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From GEICO to TFO: the epic Triangle Solo

When Florida Orchestra Principal Percussionist John Shaw first saw the GEICO “Triangle Solo” commercial on TV, his wife said, “Don’t do that onstage.”

She should have known better.

“As soon as I saw that commercial, I thought, ‘That needs to actually happen in a concert,’ ” Shaw says of the wacky spot in which a percussionist breaks out into an epic triangle solo during an orchestra concert. It wasn’t hard to find a willing collaborator in Stuart Malina, The Florida Orchestra’s principal guest conductor who leads the morning Coffee concert series.

“He has a great sense of humor and understands the value of humor in connecting with the audience,” says Shaw, who asked Malina if he’d seen the commercial. “I said ‘Let’s recreate it,’ and Stuart said ‘Absolutely.’ That was the whole planning process.”

But it was their little secret. The rest of The Florida Orchestra had no idea what was about to happen in the middle of the Coffee concert’s second half.

Shaw did cryptically tip off the TFO marketing team, who took video. As of Tuesday, Shaw’s triangle solo had reached more than 120,000 people on Facebook and has been viewed more than 50,000 times on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter combined and was still climbing. It also has been retweeted by GEICO, which could boost it to a national audience.

It’s not the first time Shaw and Malina have collaborated.

“I think we both have a shared feeling that it’s important to let the audience see our collective personalities and try to bond with them through humor.  It just enhances the concert experience to add a personal touch.  Music is supposed to be fun as well as enriching, so let’s have some fun — I think that’s how we both feel.”

Malina agreed, adding, “It’s a tremendous boon having John in the orchestra. The Coffee series is about great music and fun, and John has both in healthy doses. The triangle shtick was a natural. I wish I had thought of it myself!”

It won’t be the last antics between the two. “Now, where do we go from here?” Malina asks.

And what did Shaw’s wife, Principal Harpist Anna Kate Mackle, think of his triangle solo?

“I don’t let her in on most of the things we come up with, because she may try to talk me out of it,” Shaw says. “She thought it was funny afterwards.  I’m sure it’s not easy to be married to me.”


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