For the past two years, the ESO has been asking you to "Imagine that!" in a series of clever posters featuring Evanston celebrities playing imaginary instruments. Mayor Lorraine Morton, Dr. Allan Alson, Hecky Powell, and Realtor Claire Sucsy have all been shown lost in their own world of music, and the headline on the poster tied in with the individual. For example, Hecky Powell, owner of Hecky's Barbecue, was shown wailing away very convincingly on an imaginary saxophone. The copy read: "Evanston has a hot symphony orchestra. Imagine that!"
Now a new crop of Evanston notables has joined the ESO's "air orchestra" to entice people to come hear the real thing. Former Chief of Police Frank Kaminski, now head of security at ETHS, is shown playing an imaginary trumpet on a poster that proclaims "Evanston has a Symphony Orchestra that would be a crime to miss." ABC Channel 7 sportscaster Marc Giangreco solos on the clarinet for an ESO "that's at the top of its game," and State Senator Jeff Schoenberg's dreamy violin playing proclaims that "The votes are in. Evanston has a great Symphony Orchestra!" The tagline on all of the posters repeats the theme: "Imagine that!"
The poster series is the brainchild of ESO Board of Directors member Beverly Meland, who wanted to ask local celebrities to lend their images in support of the orchestra. ESO violist and then-board member Les Jacobson approached his neighbor, Evanston photographer Casey Sills, for help on the project. Casey was very interested because he had done some work for the Elgin Symphony, taking photos of the musicians from right in the middle of the orchestra during rehearsal. "The sound was much better than what you hear in any seat in the audience," he said, adding that when he got the call from Les Jacobson, he thought "Here's a community organization that I can do something for."
Casey called art director Peter Hoppock, a former VP at Leo Burnett who was building his own advertising business, and asked him to help out with the ESO project. Both men had never worked together, but decided to donate their time and experience to the ESO. "The two of us just jelled," Casey said. They liked the idea of photographing the local celebrities playing instruments, but wanted to somehow connect them with the listening public. Then they hit upon the idea of having the local celebrities imagine themselves playing an instrument - in this case, an air instrument. Casey handled the photography, shooting at least 60 exposures of each poster person, and Peter came up with the "Imagine that!" theme and the copy on the posters. "We wanted to make people do a double-take and work out the puzzle," Casey said. "It was a really fun project."
For his part, Peter Hoppock wanted to convey the perception that "the ESO is special, whether to play with or to show that they're worth supporting. There's nothing better than a little highbrow humor with a touch of intelligence to tell the viewer that you're accomplished and confident, that you can have a little joke at your own expense," Peter said. "It says something about the strength of your character and a lot about the organization."
We wondered what it took to get that dreamy look that makes the photographs so convincing. Casey replied by describing the photo shoot with State Senator Jeff Schoenberg. Peter and he started by explaining to the Senator what they were looking for and then asked him to imagine himself in the middle of a great piece of music, to close his eyes, listen to the music and imagine himself being the soloist. Toward the end of the shoot, he raised his eyebrows a bit for some reason, and Peter and Casey asked him to do it several more times. That one small gesture "turned his imaginary music into a delicate little passage and gave the photo more depth."
When asked about working with the rest of the local celebrities, Casey replied that he was amazed at how trusting people were of Peter and him. "They let their guard down and weren't afraid of looking foolish," he said. "All of those people were imagining; we had no music playing. People who aren't actors were being asked to let down guard and be something they're not. And not one balked. All of them just went along with it and they all pulled it off! Mark Giangreco was the closest to being comfortable in front of the camera, but ALL of them could do it in the end. They bought into the idea and were able to imagine themselves [playing the music.]"
So keep an eye out for the new "Air ESO" posters, where Chief Frank Kaminski, Senator Jeff Schoenberg and Sportscaster Mark Giangreco join that marvelous air flutist, Mayor Lorraine Morton, in telling the public how great the ESO is. Imagine that!