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music education and performance

Fanboy Expo 2017 - Sunday


Sunday

On Sunday I decided to go on my own (no trio) and get autographs. YOLO, right? I did, however, put on my Robyn James Ensembles tee shirt (a Vistaprint freebie) and engage in a little self-promotion. Several people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the music on either Friday or Saturday, so that made me happy--whether they knew who I was because of the group name or because of my unmistakably purple hair, I'll let you decide.

Brent and Michael signed my photo as well as my brother Bob’s birthday present (some fancy Trek coasters I purchased from a vendor). I was pretty good at keeping the fangirl at bay on Sunday but I did have a minor freakout when they signed Bob's coasters. Brent asked what the symbols meant, as they were from the "reboot" movies, not his universe. Then as Michael was signing, it occured to me that I should have him sign the symbol appropriate to his character, Worf. He froze as I blurted "Oh, wait, Ishouldhaveyousigntheonethatha--" I took a breath. "Never mind." Michael handled it like the pro he is, finished signing, and gave me a small smile as he returned the coaster.

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 In case you don't speak fangirl, my smile says "Ohmygosh, he's so kind, I can die now."

In case you don't speak fangirl, my smile says "Ohmygosh, he's so kind, I can die now."

While Tommy signed my photo I told him “Yesterday I fangirled out but now I can tell you—I really enjoy your work, especially the character you played on ‘Criminal Minds.’” He smiled and thanked me. Since he’s the entire reason I got involved in this I asked for a selfie with him. One of the volunteers took my phone and got a shot of the both of us. He was so kind and all of the Fanboy volunteers and staff did an amazing job.

Ralph wasn’t at his table after I spoke with Tommy so I got something to eat and then went back. I told Ralph I just had one question for him—does it ever annoy him when people comment on how young he looks? He lived up to his “almost too nice” reputation as he skirted around the question. “Well… You know, sometimes I look in the mirror…” I told him that I get it, too, and that, if people didn’t often treat me differently (read: negatively) when they thought I was younger, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. He kind of nodded but he resisted any urge he had to confirm or deny my query. It was adorable.

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So there you have it—the tale of my first visit to the Fanboy Expo in Knoxville, Tennessee. It will certainly not be my last, as I’m already planning for this year’s event. Will you come say hello?

Fanboy Expo 2017 - Saturday


Saturday

 The Borg (“Star Trek”) say "resistance is futile" but this one posed for a selfie and let me go unassimilated.

The Borg (“Star Trek”) say "resistance is futile" but this one posed for a selfie and let me go unassimilated.

 I am SO very pleased with this banner. I designed it using Vistaprint, the same company from which I order my business cards and other marketing materials.

I am SO very pleased with this banner. I designed it using Vistaprint, the same company from which I order my business cards and other marketing materials.

 I didn’t know this guy but, since bacon makes everything better, I had to get a picture with him!

I didn’t know this guy but, since bacon makes everything better, I had to get a picture with him!

I occasionally relieved either the violinist or violist of the trio and played with the group myself. One of my favorite moments of the whole weekend was when someone dressed as Davy Jones walked up to us and boldly asked, in character: "Do you have any Pirates of the Caribbean music?" It wasn't on our set list but I accepted his challenge and started playing the Pirates theme from memory. His response was a surprised smile (I think) as he patted my shoulder and heartily thanked me.

 With Connie

With Connie

 With David

With David

I saw several friends on Saturday including Connie, a friend from grad school (note her Trek pin!). On Friday, Connie didn’t get photos or autographs with the Trek guys but we went to Michael Dorn’s table in the exhibition hall so she could say hello. I still had on my Uhura dress and, when I said “Hi, I took a photo with your earlier!” Michael grinned and said “As if I could forget you.” I then proceeded to melt into a fangirl puddle on the floor. I also ran into David, a musician friend who was the most stylish Harry Potter I’ve ever seen. You can see a bit of the chain from my Doctor Who pocket watch in our photo, along with the sonic screwdriver I’m holding (I was mixing fandoms that day).

