Summertime and the Music is Easy


July 14, 2012

I was a fifty year old virgin until a few weeks ago.  After 30 years of begging I finally gave into my husband…and went with him to a Further (Grateful Dead) concert.  I like almost all music, but in 30 years I’ve never succumbed to the charms of space, transitions, or twirling. But I decided that everything is worth trying once - at least musically. Especially in the summertime – because it’s summertime and the music is easy. 

Think about it, in the summer it’s not about if you’ll hear music outside it’s about when.  A few weeks ago I was paralyzed with confusion.  I was offered tickets to see Tim McGraw at CMAC on the same night that the Xerox International Jazz Festival was spilling music out into the streets of Rochester.  And that was after having been to CMAC earlier in the week to see Sarah Mclachlan appear with the RPO in a gorgeous concert.  

And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy music outdoors in Rochester, because there are tons of free concerts or incredibly low priced venues, like Party in the Park and Garden Vibes at the George Eastman House. 

Some of my favorite memories of summer are wrapped up in a music box.  Concerts on the lawn of Central Park, the mall in Washington, D.C. and even Tanglewood in the Berkshires.  One of my first outdoor concert experiences was Harry Chapin in Central Park in August 1978. 

Years later my husband and I camped out in Central Park to hear Paul Simon perform.  We got there so early in the morning we had to wait all day for the concert. In New York City that means protecting your blanket real estate.  Somehow we made it all day with an unobstructed view and not too much of a sun burn. Sweaty and happy from all day outside I can’t remember much about the concert, except I think it was great. 

We’ve enjoyed fancy picnic concerts in Grant Park in Chicago with real plastic champagne glasses.  And we’ve sat on the lawn at the Merriweather Post Pavilion to hear Kenny Loggins because we couldn’t afford tickets inside the shell. Towards the end of the concert we snuck down to empty seats to catch a glimpse of the real Kenny so we felt like we actually saw him.

When our son was a baby we stumbled by accident into the middle of the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival which took place on the beach.  As our baby boy ate sand we reveled in the sounds of smooth jazz. He was happy and so were we.  

The last two years we’ve experienced the best of summer’s music in the backyard of the Belasco family raising money for scholarships at the Eastman School of Music at Jazz on the Pond.  Chaka Kahn and Philip Bailey joined by some of the finest musicians, including many of the scholarship winners. Next weekend the concert features John Legend, Everette Harp and Rick Braun.  (

So I had to see if I could enjoy a concert where I knew almost none of the songs and was merely an observer of what is truly a cultural phenomenon – a Further concert outdoors at CMAC.  Although sometimes it felt like we were indoors given how hot it was and the mass of people who were swaying closer to me as the evening wore on. But it was definitely a concert best enjoyed in the summer with the sun slowly setting around us, the people cheering, and the band playing on and on.   Turns out it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the songs – as long as it’s summer and the concert is outdoors, you’ll end up dancing as if no one is watching (or at least given how bad I dance – I hope no one was watching).  

As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network