KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Rachel Schlafter-Parton, an interpreter for the deaf who frequently works through the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Office of Disability Services, has a chance at stardom Saturday in St. Paul, Minn.
She will be a guest of Garrison Keillor on “A Prairie Home Companion,” a variety show broadcast live to more than two million listeners of 380 public radio stations nationwide.
Schlafter-Parton said she will take to “Prairie Home” a talent inspired by years of allergy-shots and honed through practice on her backporch in Luttrell.
Her instrument is a plastic one-cubic-centimeter syringe, the disposal type now used by most doctors. She discards the needle before commencing play, for safety and because the syringe will not sound a note with it attached.
Schlafter-Parton demonstrates the range of the instrument by blowing across the top of it — much as a child makes noise blowing across the top of a soda bottle. Unlike the soda bottle, however, the syringe can be made to play a wide range of notes by pulling the plunger back and forth, trombone fashion.
“I’ve tried other size syringes,” said Schlafter-Parton.
“(This one) works best. Much smaller and the human ear can’t hear it. Larger sizes work, but they don’t offer the same range of notes.”
A passer-by who happened to catch the demonstration inquired if the syringe plays in the key of “D”.
“Close,” said Schlafter-Parton, who is prepared to perform either the “March of the Toreadors,” from the opera “Carmen,” or a medley of tunes from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Schlafter-Parton will fly to St. Paul Friday to be ready for a rehearsal during the day Saturday prior to the evening broadcast. She will be paid $500.
“That’s the most I’ve ever made for a performance,” said Schlafter-Parton, who just recently began carrying a syringe with her.
“I’ve learned that you have to take your opportunities where you can get them,” she said.
“Prairie Home” is broadcast locally every Saturday, 6-8 p.m., by UT public radio station WUOT, 91.9 FM.
Contact: Yana Davis (423-974-5375)