So … to more of my little story. I have now moved on to college. I auditioned for the band and orchestra conductor (yes, he did both) and he said, “You know you have to play in both so you’ll have to rearrange your entire class schedule.” I didn’t argue. One never argues with a conductor, right? So yes, I changed everything to accommodate him. Besides, he seemed like a genius to little old me.

Turned out, though, that he was a bit of a sexist guy. Much of the time I was seated second to a young man. Mind you, he was a fine player, but we were actually equals for the most part. But not to this conductor. Still, I learned a lot from him and he wasn’t abusive although he was frightening. He made sure he had an air about him that made him special and nearly unapproachable.

Meanwhile, I won a position in a local symphony orchestra in my sophomore year. Doing so, in fact, came back to haunt the “You have to play in both groups” conductor: by the end of my sophomore year I’d fulfilled my performing obligations and I dropped at least one of those groups for the rest of college. The symphony orchestra I joined had a conductor who was notorious for temper tantrums and abuse and yes, I witnessed all of that. I also witnessed a “You’re very happily married aren’t you?” moment with him. (I married Dan in my sophomore year.) My “Yes,” response apparently gave him permission to try and kiss me. Go figure. I cried and he backed off. After that we had, for the most part, a decent relationship considering his issues. He liked my playing, and I learned a ton about expressive playing. He picked a lot of music that featured English horn, which was my position. I loved his conducting as it was just so amazingly musical and there were unbelievably amazing moments. And unbelievably miserable ones too.

He liked me.

Until he didn’t.

When he decided to hate me he hated with a vengeance. It was painful but it was also a good lesson for me. I had colleagues who had forever dealt with his abuses and only when he started to go after me did I learn to truly sympathize and admire them for their tenacity throughout his abuse.

But of course this last conductor was someone I dealt with as an adult. And an adult CAN, if necessary, leave. Students have a harder time with that, as my dear student is demonstrating.

So let me repeat to those in youth groups: if you are not getting encouragement, if you are not feeling as if you are accomplishing something, if you only feel berated by a conductor of a youth symphony. GET OUT. The only way these abusers of power will get the picture (or get fired) is if students and parents say, “Enough is enough.”

I’ll stop here. But I may write more about youth orchestra conductors at a later time. I’m so angry about this particular (unnamed) individual that I think I might have to revisit the topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.