November 17, 2011


My first year at Weber State University was back in 1999.  I was almost 19 years old.  That year, I was attending school on a music scholarship.  I was a member of the Weber State Symphony Orchestra and also took private violin lessons.

I learned very quickly that the conductor of the orchestra was very serious about music.  He expected prompt, well-prepared, well-behaved students, and he let you know if you were walking on thin ice.

Being completely out of my comfort zone that first year, I wanted nothing more than to be on time to orchestra every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I did not rock the boat at all.  After all, I was attending school completely free thanks to my conductor.  He didn't deserve anything but my best efforts.

During my first year, my conductor learned of a few health problems I had.  He preferred if students let him know ahead of time if they were not going to be in class, so whenever I had to miss class I let him know.  Without fail, the next time I was in class, I was warmly greeted by the conductor.  He asked if I was okay and always seemed happy that I was back in class.  Even though I was one of many violinists in the class, I knew my attendance mattered to him.

I took the following year off from orchestra.  I was not planning to major in music, but between learning pages and pages and pages of symphonies, private lessons and so forth, I spent a good amount of time playing my violin, often at the expense of my other general ed classes.

The summer before my third year of school, I decided I wanted to be apart of orchestra again.  Because I made the decision a few weeks before fall semester was to begin, I thought it would be a good idea to inform the conductor of my decision as he requires students to audition before registering for his class.  As expected, he was happy I was going to be in orchestra again and even offered me a part-tuition scholarship.

I learned that summer that my conductor, while strict and serious, was also kind and genuinely interested in his students and wanted them to succeed.

This week, my local news reported that my conductor, the man that was easily one of the best professors I ever had, demanded that a mentally ill person leave the audience during an orchestra concert.

According to the article, the conductor stopped the performance twice, glared at the audience and then reminded everyone that children were not allowed; however, it was soon discovered that the noise being made by the audience was not from a child, it was from a mentally ill person.  What illness this person had was not made known in the article, but it was reported that he/she and his/her family left the performance early.

Of course, now, a few days later, everyone is in an uproar about it calling the conductor's behavior appalling and ridiculous. 

Well, not everyone.  I read a lot of comments posted about the article and a lot of people are siding with the conductor saying he had absolutely no idea that the person disrupting the concert was mentally ill.  Which is 100% true.  How would he know?  He doesn't greet the audience when they walk into the building.  He's backstage.  All he knew is that someone was being loud and disruptive while he and his students performed Beethoven's Symophony No. 9.

I've thought a lot about this story.  I feel really sorry for the conductor.  This has got to be a total and complete nightmare for him.

Or, was he really in the wrong for what he did?

I know that had a non-mentally ill person been disrupting the performance, no one would've thought twice about the conductor putting an end to it.  

We get annoyed when people play with their cell phones or talk during movies.  

I am constantly glared at when my daughter is acting up when I'm at a store. 

I've read articles about stores having "no children" hours.

And those are public places.  This was an orchestra concert.  These students were performing a piece that they had spent hours upon hours rehearsing.

We're taught to treat everybody the same no matter our condition.  No matter our mental or physical capacities, everyone is equal.  Right?  So, why is everyone all up in arms about him doing just that     -  Treating this person as an equal?  Or, is the issue that he demanded a respectful audience and people just can't handle that sort of honesty?


  1. Wow! I'm going to have to go think on that one for a bit. That's a serious issue I've not ever thought about. That's some brutal honesty right there!
    I'm thinking that they'll probably address the issue and have special nights where the metally handicapped are part of the audience and that it will be known and planned by the conductor and/or the music department.

  2. I have very mixed feelings about it. I think if someone is disruptive, regardless of disability or ability, then perhaps that isn't the best venue for them.

    I used to work for a program that assisted people with disabilities. I had some clients who were noisy. If they wanted to go to a movie, we would go at a time when it was likely to not be full, to minimize the disruption to others.

  3. I really don't know enough about what happened to justify my weighing in on this specific situation, but I agree with what Kristina said. If someone is disruptive, regardless of the reason, perhaps it's not where they should be. I understand that everyone should be able to attend public performances and things, but people do have a responsibility to ensure that they are being courteous to others.

  4. I think if you are making a loud enought disruption no matter your situation then you need to leave.

    Its not the mentally ill person's fault it is his families for taking him to a place that wasn't suitable for his special needs.

    no matter the person on the type of disruption they were stopping the conductor from being able to do his job.


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