All of us have seen what happens when a fish gets out of the water or a turtle gets turned on its back. That was my feeling as I stood before the Fort Scott Civic Symphony as the guest conductor during the Good Ol' Days back in 1985. After being reluctantly convinced that this would be a good thing to do, the doubts began to set in. They were further amplified when I went to my one and only rehearsal three nights before the performance. The orchestra was quite reassuring as they promised they wouldn't watch me, and therefore, could keep from being confused.
Finally the big night came. It was a beautiful evening and a large crowd had gathered. Steve Harry directed the first several numbers and the orchestra played magnificently. The special highlight of the evening was the recognition of a composition by long time Fort Scott music leader, Ray MaCrum. All this time I was waiting in the wings full of apprehension.
After my introduction by Bruce Wallace, which was mercifully brief, I mounted the podium to stand before the symphony. Even though I had rehearsed with the baton in my right hand, I announced I was going to move it to my left hand because I felt more comfortable. With that professional statement, I gave a sort of lunge resembling a downbeat and away they went on the "Stars and Stripes Forever".
After that, it was pure fun. I pretended to turn the pages, not knowing where we were, waved at Rick and Kathy Werling's son, and checked with Tricia Hart in the percussion section to make sure I was still on the beat. It was interesting watching the people trying to play in spite of me. John Benage was grinning so much he couldn't keep his lips together to blow the trumpet. Eldon Crane almost fell off his chair.
Mercifully, it was over. After a great performance by the symphony, I was only too happy to clamber off the podium. Alberta Coe was kind enough later to send me a toothpick wrapped with yarn (resembling a conductor's baton) and a nice note to help me commemorate this occasion.
My standard answer to people who said, "I didn't know you could do something like this," was that I might try brain surgery next week because I knew almost as much about that.
It was one of those "good ol' evenings" and a special time with friends that will be long remembered.