George Bush Tries His Hand at Orchestra Conducting

Classic Arts News   George Bush Tries His Hand at Orchestra Conducting
JoAnn Falletta was conducting a 400-piece orchestra in The Stars and Stripes Forever yesterday in Jamestown, Virginia when she noticed someone standing behind her gesturing for a turn on the podium.

It was George W. Bush — "smiling at me kind of devilishly," as she told the Associated Press.

So she gave him a turn, and he conducted the Sousa march for about two minutes — rather successfully, by all reports.

The occasion was the celebration in honor of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in what was to become the United States,. The music was provided by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (which is based in nearby Norfolk and has Falletta as its music director), augmented by student musicians from all 50 states.

During The Stars and Stripes, which was Bush's exit music following his speech at the ceremony, he walked toward the conductor's podium. "He didn't say anything," Falletta told the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. "He gave me a wink and made a little gesture like he wanted the baton. It was an unbelievable experience."

It was also "a complete surprise," she said, not planned in advance. (One wonders what the Secret Service made of it all.)

Something else was a surprise: "We didn't expect him to know the score so well," Falletta told the AP afterward. "He was very musical," she told the Virginian-Pilot. "He was cueing the brass; he was cueing the percussion. He kept the tempo going."

Shortly before the march was over, he turned to the maestro, kissed the top of her head, stepped off the podium and left.

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