The former conductor finds his rhythm in football | News

Not for long, however.

These days he plays football with as much enthusiasm as he puts on music.

“The rule we have is that everyone has to go back to work,” said the retired conductor of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra, who conducted it for 20 years. “So no one gets tripped.”

As he spoke, he sat next to a rubber-floored basketball court at the YMCA of the Northwest, where he plays soccer two or three times a week. As he took a short break, his friends who looked to be in their 20s and 70s moved and kicked the ball with varying levels of expertise, trying to throw it into small goals scored at either end of the pitch.

Atherton, by the way, is now 72 years old, although he doesn’t look like an older version of himself, despite his salt and pepper hair. Having lost 40 to 50 pounds since his days as a conductor, he’s downright balanced.

The other players that day were Bob Fritz, Matt Hearn, Tim Lunsford, Brett Stohl, Maciej Mikolajczyk and Raul Prieto Ramirez, the last young member of Ball State University’s music department who a day or two before had captivated Atherton. with an organ concert at Sursa Hall.

Now the football-mad Barcelona native captivated him again with his elegant and effortless movements to fly and pass the ball.

“He’s playful,” observed one person from Ramirez, who grinned broadly as he played.

For Atherton, who taught conducting at BSU for a long time, his love of music struck early on. First organist, at 22 he was the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia, but his love of football also came very early.

Born in the London suburb of Harrow, he played football as a child, just as children here play baseball.

“Almost everyone who grew up in England kicks the ball,” he said.

He later played football in the English equivalent of high school, then went to the University of Oxford, where he competed for his college team, the Centaurs, suffering from an injury during his second year. To this day, he remains a fan of his pro team at home, as evidenced by the garish red, yellow and blue scarf he wrapped around his neck as he stepped out of the gym, one emblazoned with the team’s name. of his dreams, Arsenal.

Before leaving, however, he mingled with his friends amid the squeaking of football boots and sneakers. There were jokes there, and silent cheers, heavy breathing and “Ugh!” occasional! when a brutally hit soccer ball ricocheted off the tender part of someone’s body.

When a kick with a ball nailed Hearn in the fingers, he shouted, earning the immediate sympathy of Leonard, who noted that when he first met the owner of the computer company, he was a trumpeter. .

How do you form this team?

“Whoever shows up,” Atherton said, most often noting that no one keeps track of the score.

However, they do get a workout, which is important for the former MSO conductor, who earlier in life endured the debilitating effects, especially on the heart, of sleep apnea. He now has it under control and has said his football training is beneficial.

“It increases your energy level,” he said, adding that physically, “It involves everything.… It definitely helps.”

So, is there anything in football that correlates with conducting an orchestra?

“Just being aware of what everyone else is doing,” said Atherton, whose leadership has taken him and his wife, Susan, to large parts of the world. “And trust your players.”

Friendships and training aside, something else he said about his benefits marked him as a true fan of the game.

“When you hit that ball,” he said, “the right speed, the right curve, the right distance is like putting the right piece in the puzzle. “

Plus, parts of his playing actually improved, he said, jokingly attributing it to all the footwork required of organ players.

“My left foot seems to be a lot more efficient than before,” Atherton said with a smile.

About Roy B. Westling

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