Sitting in the audience Sunday night for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra concert brought back memories as it always does. Seating capacity for Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts is 2,264 and I didn’t see many empty seats. It’s a fine orchestra filled with wonderful musicians. It’s a larger orchestra than we had sixty-two years ago when this picture was taken. Sorry for the poor quality but I’m afraid to take the picture out of the frame.
We didn’t draw 2,000+ people to concerts back then. Our concerts were held in the auditorium of Central High School and I’m not sure we even filled that venue. We certainly had our share of fine musicians. In this picture is Charles Hall (French horn) who would become the next conductor after Chester Moffatt retired. On my far right in the picture is Dan Palen, later a music teacher, a talented trumpet player with whom I play for a few years in a performing German Band. On Dan’s left is Glenn Louzader, one of the best in the business and who taught me a lot about playing jazz. I played with Glenn in the house band on Saturday nights at Half-a-Hill night club. The man on my immediate right is Winston Lynes, head of the music department at Missouri State University (SMS back then). On my left is Jim Shannon, outstanding trombonist who still performs(I’m SO jealous) and who became a music teacher.
In 1957 I was a twenty-year old sophomore at Drury University. Chester Moffatt had been my music teacher. By 1957 I had twenty students of my own and had been giving private lessons for four years. They started coming every half hour on Saturday mornings at 8:00. The last one left at 6:00, giving me time to eat, change clothes, and head for Half-a-Hill to play the night away with Jim, Dan, Glenn, and the rest of the band.
Mr. Moffatt always hoped I would continue with my music. He did what he could to groom me for a life in music. At some point he started tutoring me on directing, made me student conductor for the high school performing orchestra. I remember conducting a few times and loving it. By then I was also student choir director at Grace Methodist Church (where Sandy and I got married a little later on). Tuesday night was symphony rehearsal and Thursday night was choir rehearsal. I sometimes led the choir during Sunday evening services. Lena Call, the director, liked my voice and began giving me lessons. I sang as a solo “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” one morning during service and liked doing it. There was just no time in my life to add anything more so regretfully I discontinued lessons.
In junior high and into high school I practiced my horn nearly every night, often for two or three hours or more. I was also the bugler for my Boy Scout troop so I practiced that too. At talent assemblies at Central High School I occasionally performed a solo on stage before the assembled student body and loved doing it. I was named first chair trombonist at the Missouri All-state Band and also for the All-state Orchestra. The summer I was eighteen I played in the house band in a club in Springfield, Illinois. As a student at Drury my schedule didn’t allow time to play in the band but I went on a few trips as guest soloist. On one occasion I was recorded play Tommy Dorsey’s theme song, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” and nailed it. I was promised a copy of the recording but never got it, one of my disappointments.
Well, I became a scientist and disappointed my good teacher. After we left Springfield I never saw Mr. Moffatt again. But he played a huge role in my young life and I often pause to look at the old picture on the wall and wonder what my life might have been like had I chosen a different path. It would have been another life.