by Kim Hodgson, WDAV General Manager
When we lived in Washington, DC, Judy and I attended Luther Place Memorial Church in the heart of downtown. We had a marvelously diverse congregation, from high government officials to some of the homeless women who spent their nights in the church’s shelter.
One of the members of our congregation was a man named Don. He was a large, shaggy man with unkempt hair and a big fuzzy beard. He wore flannel shirts and baggy pants held up with suspenders. He drove a cab for a living.
I didn’t know Don especially well. From outward appearances, one might almost have mistaken him for one of the homeless men who also frequented the neighborhood. But whatever else he may have been, he was a passionate lover of classical music. When the National Symphony Orchestra performed at the Kennedy Center, Don was almost always there with his mother, a little wisp of a lady who was as careful with her appearance as Don was careless with his. Somehow they had obtained season tickets front row center, right behind the podium. It was always a little jarring to see this incongruous pair making their way to their seats.
But not one of the fancy ladies and gentlemen who frequent the Kennedy Center exceeded Don’s passion for the music. Indeed, I doubt that more than a handful came close. Many were there to see and be seen. Don was there to enter another, better, world. And if a performance was good, no one showed appreciation more vociferously.
You might think a conductor of Rostropovich’s stature would ignore such an odd duck sitting behind him. But Slava, as he was known, was well aware of Don’s presence, and evidently appreciated the fervor with which Don embraced the music. Following one evening’s concert (and I regret I can’t tell you what was played), after acknowledging the applause of the audience, Slava stepped down from the podium and motioned to Don. He then leaned over the apron of the stage and gave Don his baton. I like to imagine this scene: for a brief instant, the elegant, sublimely gifted Rostropovich and the scruffy cab driver, each with a hand on one end of the baton, joined in that instant and forever by the passion that they shared.