Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Doing small things well

Two obits that caught my eye in the past couple of days.

The first was for Norman Seaman, a "niche impressario," who spent his life scheduling concerts for new performers at odd hours in New York City venues such as Carnegie Hall.

If Mr. Seaman had a specialty, though, it was the debut recital...For a small fee — in 1961, when he produced 50 debut recitals, it was as little as $180 — he would arrange for a performance space, say Carnegie Recital Hall, in the late afternoon in midweek; put a small ad in the newspaper; handle the tickets and the staff; and invite reviewers. If enough tickets sold that a profit was to be had, Mr. Seaman and the performer split it.

He did this for more than 30 years.

The second was yesterday's obit for Francis Betters, noted fly fisherman.

Mr. Betters was the opposite of the glamorous professional fisherman who travels from one exotic place to another to write, photograph or be filmed. He stayed close to home, going to his shop every day, building fly rods, making trout flies, writing Adirondack-infused books and articles, and providing customers with instruction, fishing guides, advice and encouragement.

He did this for more than 40 years. Last year, he was inducted into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame--who knew there was such a thing?

I guess I am intrigued by niches, by people who focus on one area and do that one thing well for a very long time. I think I find the concentration appealing in a time where attention is so scattered. Maybe I'm reading more into this than is there; these men were as likely to be distracted by daily life and by the siren call of the media as I am. But the sum of it all seems so clear. I suppose that is the nature of obituaries. Still, I find it very appealing.

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