youth Orchestra is the future of music in Columbus, the state, region and even the nation. They can rarely, except through the beautiful music they make, speak for themselves. That’s why I’m asking for votes and dollars. They deserve to be heard.”
Since Zanga’s name is the last alphabetically, when asked if he had a final statement, he said, “I do have a secret though. A long, long time ago in a distant place when I was as young as one of these students, there was a television program called ‘So You Want to Lead a Band.’ Sammy Kaye was the conductor and on each show, he invited members of the studio audience to conduct the band.
“The results were interesting and I wanted to conduct the band. But I was too young and by the time I was old enough, the show was off the air. Now, I’m old, older than my fellow contestants, and this may be my last chance to conduct that band of my dreams. So please vote for me.”