Live Music and the Mouse
I'm just wrapping up a few days in Florida with my family,and we, of course, spent a few days at Disneyworld. I had a great time, as always, and like every other visit I checked out the state of the live music scene within the parks. I didn't get to all the parks this time, nor was I able to hear many of the existing groups. One group I did hear, the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, was a treat. More about them momentarily...
Back in 1993, there were a ton of musicians working at Disney. In Epcot alone, you had Futureworld Brass, FutureCorps, a brass quintet, and a number of other groups, not to mention all the awesome groups at the other parks in Florida (Hitmen and Tubafours at the Studios, World Band at Magic Kingdom). Those days are gone.
The parks in Orlando are somewhat of a live music wasteland. There are a few groups around still, mostly small ensembles of just a few players. The big, exciting groups that would bring people running are gone. In their place you generally hear recorded music, which sounds fine and of course the general public doesn't know the difference anyway (sadly to me).
The college music program was a fantastic experience, and still exists, although only in California and only in its big band/marching band form. I made lifelong friends that summer, and I gained experience that serves me to this very day in my professional musical life. Disney runs a tight ship, and the requirements placed on me personally as a 20 year old employee were very similar to the ones the Marine Corps expects of me now. There are many times where I'm out on very hot jobs with the Marine Band and all I can think is, "Well, it's not as hot as Orlando in July!"
My program lasted 11 weeks, and we spent about 9 or so of those weeks playing 4 shows, 5 days per week. Many days, with rehearsals and performances, I played upwards of 8 hours per day. It was fantastic.
As I mentioned above, I got a chance to hear the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra this year. I heard 4 or 5 tunes and walked away convinced this band could play anything, and do so all night. Judging by the thickness of their books ok the stands, I have no doubt they could! This 7 piece band has been playing for over 23 years, and their list of current and former members is quite something. Harold Johnson, the trombonist, told me he has been at the parks here since 1981. Amazing! It was fun to watch people in the lobby of the hotel run up to listen to the band. Check them out on their Facebook page.
I understand the economics of employing live musicians very well. I have no doubt that Disney feels it's doing what their paying public wants. However, as I was walking around the Animal Kingdom today, I couldn't help but notice some WD quotes written on the decorative barriers covering up a construction site... All the messages had to do with how "we never cut corners", and "we do what other people won't", and "if you can dream it, you can do it." It begs me to ask, if you want to be the best, to lead, to create, and remain at the leading edge of entertainment, could you be doing better?
I have nothing but love and appreciation for my experiences at Disney. It really is a great place. Mostly, it's just wonderful people. I just would love to see Disney, as a leader in the entertainment industry, championing the cause of live music in the stunningly creative way that only Disney can do it.