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"Price Check on a Cellist?" 

Flanked by navel oranges, caramel apple dip, Dasani water bottles and 4-pound cartons of "old-fashioned" potato salad (you know, the kind Grandma used to box), the Colorado Springs Philharmonic prepared to help Tom Jensen do what no conductor has done before: conduct for 24 hours straight.

In perhaps the most unpretentious concert setting imaginable -- the produce section of King Soopers on West Uintah -- musicians played in shifts at Jensen's insistence.

"I didn't want anyone getting carpal tunnel on my account," Jensen said.

Surprisingly, Jensen -- a Denver-based conductor with long-standing ties to the musicians of the Philharmonic -- did not get wired on Red Bull or Starbucks. His poison was four huge bottles of blue Gatorade and a banana.

"I dropped seven pounds," he said.

The maestro's darkest hours were between 2 and 4 a.m. when he started getting cross-eyed and the notes on the sheet music began losing their distinction. But as dawn started to break and early-bird shoppers began filing in around 5, he got his second wind.

The concert's kickoff late Friday afternoon was marked by the closest thing Colorado Springs has to a celebrity appearance: Mayor Lionel Rivera himself affirmed the city's support for the Philharmonic and proudly announced that the Fourth of July concert this year will feature -- Boom! -- actual cannons.

The mayor then read an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote about music, which was interrupted by his cellphone.

Later on in the evening, Jensen did his best to keep himself and his musicians entertained.

"Can I get a price check on a cellist?" he asked.

At one point, a baby began crying and Jensen informed the infant that his remonstrations were in violation of union rules. He then cradled the babe while conducting. Problem solved; Union, yes!

Jensen broke his record, and believes he helped raise awareness about the Philharmonic. As he told the crowd at the kickoff, "If this works out, we'll be playing in a Jiffy Lube near you."

--John Dicker
photo by Sean Cayton

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