Starting this Memorial Day, I'm at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island for a week of work. Once again Detroit Public Television is broadcasting the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy conference - basically from gavel to gavel. (Watch it on www.MiVote.org.)
Since we've done this before, the crew has things well in hand and thing are going swimmingly well, so I haven't needed to be as much of a hands-on supervisor as I have in the past.
Which leaves me a little time to wander through the hotel and watch people. One of the things that has struck me as I wander through the hotel is its rich history of music. Whether at dinner, during tea in the parlor, or throughout the evening, live music is being performed throughout the hotel. It's a much a part of the ambiance of this place as the geraniums on the porch and the clip-clop of horse carriages outside.
In the documentary film that loops on one of the hotel's TV channels, there's a shot of a string group playing at the end of the porch -- a spot that is easily identified even now on the hotel -- and proof that music has been part of the hotel ever since it opened 125 years ago.
There are little gems everywhere: an autographed poster of Pete Fountain and his clarinet, a fading photograph of Lionel Hampton and Bob Snyder, shots of Rosemary Clooney, Dave Brubeck and Joe Williams. And then, there's the men's apparel store called Cagney's -- a tribute to that ultimate singer, dancer, and film star, James Cagney.
Modern life has made many of us oblivious to music as ambiance. The assumption by most, I'm sure, is that there's some recording playing in the background -- nameless, faceless performers preserved digitally for all time.
But if you pause -- and if nothing else, the Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island encourage you to pause -- you realize there's something special about this music. It's live and is in keeping with the shifting moments of the day. Only living, breathing musicians can do that.