Moving the show offstage |

Moving the show offstage

Ian Cropp
Elizabeth Patterson

Betty Patterson is big in the world of bromeliads. She’s working on translating and editing her third book on bromeliads of Ecuador, and she already has four named after her.

But bromeliads, along with photography and showing her dachshund, are what Patterson concentrates on when she’s not focusing on her profession.

Patterson, who is a bassist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, isn’t an anomaly in her field, however.

“Being in an orchestra, you’re so focused, and it’s not an unstressful job,” Patterson said. “I think everybody has something else they have to do.”

Sarah Hardesty, a violinist with the symphony, has a resume that looks similar to Patterson’s. Hardesty grows orchids. She also has an extensive photography collection of her orchids and travel adventures. And, yes, she has shows several champion English setters.

While Tom Demer may not have the same non-musical interests as Patterson and Hardesty, the violist has excelled off the stage like his coworkers.

Demer is a competitive outdoor speed skater. Last year Demer took first or second in all the 26.2-mile marathons he entered.

Last week, Demer found time to relax on a day off, and went for a skate from Vail to Breckenridge, and back.

“I stopped once on (the way back) to replace the break (on the skate),” Demer said.

Hardesty made her annual visit to Vail’s Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and snapped a few photos that she plans to put on her online gallery.

On the night before her departure to Vail, Patterson could have enjoyed a full night of rest, but she was unexpectedly busy at work.

“I had a translation to do,” Patterson said.

So where do the musicians find the time to work and keep up with their hobbies that have grown into secondary professions?

“We’re fortunate in that our work doesn’t has a 9-to-5 sit at a desk aspect,” Hardesty said. ” We do have a lots of unstructured time. We’ll have six weeks of vacation. Of course we have our rehearsals which are intense.”

During rehearsal periods, the musicians do a bit of a juggling act.

“I have to fit them into my schedule,” Patterson said. “When I have a lot of things to do with the Symphony, (the other things) have to take a back burner, but I try and squeeze them in. I’m lucky in that I’m a person that tends to get up early and go to bed late. I try to get seven (hours of sleep), but I don’t usually.”

For Demer, the back burner isn’t always an option.

“I have to schedule the work outs so I can peak in my fitness right at the race time,” Demer said “But I think it helps with my attitude at work. It takes away a lot of stress.”

Not only does speed skating alleviate some of Demer’s mental stress, it also helps him physically.

“A lot of string player are having spinal problems as they age,” Demer said. “Inline skating has done wonders for my back. I haven’t needed a chiropractor. (My coworkers) are all worried that I’m going to hurt myself and won’t be able to perform. It’s made me healthier.”

It wasn’t until four years ago that Demer started speed skating.

“I had to sacrifice a lot of skin the first few years,” Demer said. “I’ve been a avid cyclist since my teenage years. I was pretty sedentary after my son was born and spent my 30s doing nothing. I tried running after 40 didn’t agree with my knees.”

Patterson also got involved with bromeliads later in her career. Her book writing came about through bromeliads and her mastering of Spanish.

“This just fell into my lap,” Patterson said. “When I went to Ecuador, I dreamed about writing a book about it. Nobody had ever done it. I had a little girl and I knew it would be impossible to do by myself. About 6 or 7 years later, I met Jose Manzanares (who wrote the books). We became friends and went out collecting.”

Hardesty started with Orchids and then branched off into photography.

“I got my mom a plant for Mother’s Day and had to learn how to take care of it,” Hardesty said. “The florist was a member of the Orchid Society, and said, ‘Come to our newcomers group,’ and I became very interested.

I’ve become serious about photography, and the orchid collection is ready-made for that.”

And Hardesty’s travels seem to work well with her cameras, too.

“They tend to correlate,” Hardesty said. “The photography evolved more from my travel interests. Ten years ago, I began studying languages (Italian and French) again.”

The three musicians seem to be quite happy where they are now with work and their outside interests.

“Most of the (musicians) who are the happiest have outside interests,” Demer said. “Playing in an orchestra is artistically satisfying, but not the most creative thing you can do in music. It’s good to have outside releases for creativity.”

“I’m trying to stick with what I got,” Patterson said. “I always wish that I had more time and I could do some other things. You can’t make yourself too thin in other areas, otherwise you don’t do things well.”

Staff Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

Vail, Colorado

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