It’s opening night, a few hours before the concert begins, and programming manager Sarah Farmer is on the move. She’s responsible for logistics, including booking the housing and travel arrangements for the artists, issuing contracts and payments, and scheduling rehearsals. She’s winding through hallways and stairways on her way to check on the volunteers. In a storage room, Judy Doctor and Jean Williams set up a cellphone check for the Morgan State choir members. Farmer wants the college students, who are used to having their digital devices with them at all times, to understand: No phones are allowed onstage. Then Farmer is off, up some stairs and down in an elevator to stock tables outside the dressing rooms with bags of chips and bottles of water. “We’re always moving for shows,” she says, and this production is one of the busiest. “Some days I’ll check my Fitbit and see I’ve walked 
like 4 miles.” 

Allen McCallum, the director of front-of-house operations, greets 55 ushers and gives them assignments. 

In the upstairs lobby, an army of ushers wearing blue, button-down Strathmore shirts chat as they wait for Allen McCallum, the director of front-of-house operations, to call their names and provide assignments. Fifty-five of them—all volunteers—will man doorways and aisles, take tickets and show patrons to their seats.  

An usher seats patrons on opening night. 

Eight minutes until showtime. There’s a flurry of activity as violin and viola players line up cases on a ledge backstage and jazz musicians stroll from a couch near the dressing rooms out to the stage. Among them, Marsalis walks from his dressing room through the wing, carrying his trumpet, entering from stage left. He’s smiling and relaxed, dressed in a crisp black suit. He takes his seat in the middle of the stage. 

National Philharmonic principal violist Julius Wirth says he’s never seen so many happy orchestra players.