By Noah Manalo
PITTSBURGH, PA – Quiet chattering swells over the crowd. Suddenly, the lights dim, and a hush falls over the audience.
Suddenly, he appears, and the content concert attendees burst into a cacophony of applause.
On Friday, September 22nd, legendary trumpet player Arturo Sandoval came to Pittsburgh, bringing along his infectiously easy-going temperament and a strong team of accompanying musicians. The show opened the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild season with as a stop on his Dear Diz tour.
Dizzy Gillespie is an influence in the performing careers of most jazz players, particularly trumpeters. As a trumpeter, “Salt Peanuts” and “A Night in Tunisia” have always been staples and aspirations to be able to play skillfully — a benchmark for proficiency.
Sandoval instantly became comfortable with the audience, and we returned the favor. He commented about his forty-three years of marriage, and how he has been lucky in love, but not in gambling. He commented how he always forgets he’s performing, and treats it like a rehearsal, joking with us, and messing with his fellow musicians.
What he did not do was use his platform as a performer to push a political agenda. Arturo comes from an era where entertainers who were performing live were just that — entertainers.
Dizzie and his band may have had political agendas, personal opinions, and voted for candidates. They may have beliefs that they hold close to their hearts. They may dedicate themselves to one political cause or another, but what they did not do was use their concert venues as times to cuss out and say their peace on the latest outrage of the day.
Nowadays, we have Kid Rock announcing he is running for Senate, while Green Day and Amy Schumer use their platform to lambast the President at concert and performance venues.
It is true that Sandoval could have his own opinions. In July 1990, Dizzy called Dan Quayle for Sandoval to allow him to talk to Quayle, the Vice President of the United States at the time. He wanted to escape the restrictions and dangers he faced from Fidel Castro in Cuba, and defected to the United States in an embassy in Rome. He later went on to become a naturalized citizen in 1998.
Sandoval was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 from President Barack Obama. He even commented in the concert how he wanted the audience to yell “salt peanuts, salt peanuts” just as he told President Jimmy Carter to do when he played for him. However, he did not comment on his support for or opposition to any of their political positions.
Entertainers provide a form of escapism for people of all political parties and affiliations. They know their audience is stressed with the world. They know that every ticket sold is going to a person with their own wealth of problems and personal issues, and they restrain themselves from compounding that anxiety with their latest opinion on political discourse.
While I do not deny that the Right to Free Speech is essential to the foundation of American society, I find it selfish that often times celebrities do not take into account the fact that they are performers who are solely hired to entertain. This attitude typical from a town that circulates within itself a sense of intellectualism and elitism. Of course, one must have a somewhat larger ego to go out for such things as hosting nationwide, late night talk show, starring in major motion pictures with budgets containing hundreds of millions of dollars, and performing in front of crowds of tens of thousands of screaming fans.
I do not attend many concerts any more. I love music and comedy. There are many performers who I would love to see, but I do not because I believe I will be forced to watch a high school dropout preach to me about what my values should be and who I should vote for. However, I could not pass up the opportunity to watch Arturo Sandoval, a master of an artform of which I am a player and listener, perform live. My fears were not realized that night, and I am so glad I decided to go.
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Kid Rock and Amy Schumer should look to Arturo Sandoval as an example of how a consummate performer and entertainer is supposed to act.
Photo credits to Noah Manalo