After half a century of conducting and playing jazz around town, Cincinnati Ballet’s musical director and all-around arts scene dynamo Carmon DeLeone has no plans to take it easy.
His First Baton
It was May 1964, Wilson Auditorium on the campus of UC. That has just been torn down—and that’s very sad. We’re celebrating that start for me with the Middletown Symphony Orchestra by doing a program that’s all musicals because the first thing I conducted was Bye Bye, Birdie.
I was always interested in music. I got a scholarship to the College-Conservatory of Music. I was a French horn major, and also education. A double degree kind of thing. Part of my scholarship was assisting conductors here.
My roommates and I were fortunate—in the ’60s there were many jazz clubs and you could work any day of the week. I’m a jazz drummer and play a little French horn, which is my main instrument.
Most people think, That guy’s standing in front of the orchestra, what power he must feel. But what I feel when I’m conducting a performance is great pleasure because the hard work is behind you.
Leonard Bernstein once told me that during the course of the music, he felt it’s almost as if he composed it himself. As if on the podium he’s composing while he’s conducting.
Memo to AARP
Retire? Oh, no, I don’t think so. I always say when they close the lid of the box, I’ll probably still be waving my arms at an orchestra some place.
DeLeone will celebrate his 50th year in the business by conducting the Middletown Symphony on May 18 at Dave Finkelman Auditorium (on Miami University’s Middletown campus), and May 22 at the Carnegie Performing Arts Center, Covington.
Originally published in the May 2014 issue.