Actor Garret Dillahunt joined the UW Symphony orchestra for an end-of-year performance
In early June, several unlikely things happened. For its last concert of the school year, the UW Symphony orchestra took on an unusual piece of music with narration. Then they decided to bring in an outsider to help perform the piece. Finally, they found a Hollywood alum with enough time on his schedule and enough Husky spirit to jet up from L.A. and step on stage.
Just how did they get Garret Dillahunt, ’87, movie and TV star, to tell the story of the little elephant, Babar? It started with symphony director David Rahbee.
“I had ideas for years to work with a piece of music that calls for a narrator,” Rahbee says. “But there aren’t that many of them.” When he landed on “L’Histoire de Babar, le Petit Éléphant,” a sweet musical arrangement created around the children’s book of the same title, he knew it could be something extra special, especially if they could find the right narrator.
A colleague who works with alumni suggested the actor, beloved for his portrayal of the goofy patriarch on the sitcom “Raising Hope,” and admired for disappearing into two different characters on the drama series “Deadwood.”Hailing from Selah, Washington, he had studied journalism at the UW in the mid-1980s. In an acting class his senior year, he found his calling.
It was a dream request, but Rahbee reached out and Dillahunt was game.
The actor arrived the afternoon of the performance and rehearsed with the orchestra at Meany Hall. He delivered on the piece’s humor and nuance. He also visited with the students, many of whom were not music majors.
“It’s inspiring to know that you may be studying one thing and then you give something else a try and that might be the thing for you,” Rahbee says. “I thought his story was a neat example of what can happen. Who knows what one of our students might become? They just need to be given the chance to let that spark take hold.”