From Food to Fun to a Pharmacy Run, No Detail Too Small When it Comes to Kansas City Symphony Guest Artists’ Comfort
Editor’s note: As of press time Victoria Patrick, after five years with the Kansas City Symphony, accepted a position with a local nonprofit as a volunteer and events manager. The Symphony is now looking for a successor for this role, which will continue to be an important position within the organization.
Joshua Bell was so excited about his barbecue, he forgot all about his fiddle.
So Victoria Patrick, manager of artistic relations for the Kansas City Symphony, took it upon herself to safeguard Bell’s prized instrument after speeding with the Grammy Award-winning violinist to pick up a post-concert to-go order at Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que (now Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que) with only minutes to spare before closing time.
“We’re in my Corolla and he says, ‘If you get a ticket, I’ll pay for it. Just go. I want to get there,’” Patrick recalls. “So we pull up and he just hops out of the car and leaves his violin.
“The entire week I was with him, he had not let it out of his sight — going to the bathroom, doing interviews, anytime he was anywhere. It’s incredibly expensive and it was always on his shoulder. And in that moment, I thought, ‘Well, somebody needs to be with the violin.’ So I just locked the doors and stayed in the car.”
On the drive back to the hotel, Bell was enjoying his fries. “He’s like, ‘Oh, my God, you’ve got to try these — they’re so good.’ I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve had them. They’re really good.”
When you’re accountable for contenting all of the Kansas City Symphony’s visiting artists — even relating to them on a caloric level — the task can be all-consuming. But you also know that you have a super cool job.
“My typical day is not typical, which is what I love about it,” Patrick says. “I’m never in one place, never sitting at my desk all day. It’s always different.”
For five years, the lifelong violinist and 2011 arts administration graduate of Butler University — who’s also nearing completion of her master’s degree in management from Rockhurst University — has been responsible for the nitty-gritty advance work and moment-to-moment monitoring of the symphony’s guest performers while they’re in town.
“It’s just any detail that can be talked about,” Patrick says. “When they’re going to rehearse, when they’re going to sound check, who’s coming with them, what they want in their hotel room. I deal with companions, tour managers, girlfriends, rhythm sections, pets, everything.
“It’s nice to meet them face to face before rehearsals, before anything else happens, so they know who’s going to be taking care of them. That way, when I pick them up in the morning, they’ll know who to look for. All that stuff gets worked out right away.”
The mini-relationships Patrick forms with music artists can leave her tickled. Like the time operatic baritone Joshua Hopkins overheard Patrick being called “Veronica” and got to the bottom of it.
“He said, ‘That’s not your name,’” Patrick says. “I told him I get called Veronica instead of Victoria all the time — enough where it’s funny and I’ve just stopped correcting people. So he gave me these macaroons in a box with a card addressed to ‘Veronica’ — and it was crossed out. Then he put ‘Victoria.’ It was very sweet and thoughtful.”
When alternative rock singer/songwriter Ben Folds was here to front the symphony, “he and his band said, ‘Hey, Victoria, we want to have lunch at Café Gratitude, because we hear it’s awesome. And then we want to drive around Westport and go to all these great record stores.’ So I’m driving them around and they’re chatting. I mean, we’re just hanging out on a Saturday going to record stores!”
Patrick has also literally learned how to watch her step when around the guest-star talent.
“I remember when (saxophonist) Kenny G was here, I was apparently walking too close behind him,” she says. “To be fair, I was not right behind him, but his tour manager told me that I was close enough that if I were to trip, I would trip him and he would break his instrument and it would be my fault.”
The biggest challenge to the gig? Discerning the essential needs of incoming artists as quickly as possible for the benefit of all involved.
“I’ve kind of gotten to the point where, after one minute with these people, I’ll know where the whole thing’s going to go,” Patrick says. “And I’ll usually go back to the office and say, ‘OK, it’s going to be X week or it’s going to be Y week or it’s going to be Z week — and I’ll need a lot of help.’
“The Z weeks are like the Boyz II Men weeks or the Melissa Etheridge weeks. They’re great. The shows are awesome. The crowds are full. People are really excited. But they come with 15 people and there’s one of me, and it’s four days and it’s just going to be a lot.”
Never out of mind is the possibility of artists getting the sniffles — or worse.
“Singers will always come to me first and say, ‘My throat is hurting’ or ‘This is worse than before’ or ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to sing,’” she says. “So then we’ll have a moment of truth, where I tell them: ‘OK, you have to tell me whether you can do the performance or not, or when that point will be where you can tell me and we’ll talk to the conductor.’ Because, it’s funny, they want me to tell them what to do. And I’m like, ‘It’s your body. I can’t tell you whether or not you’ll be able to sing.’ They don’t want to come to me and say, ‘I’m going to have to cancel.’
“So then we’re calling doctors. We’re getting them appointments. We’re getting them drugs or cortisone shots or whatever they need. And it’s gone both ways. We’ve had people at the beginning of the week say, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be able to sing this weekend,’ and they do and it’s great and you would never know they were sick. And then we’ve had people who Thursday night told us they couldn’t sing the four performances of ‘The Messiah,’ and we find somebody that night to fill their spot on no rehearsal. That just happened last December.”
Regardless of the situation, Patrick’s overarching mission is to make sure every artist is comfortable enough so that all they have to focus on is their eventual performance.
“Because that’s what they’re here to do,” she says. “That’s their job. They shouldn’t have to be worried about all the other details and what else is happening. All of those things have to be in place for that person to have a great experience. And I’m one of those things.”