Household Name

Household Name

It’s so interesting how life manages to puncture our delusions of grandeur just in a nick of time.  The big Mendelssohn concert this past Sunday left me loftily perched on Cloud Nine,  awash with feelings of great satisfaction and pride – and with every new compliment I receive about the concert,  I have found myself thinking of myself more and more as the Indispensable Grand Man of Music for Southeastern Wisconsin.  .  . a Musical King Midas whose every project turns to gold. .  .  and certainly a household name in this community, at least in any household that cares about music.  (I can almost hear “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background as I type those words.)

But like I said,  life has a way of jerking the rug out from under us when it’s most beneficial,  and that happened for me tonight when I showed up at Case High School to accompany kathy’s school choir for a special choral event.  As soon as I got there,  she quietly warned me that my name was misspelled in the program – (someone else’s error, by the way, and not hers) . . .  and sure enough.  I was listed as GREGORY GERG.   That actually happened once before,  six or seven years ago,  when I played piano for one of our voice teachers,  Nancy Henninger, when she sang a recital in her hometown of Freeport, Illinois.   The printed program was correct,  but on the compact disk recording of the concert which was made and distributed,  my name is emblazoned across the front as GREGORY GERG.

I suppose that’s better than what happened when I first started at WGTD almost 23 years ago.   Back then, we had a quarterly newsletter that went out to thousands of our listeners and supporters,  and the fall issue 1986 was devoted to the new Fine Arts Director – me – with a nice big photograph and a Q & A interview in which I got to talk about my background,  my passion for music, my hopes and dreams for the station,  etc.  It was all quite lovely and I felt quite famous. . .  except that the program director who put the newsletter together somehow neglected to include my name anywhere in the whole newsletter.   Nowhere – not even once – did you see the name Greg Berg.  She nearly died when the error was brought to attention after the newsletter had already been mailed out and it was too late to do anything about it.

In the years since,  I have regularly been called other names-  Jeff especially –  and at Carthage,  I often get mail intended for my faculty colleague Greg Baer . . .  but what really was maddening to me was back at Luther when people would call me Steve  . . .  including JoAnne Hovda, a good friend of my mom who was one of my favorite piano teachers.   She  would call me Steve three times as often as she called me Greg.  (And I don’t remember anyone ever calling Steve by my name.  I must not be as unforgettable as he is. )

And then there’s the perpetual mess at Carthage with the fact that my legal name is David Gregory Berg.  (My folks named we that because my dad was David,  and they didn’t want me to be Little David – but they liked how David Gregory Berg rolled out, compared to Gregory David Berg.)  At least half the time when I go to the computer to check my class rosters for the next semester,  I will be told that I am not listed as teaching anything at all at Carthage that semester.   (That moment, no matter how often it happens, always leaves me a little bit queasy because it sure feels like the cyber equivalent of a pink slip.)    And the reason will be that sometimes the registrar’s office (or whoever) enters me into the system as David Berg- and other times as Gregory Berg – and if I sign in on the other name,  it’s as though I don’t even exist.   Which will mean another  visit to the registrar’s office to get the problem rectified once again.

However,  I have no right to complain about any of this because I am a D+ student when it comes to remembering people’s  names.   My problem seems to be that I don’t really focus on the name and retaining it when I first hear it,  and thirty seconds later (or even sooner than that) it has already evaporated into the ether.  And until I start doing a better job with the names of others,  I guess I have no right to complain about being called Steve or Jeff or Greg Gerg.

By the way,  Kathy’s kids did great singing a portion of a neat medley of songs of other countries titled “It’s a Small World.”   We had a little “Funniculi, Funniculi”,  “Edelweiss” “Lonely Goatherd” and more. . . and although the directing abilities of Mrs. Berg was the primary reason for their success,  I’d like to think that the assured playing of Mr. Gerg had something to do with it as well.

P.S. – I suppose I should be grateful not to be in my sister’s pickle. Randi didn’t have too much trouble growing up in as Scandinavian a community as Decorah,  where the name Randi is about as common as Sally or Susie.   But when we moved to southeastern Wisconsin,  that name started stumping people on a regular basis.  She’s told me of conversations where she would say her name, and the person would reply  “ Ralna, I love that name.”  or “Rhonda, I love that name.”  or “Rhoda” or “Ronnie” or “Randy” or “Ryan.”   And the kicker was when a nice article about Randi was put in the paper- I believe an item trumpeting her selection for something like the National Merit Scholarship or something like that,  and her name was listed in the caption of the photograph as RONI BERG.