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My tee shirt says “STAY GOLD PONYBOY” which is a line from the movie The Outsiders. Ponyboy, the protagonist, has to memorize the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” for school and his close friend Johnny explains what it means (I won’t say more…spoilers!). One of the vendors at the convention was selling screen-printed shirts, many of them having to do with actors and artists who were attending the event that weekend (smart businessperson). I saw this shirt on Friday and went back to get it on Saturday so that I could wear it for the Outsiders photo opp (a shot with C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio). I took this selfie as I waited in line for the photo opp. The natural lighting really highlights my purple hair!

 With C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio

With C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio

Finally, it was the moment I'd been waiting for. I walked in, proudly wearing my Stay Gold tee shirt and Ralph motioned for me to approach, saying “Come on in, Ponygirl…” Immediately his face showed that he realized how awkward that sounded, but I didn’t care one bit. I was too excited!

I know that there’s no real time to say anything to actors in photo opps (as they’re just trying to get everyone through quickly). Therefore, I needed to say something quick and clever to let these two know how much I enjoyed all of the roles they’d played from the early 80s through today. Unfortunately all that came out was “Ohmygosh, I love the Outsiders!” Great job, fangirl! :)

 Posing with Brittany

Posing with Brittany

 Posing with Data :)

Posing with Data :)

 Trekkie crew, L-R: Elizabeth, Brittany, and Mary Beth

Trekkie crew, L-R: Elizabeth, Brittany, and Mary Beth

Brittany is a new friend I made at the Expo. The day before she’d been dressed as Princess Zelda (Legend of Zelda) and sat in on violin with my trio (I was away when this happened). I’m glad that I got to meet her on Saturday when she was dressed as Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” We took two selfies—first a joking one and then one where she was in character as the emotionless android.

Another grad school friend, Mary Beth, showed up along with her mom. Since they were both wearing Star Trek costumes (original series), several people asked them to pose with Brittany. I only wish I’d still had my Uhura costume on!

I had the most fun on Saturday, but it was also the most exhausting day. I wasn't sure if I was going to go back on Sunday or not; I hadn't hired the musicians to play so it would just be me. In the end, I decided to go back and get the expensive autographs after all...

Fanboy Expo 2017 - Friday


The Fanboy Expo is a convention for all things nerdy. If you “geek out” about something, this event is for you. It was held the weekend of Friday, June 23, through Sunday, June 25, and actors, musicians, visual artists, wrestlers, and more came from all over the country to spend time with their fans. Many of the guests held panels during which fans could ask questions and photo opportunities (opps), autographs, and memorabilia were available for purchase.

I was vaguely interested until I looked at the guest line-up. Once I saw C. Thomas Howell on the list—best known as Ponyboy from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 movie The Outsiders but he’s also done several other movies and had regular or recurring roles in numerous TV shows including Criminal Mind—my mild interest turned into dogged determination, as he was one of my first celebrity crushes. In Ms. Anthony’s 9th grade English class we read several important works and then watched the movie version of each, including Romeo and Juliet and The Outsiders. The latter is one of my favorite movies to this day (and the book is a great coming-of-age tale that middle and high school students still read today).

I decided to make things interesting and, instead of just attending as a fan, make the Expo a business venture as well. Hey, why not see if your group can be a musical guest? Since a large percentage of the people in attendance will be sci-fi, comic book, and tv/movie fans, you could market to a new audience. Thanks, mind! I contacted the people who run the event and pitched my idea. They asked for examples of our work so I sent videos of my group playing a folk rock song (the Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up To Boston”) and some Star Wars music (the end titles from Episode IV). The person said they definitely wanted us there!

My next task was to find musicians who were willing and available to play geeky music for a few hours across two days. I brainstormed with a few friends and colleagues and was able to three high school students and one former classmate to fill out my group!

