September 9, 2016
As in so many years past, I was once again a participant at Marlboro Music this summer. Marlboro has achieved a reputation of such stellar quality that music lovers from the earth’s four corners flock to this festival nestled in the hills of Southern Vermont. Even luminaries known the world over occasionally appear at Marlboro in order to hear great music being made. For example, Hubert Humphrey, then Vice President of the United States, once came to visit, and so did Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.
And it happened again during the last week of Marlboro Music this August. I was rehearsing the slow movement of a Schubert string quartet with three gifted young musicians when the door burst open and in strode Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States.
“Sorry to disturb your, uh, jam session, folks,” he said, waving his hand for us to stop, “but I’m here, and if you vote for me, I will make American music great again.”
“But I thought American music was already great,” I blurted out.
“That’s what she says. That’s what she says.” Trump shook his head disdainfully. “If SHE becomes president, it will be a real disaster for music, I tell you. Lady Gaga will have to look for secretarial work. By the way, did Bill Clinton ever go to Marlboro? He plays the sax, you know.”
“Quite honestly, I’m surprised to see you here, Mr. Trump. I had no idea you were interested in music.”
“Well you know it now. You know it now. We have music playing 24/7 in all the elevators at Trump Towers. By the way, what song were you playing when I walked in?”
“We were rehearsing Franz Schubert’s Rosamunde String Quartet. Do you know it, Mr. Trump?”
“Know it? I dated her. Great gal that Rosamunde, and drop-dead gorgeous. Say, is there any money in the stuff you were just playing?”
“As a matter of fact, there are many professional string quartets making a living playing concerts. Four of us who formed the Guarneri String Quartet right here at Marlboro did just that for many years.”
“Your Generic String Quartet actually made money doing this string quartet thing?”
That’s Guarneri, not Generic String Quartet, Mr. Trump.”
“Whatever. You guys actually made a living doing this, er, music?”
“And what if the Gargantuan String Quartet hadn’t made any money?”
“Guarneri, not Gargantuan, Mr. Trump.”
“OK, OK, Guarneri. So what if you couldn’t get gigs, what then?”
“Gee, Mr. Trump, I really don’t know.”
“Of course you don’t know. You’re only an insignificant fiddle player. I’m the great businessman. The answer to every money problem—and this is very important, VERY important. The answer to every money problem is—now hold on to your hat—the answer is bankruptcy. Concerts dry up? Then just hang up your fiddles and bows and declare bankruptcy. No fuss, no muss. Done it many times myself.”
“Aside from looking for votes, may I ask what the purpose of your visit is, Mr. Trump?”
“I’ll be honest with you. I’ll be very honest with you. I’ve had my people look into your organization. It’s full of foreigners and, God forbid, some of them may be undocumented.”
“But, Mr. Trump, music is an international language that knows no boundaries, don’t you think?”
“Easy to say until you see whose playing concerts here—guys with suspicious Russian-sounding names like Dimitri and Ignatz. You trust them not to pawn their musical instruments the minute you’re not looking? Incidentally, don’t get me wrong about Russians. Putin is one hell of a great leader. He’d put Marlboro on the map, for sure. For sure!”
“I hate to disagree with you, Mr. Trump, but we’re proud to have great musicians from all over the world at our festival.”
“Okay, so they’re great musicians, but take a look. Just take a look. You’ve got three Lees and three Kims on your roster. Give me a break. Those aren’t their real names. Bet you they’re spies fiddling or basooning or tromboning or whatever just for cover. Which reminds me, what you need is a wall to keep undesirables out.”
“Our director, Mitsuko Uchida, would never let such a thing happen at Marlboro, sir.”
“Uchida? My people just showed me her photo. She is one hot babe. One very hot babe. I also hear she’s a good piano player.”
“Mitsuko Uchida is a great concert pianist who performs all over the world.”
“And I’ve got hotels all over the world. I’ll have my people contact her about playing at one of our posh cocktail lounges. Dye her hair blonde, put on a slinky dress, she’ll be great. Just great.”
“As much as I’d like to continue chatting with you, Mr. Trump, we’ve got work to do on the Schubert.”
“Schubert? I know him. Super guy. Hangs out at Trump Towers all the time. Loves our fried calamari. Actually, I know everyone in music, and they all know me. Put my name on anything and wham! Things happen. Things happen. Say, how about calling this place Trump Music. It would be huge. Very huge.”
“Frankly, Mr. Trump, I don’t think the musicians, the board of directors, or our audience would go for the idea.”
“Look. Do you or do you not want to make American music great again?
Your choice. Your choice.”
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