For violinist Oleg Geyer, inspiration from the concert stage spills over onto the page.
Ever since Oleg joined The Florida Orchestra in 1993, he has penciled sketches that capture the concerts he performs in. Most are caricatures that use a stroke of humor to portray the conductor, guest artist or a fellow musician. The best ones feel like a forbidden peek backstage, revealed by a veteran who has seen it all from the first rehearsal to the final performance. Later the sketches are outlined in pen. Sometimes he adds color.
He hasn’t kept count, but he figures he’s drawn more than 300, stashed in an ordinary cardboard box. Names and years are hit and miss. He draws just about every weekend of the orchestra season, October through May.
“If I’m inspired, I do it,” he says.
Originally from Ukraine, Oleg began playing violin at age 3 and attended the Kiev Music Academy for gifted children. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the Kiev Conservatory in Ukraine. He has no formal art training.
Sorting through a huge stack of sketches, all on letter-sized paper, it’s clear no one is immune from Oleg’s pencil. Music Director Michael Francis stars in several, as does Principal Guest Conductor Stuart Malina and Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik. There are fond farewells to longtime musicians and music directors, such as Jahja Ling. Many are autographed by the guest artists. Caricatures show up on bulletin boards backstage or on a musician’s wall at home.
That’s the case for Principal Harpist Anna Kate Mackle, along with her husband, Principal Percussionist John Shaw. A wall of their music room is dedicated to Oleg’s artwork of them from over the years.
“I think my favorite is one that John commissioned him to do for my birthday,” Mackle said. “It is of stage manager Artie Molinaro helping me move the harp. I love how ridiculously he drew Artie holding the harp, and I love that I am dressed like a regal queen, with flowing robes and a tiara, but I am wearing the black leather backpack that I used to carry to every service.”
If you play first violin in TFO, you never know when you might open your big black music folder and be greeted by Jahja Ling. Oleg faintly sketched him on music of The Star Spangled Banner that’s adhered inside the folder, which randomly circulates among the violinists. After more than a decade, it’s still there.
Occasionally when inspiration strikes, it hits a sour note. Not everyone is amused. And some of the funniest ones are inside jokes better left backstage. Complaints? A few, he shrugs.
But Oleg doesn’t seem to mind. Next week is a new concert. A new symphony. A new piece of paper. Until inspiration takes over again.