The Bangor Symphony Orchestra was just a community orchestra in 1957 when pharmacist Bernard “Billy” Miller was asked to play the triangle. It has developed over the decades into a professional orchestra.



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In 1957, a pharmacist known as Billy Miller had just moved to Bangor, Maine, when he received a call from an old friend.

BILLY MILLER: He said, there’s a triangular part in an upcoming symphony concert in September. Would you like to play it? And I said, of course. Why not?

CHANG: That triangular part led to another gig, then another, adding up to 65 years as a percussionist with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine.

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

It was just a community orchestra in 1957. Miller says a lot has changed.

MILLER: We’ve only gotten better year after year. Each time we have a new conductor, he takes us to another level.

ESTRIN: Miller has now worked with seven conductors at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. Today, it’s a professional ensemble under the direction of Grammy Award-winning music director Lucas Richman.

CHANG: Miller also helped the orchestra by raising funds and managing staff and even serving on the board, while managing his family pharmacy. Today, the BSO’s main percussion chair is endowed in his honor.

MILLER: I fooled everyone. They think I’m awesome. They think when I hit a simple crash cymbal it’s great, or a triangle beat. But I proved this weekend that I was not perfect.

ESTRIN: Well, what happened last weekend? Miller played his final performance with the orchestra. But when he came to give his farewell speech, he made a confession.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MILLER: I have to tell you the truth. Right now I have a situation where I couldn’t find my suspenders.

(LAUGH)

MILLER: If you notice, my right hand is holding my pants.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We love you, wardrobe malfunctions and all.

CHANG: Billy Miller retired from pharmacy 10 years ago, and he’s 87 now. But he has no intention of stopping playing music. He says it’s like ice cream.

MILLER: I want more (laughs), more ice cream. I never had enough ice cream in my life. do you have

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGOR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF HALL’S “GREETING TO BANGOR”)

ESTRIN: This is “Greeting To Bangor” by composer RB Hall, performed by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra last weekend. And it’s Billy Miller hitting Bangor on the bass drum.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGOR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF HALL’S “GREETING TO BANGOR”)

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