Some men are born to be orchestral conductors. Others have batons thrust upon them. Take my case. When the high school band went down to have its picture taken for the school annual, I was the only man in the outfit who didn't carry his instrument along. I played piano. So when we got to the photographer's, he insisted I couldn't just stand in the picture with my arms hanging down. He gave me a baton to hold.

A baton was thrust at me again by an orchestra leader in New York some years later. He wanted to go out for a smoke. He tossed me the stick and said, "Here, you lead 'em if you can!"

One good way of becoming an orchestra leader is to watch other leaders work. In a short time, if you are observant, you will have them classified as shovel runners, furnace tenders, mane flappers, score nosers or shimmy dancers. If you are wise, you will be none of these, but you will study music until you know more about it than any man in any orchestra you are likely to conduct. However, that is not entirely essential.

If you want, you can become a glamour boy. This takes practically no knowledge of music. It does take more than the usual quota of good looks. He leaves the grinding work of whipping an orchestra through rehearsal routines up to a real musician. When the band is all schooled in its pieces, glamour boy gets out in front for the performance before the audience and waves gracefully about the stand.

If you decide to become a conductor in the real sense of the word, you're in for a study in personalities. There's the musician who yawns. He was out late the night before playing pinochle. Only way to counteract this effect is to play pinochle with him, then you can yawn right back. Another type is the fiddle player who sits on his collarbone and chews gum out of rhythm.

You will also find among your charges several talent scouts, usually found in the cello section. Their eyes constantly follow the feminine portion of your audience instead of the score. There is a stable boy in every orchestra -- a lad who has a form sheet tucked away somewhere, and while the band is busy with Beethoven's Ninth, he's picking one in Empire's fifth.

There are other varieties. The chimney sweep is one. He's the trombone player who drives a conductor nuts by almost hitting the music rack every time he extends the trombone slide.

Copyright ©1941 Roy Shield

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