The following foreword to the second edition of The Phish Companion was written by Jane Ambrose, Trey's music teacher at the University of Vermont.
I read in the paper this morning that Phish had the second largest box office gross per city in North America. Bon Jovi was first, but the average ticket price was so much higher, that without an adjustment, Phish would no doubt have been number one. So I thought again why it might be that this band that started here at our little University was so popular. After all, 70,000 people made their way to The Great Went in Limestone, Maine, not exactly one of the population centers of the Northeast. Recently I watched the DVD of Bittersweet Motel and was struck by the absolute joy of the audience-joy in each others’ company and joy communicated by the music of Phish. Regardless of their enormous success, the guys haven’t changed very much. I love the picture on the cover of the March, 2003 Rolling Stone - Phish on ice skates, dressed like drag queens, with my friend Trey in a tutu over his jeans and with a bare chest. Happy people make other people happy.
In the early summer of 1996, my daughter called me, and the conversation went something like this:
Lisa: “Hi Mom - I’m going to The Clifford Ball.” (Yes, the prospect of 60,000 people in Plattsburgh, NY, our neighbor across the lake had made this event the big news of the summer in Burlington.)
Jane: “How come, honey? I didn’t know that you were a Phish fan!”
Lisa: “The VSO has been hired to play at one of the concerts.”
Well, Lisa had a fine time and I, who had been Trey’s teacher in a course surveying classical music, was delighted that my old student wanted to show that beauty and joy in music is not limited to any particular genre. So the Vermont Symphony had the largest audience in its history and, as Jeremy Goodwin wrote in the first edition of this book, “...the Ball was a capstone Phish experience...an orchestra playing “Clair de Lune” while a stuntplane does loop-de-loops? Of course.” The beautiful joined with the improbable to surprise and delight. Trey comments in that DVD that Phish wants to take the audience to a new level of appreciation of music. For those who make music together and for those who listen and share the experience, happiness and freedom liberate us from the realities of everyday life.
I like very much Jesse Appelman’s essay (in the first edition) “Why is Phish so Great, Anyway,” in which he describes what happened when he received the tapes from the 1997 fall tour: “I sat in a trance-like state. As the music washed over me, I became disconnected from everything going on around me. All that existed was the music.”
I have always thought that those of us who make music are the luckiest people in the world. If we can communicate to our audiences some of the joy that playing gives us and make people happy to be in the presence of our music, we have improved the quality of life for those who share our work. Through its charitable contributions, The Mockingbird Foundation makes it possible for young children to realize their potential as musicians and to join the community of the initiated. As a music educator, I can promise you that music will enhance and improve your life. Let the Companion guide you to joy through music!
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