Because I love music, a lot of musicians end up in my novels. In MARIACHI MURDER, Andy Veracruz is a band leader in Southern California… until he really gets into trouble!

Posts tagged ‘unexpected’

Savoring the Unexpected with Michael Cavanaugh

I’m busy. I have a day job, a night job (writing), and various music jobs. I have a house and cats to take care of, etc., etc. Thus there are many times when I buy tickets for something way in advance. Instead of savoring the experience by anticipating it, I usually show up at the theatre five minutes before the production is supposed to start. Usually by that time I’ve forgotten the name of the play I’m seeing or the name of any performers who are guest artists.

Thus last January when Cookie and I headed out for the evening, I couldn’t tell her anything about the tickets we had for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. “Why did we want to come to this concert?” she asked a couple of times. “I don’t remember,” I told her. “It’s some guy. I think he sings Billy Joel songs.”

That was all I remembered. We had an enjoyable dinner together, but since I had no information, we didn’t discuss the concert we were about to see.

The TSO has a series of concerts they do with pop artists. This makes for a pleasant combination of pop culture and classically trained musicians. The year before I’d gone to a performance that included dancers from Dancing with the Stars, for example. The orchestra has been proactive in offering audiences the best of both worlds. Yet most of the groups they’d performed with were groups I had never heard of. I hadn’t heard of the evening’s singer; I’d simply focused on the words in the promo that included “Billy Joel.”

I don’t know a lot about American music. I grew up listening to Beethoven and Mahler, but in college I discovered Billy Joel when a friend dragged me to a concert and I was wowed by the piano solos in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I’d been a fan ever since. Even though my record collection only included some twenty titles, I faithfully purchased each new Billy Joel album. I’d listened to The Stranger and 52nd Street so many times that after one song ended, I already knew which song would come next.

Imagine my delight, then, when TSO started in with a medley of Billy Joel songs. When the invited artist popped onto the stage, he sat down and started hammering away at the piano Billy Joel style. The performer was mesmerizing. He was thrilling. He was Michael Cavanaugh.


Within moments he’d captivated the whole audience. By the second song, I was tapping my feet. By the second half I was wishing the concert would never, ever end.

The question is this: did I enjoy the performance more because I hadn’t anticipated it? Because I didn’t realize I’d seen Cavanaugh perform Movin’ Out on Broadway a few years earlier until he started explaining about some of his musical experiences?


My friends have accused me of being too busy. They are undoubtedly right. But there are a series of things I’m going to keep right on doing: buying tickets ahead of time to performances I think I might like, showing up for them without knowing much if anything about them, and preparing to be delighted by something unexpected and wonderful.

That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

To read about my musical murder mysteries (Mariachi Murder, Island Casualty), please see