Professor Packy Walker leads the symphony
Not so long ago, Packy Walker found himself at one of those $250-per-person fund-raisers so popular in our socio-economic stratosphere. He showed up as a guest of someone else and was having a great time.
Then the auction started.
Swept up by sensation and sangria, Walker started doing something resembling the Rocky Dance (Rocky I at the top of the steps, ask your dad), raised his hand at the wrong (or right) time, the exact moment the auctioneer was selling a big dollar item – a chance to conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra during their Bravo! residency. And the day has come.
He spent $10,000 for the privilege.
“My part lasts about two minutes, which is about $5,000 a minute,” he said. “It’s just one more thing that’ll go on my permanent record.”
Basically, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is a musical Ferrari. Walker’s job is to not wreck it.
Walker takes the stage at 6 p.m., opening today’s performance. That wasn’t his first choice as a place to appear on the program.
“I wanted to close the first half so I could have all my buddies come out and dance in tutus, but the Dallas Symphony folks were having none of it. I guess they’re onto me, so they made me the opener,” he said.
Apparently, musical lineage is not as important for these sorts of things as fiscal solvency. Bravo! does good work, but it’s still a not-for-profit organization.
Things like conducting a symphony usually sell for about $30,000 at an auction.
“I figured at $10,000 I’d be pretty safe,” Walker said. “I thought I’d get to play a little and go home with my money. It didn’t work out that way.”
As for musical background, Walker once played drums in a jazz band, and says he has a pretty good handle on the flute-o-phone.
“I’ve been studying the score. It has a lot of dots on it,” he says. “I couldn’t read a musical score before, but I can now.”
Which puts him ahead of most of us.
Walker put the CD in his truck and has been listening to it for the last 365 days. Combining ear training with instrument training is the foundation of the Suzuki Method of musical instruction, which is nice, Walker says. But mostly, he just thinks Prelude to Carmen is a cool song.
“It’s a bouncy little number. I like it. I’d better because it’s costing me $10,000. That’s $5,000 a minute.”
The Packy Chronicles
Walker is nothing if not attention-getting. His annual appearances in Vail’s July Fourth Parade are the stuff of legend. A couple years ago, when the Cat III (Blue Sky Basin) upheaval was at its shrieking best, Walker showed up in golf clothes with a pull cart, carrying a sign that said, “Save the Links.”
“Everyone expects me to wear some type of outfit,” Walker says, adding that it’s not an unrealistic expectation. “But I’m wearing a tuxedo.”
For the uninitiated, Walker loves to scuba dive, and he loves to scuba dive in a tuxedo.
“I probably have the biggest collection of tuxedoes of anyone in Colorado,” he says. “For this one, though, I’ll probably rent something so it will have a little less salt in it.”
It is, however, a performance and there will be stage presence.
“I’ll have one of my mannequins dressed in a Carmen Miranda outfit,” Walker says.
Why, you ask?
“They’re playing Prelude to Carmen.”
The Packy stories
Longtime friend Dave Garton puts is succinctly.
“The guy’s nuts.”
Financially speaking, Garton said, this is the height of his escapades. But then, one other time he was squiring around a young, good looking lady. Walker took her to Cozumel. He considers himself a professional hotelier, Garton said, and when he and his lady friend landed in Cozumel he told the cab driver, “Take us to the Hilton.”
When they arrived at the Hilton, he walked up to the front desk and declared, “I have the receipt with confirmation.”
“Mr. Walker,” said the front desk clerk, “this is for the Cancun Hilton.”
Then there was the time, in the middle of hunting season, when the highways were jammed with deer hunters. Garton and Walker rode up to Eisenhower Tunnel, where hunters were being checked.
“In those days, Packy and I had a none-passenger stretch limo,” said Garton. “As we approached the tunnel, Packy donned a perfect deer head and I put on an orange Elmer Fudd hat. We strapped me to the front of the limo and Packy got behind the wheel. Six other game check guys came running over hollering, “You guys have to see this.'”
And what about the time Packy’s Lifthouse team won the Great Race.
He showed up to collect the trophy wearing a bathrobe. When they handed him the trophy, he threw off the bathrobe and he was wearing only a fig leaf.
“I figure since I’m taking up space on this planet,” he added, “I might as well try to keep it interesting.”