In addition to C. Thomas Howell (“Tommy” as his friends and fans call him) there were several other celebrities I wanted to see, including Ralph Macchio (Johnny from The Outsiders but more widely known as the title character in The Karate Kid), Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner (Worf and Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), and Chris and Joey from NSYNC. I purchased photo opps for The Outsiders, Star Trek, and NSYNC. I decided that it was frivolous to purchase both photos and autographs but, as you’ll see, I changed my mind on Sunday…

My contact at the Expo said that my group could sell CDs if we had any. We don’t, since we’re a performance-based group. Therefore, in order to bring people to our table, I decided to have a drawing: Every person who requested a song and either provided their email address or shared a photo/video of us on social media would be entered to win an Amazon gift card.


Friday

 With Michael

With Michael

 LLAP (Live Long and Prosper)!

LLAP (Live Long and Prosper)!

I arrived close to opening on Friday to get a lay of the land, see where my group would be set up, etc. There was some initial confusion, as this was all new to me, but eventually I got everything squared away. I was in my civilian clothes and planned on running back home to get my instruments, my Star Trek costume, music, etc. On the way out I ran into a cosplayer who had all of the things she needed in a suitcase. That made so much sense and I'm glad we crossed paths when we did! I headed back home, mentally packing a suitcase full of music, display stands, flyers, etc.

Once the playing got started, I was happy to run into several former students of mine from Pellissippi State, along with the president of the college! One student I ran into was Michael (pictured above), who recently completed his guitar studies. 

Since the Star Trek photo opp (a professional shot taken with Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn) was scheduled on Friday, I wore my Lt. Uhura costume. I took a selfie while waiting in line for my opp. As I got closer to the front, Brent Spiner came out, shaking his head and throwing up his hands. “Sorry we’re a bit behind. It’s Dorn [slowing us down], not me,” he joked. It’s true what you’ve heard—he’s always the cut-up!

 With Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn

With Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn

I purchased the photo opps separately because the “fan package” included autographs and other things I hadn’t gotten. When it was my turn I asked if it was possible to pose with both of them anyway, since I’d paid separately, but the staff were hesitant. Thankfully Brent and Michael were so gracious and asked “What do you want?” I said a picture with the both of them and they happily obliged.

Also of note: I was supposed to stand in a particular place and I couldn’t seem to understand where that place was, despite there being a piece of tape on the floor marking said place. I laughed nervously and said “I’m a teacher—I should be able to follow instructions.” One of the staff then joked “A teacher! Good, maybe you can help us keep Brent in line.” :)

 This fellow Star Trek fan and I were so excited to see each other that we decided to commemorate the occasion with a selfie!

This fellow Star Trek fan and I were so excited to see each other that we decided to commemorate the occasion with a selfie!

 The talented musicians I hired, from L-R: Nick (violin), Max (violin/viola), and Dakota (cello).

The talented musicians I hired, from L-R: Nick (violin), Max (violin/viola), and Dakota (cello).

I found several local high school students to fill out my group--I wanted to hire an entire trio so that I could be free to talk to people, explain the contest, encourage them to request a song, etc. In the selfie above, Max is wearing a hat from the TV show Firefly, Dakota had just changed out of his Link (Legend of Zelda) costume, and we forgot to tell Nick about costumes so he’s wearing concert black. :) I also got a former classmate whom I hadn't seen in years, Christine, to join in on violin (below).

 Christine, Max, and Dakota

Christine, Max, and Dakota

I ended up not getting a photo or anything with Chris and Joey from NSYNC, as they snubbed my group when we played "I Want You Back," the NSYNC song that I arranged just for them. It’s okay, though—I got positive feedback on the song from everyone else who heard it!

Friday was a short day, running from around noon until 5:00 pm. Saturday was a full day and it’s when the biggest number of guests and fans would be there.