November 5, 2011

Alex Trebek’s Debut Directing a Symphony Orchestra




     Answer: Greenville, Pennsylvania

Question: Where did Alex Trebek conduct his first symphony orchestra?

     Answer: November 5, 1994

Question: When did Alex Trebek debut as a symphony orchestra conductor?

     Answer: The overture to Gioacchino Rossini’s Cinderella.

Question: What was the name of the piece Alex Trebek conducted at the Greenville Symphony Orchestra?

     Answer: Carolyn C. Holland

Question: What was the name of the Meadville Tribune freelance writer who covered the November 5, 1994, Greenville Symphony Orchestra?


     If you read all the answers and questions then you know what this post is about. Yes, I was the Meadville Tribune freelance writer who covered the Greenville Symphony Orchestra when Alex Trebek filled the role of conductor for Gioacchino Rossini’s Cinderella.

     My husband and I were living in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, at the time. I worked as a freelance writer for both the Greenville Record Argus and the Meadville Tribune.

     Because the symphony orchestra was located in Greenville, the Record Argus had a full time staff member covering the event. However, I approached the editor of the Meadville newspaper and received the go-ahead to cover it for them. It was the first time I covered a celebrity for an article.

     It was seventeen years ago today. I had the opportunity to be at a public appearance on Friday evening and to sit in on the Saturday rehearsal.

     I recall sitting next to Alex Trebek during the rehearsal. Not much was said—I didn’t want to act like a star-struck teenager. We sat quietly watching the goings-on.     


     It all began in May 1993, when Alex Trebek commented that he had a dream to be a conductor. I believe it was seven orchestras across the country that invited him to be a guest conductor. He accepted Greenville’s invitation to debut in that role for their first 66th year concert.

     Taking photographs during the performance was forbidden—except for me. However, I didn’t handle the camera very well so I didn’t get good photographs. I was able to go backstage where I managed a decent photograph. I wanted to ask Alex Trebek someone could take a photograph of me with him, but bowed out of that, feeling it would not be professional.

     I did have the opportunity to ask Alex Trebek questions—however, I cannot locate the article I wrote. I’ll have to wing it.

     Alex Trebek was dressed in a bow tie and white tails as he conducted Gioacchino Rossini’s Cinderella. He opted to conduct without a baton, saying that the right to use one is like getting money the old-fashioned way: You earn it.

     After his debut, he narrated Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

     It was a great evening for the 1,600 persons who attended the event.

     Greenville is a small town in Pennsylvania’s Mercer County, seventy miles north of Pittsburgh. It is home to seven thousand, and it is the home of Thiel College.  


     Roll forward. Seventeen years later. Western Pennsylvania native, Kara Spak, who now lives in Chicago, appears on Jeopardy. Her mother, Marie Colver of Mt. Lebanon was in the audience. The answer given on the show was meant to yield the quetion What is a love triangle? Instead Spak asked What is a threesome?

     She lost her $600 and some of her dignity. She said it was probably the raciest thing she’s ever said.*


*Racy ‘Jeopardy!’ answer lands on YouTube ( http//youtube/iXQAkcJDxiQ ), Greensburg Tribune-Review, November 5, 2011, B6



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  1. I was watching the show when Ms. Spak called a love triangle a
    “threesome!” Quite a laugh!

    Comment by Joan — November 8, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  2. LOL – I lived in Greenville, PA at the time Alex Trebek came to conduct the GSO. In fact, I was a member of the orchestra – a ‘cellist. The whole weekend was a great time for not only the GSO, but the Shenango Theater which also benefited from Alex’s trip to western PA. One funny moment come during the Friday evening orchestra rehearsal. After Alex was introduced to the orchestra, he stepped up on the rehearsal podium, looked over the orchestra and said, “I promise to stay out of your way, if you’ll stay out of mine.” He admitted that he did not read music, but that he had spent a great deal of time listening to the music and had consulted with Dr. Chenevey (the orchestra’s conductor) about the best approach to directing us. Rossini’s Cinderella is a fairly simple overture, structurally, that is. It was a good choice for an amateur conductor. However, typical of Rossini, there’s always some surprise in the music. In this case, during the introduction, there is a G.P. (Grand Pause), a moment in the music when the entire orchestra just stops playing and waits for the conductor to restart. But Alex did not know how to get us started again. It was a LOL moment for everyone. Mr. Trebek was highly professional, and very personable. The whole weekend I consider to be one the highlights of my music career, one which I cherish.

    Comment by Stephen Egidio — May 18, 2012 @ 12:46 am | Reply

    • Thanks muchly for your great comment and addition to this post. I freelanced for the Greensburg paper during the five years I lived in Jamestown, 1990-1995, and for a couple of years after I moved. It was a great experience, and doing the story on Alex Trebek (for the Meadville Tribune—Greensburg already had someone on staff doing the story) and for me, too, it was a highlight. Again, thanks for your comment.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — May 18, 2012 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

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