Every good musician needs a conductor. Friday night, the Hays Symphony Orchestra had a handful.
Despite the threat of heavy rain and thunderstorms earlier in the day, skies cleared just before the 6:30 p.m., offering some sunshine for the Hays Arts Council’s 35th annual Fall Art Walk.
Prior to its Movie Music Pops Concert under the Downtown Pavilion, Jeff Jordan, director of Fort Hays State University bands, offered some lessons on conducting to children. About eight youngsters gathered around Jordan in front of the symphony to get their “batons” — black, unsharpened FHSU pencils.
“What does a conductor do?” Jordan began.
“These are all good musicians, they know how to count and keep time. Why do they need me? Let’s see,” he said, turning to the players and signaling them to play.
They did, but many of them in different time, creating a cacophony.
“Maybe they do need a little help sometimes, so what does a conductor do?” Jordan said.
“The conductor helps everybody feel the same time,” he said. “The conductor helps put everything together.”
He then showed the children how to hold the baton and move it up and down at different speeds, then with the percussion section.
“That’s called beating or conducting in two,” he said.
Then with the children following along, they conducted the symphony in an upbeat tune for a few seconds.
“What if I look at them with a face like this,” he asked the children, scrunching up his face as if he were angry. “They’re not going to play that very well, are they, if I look mean. Part of my job is to have the right expression.”
He then demonstrated how to conduct in fours — down, left, right, up.
After their rudimentary lessons, the children went back into the audience with their parents to enjoy the concert, featuring music from film such as “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and “E.T. the Extraterrestrial.”
The concert’s finale brought the children back to the podium, where they conducted a medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Jordan said bringing in the kids to conduct was the idea of Cathy Drabkin, publicity chair for the symphony, and built on the instrument “petting zoo” the symphony conducts to give children a hands-on experience with music.
“Kids at this age, regardless of what you’re doing, they’re really, really open to stuff. They’re open to what they’ll listen to and what they’ll try,” Jordan said after the class.
The idea of having fun is something Jordan incorporates into his classes with college students, too, he said.
“We do interpretive movement and expression. Sometimes I’ll put something decidedly un-classical like Earth, Wind and Fire and have them move to that. I’ll say, ‘Give me some expression’ and ‘I don’t care about beating time, I care about what expression I see,’ ” he said.
Ethan Gabel, 6, said he did have fun conducting. While he said his favorite movies were “Spider Man: Far From Home” and “Black Panther,” he didn’t have a favorite piece of music from films.
The Fall Art Walk included more live music at several other venues, including summer studio musicians at Johnny Matlock’s 809 Studio, 809 Main; jazz from Brad Dawson and Luke Johnson at Gella’s Diner and Lb Brewing, 117 E. 11th; Laurel Dawn at Paisley Pear Wine Bar and Bistro, 1100 Main; and Mike Benisch at Salon 1007, 1007 Main.