If you were approached by a balding man with a little broom of a moustache and round glasses, you might be inclined to hand him a big black brush, and say, “Sweep my chimney, guvnah?” If I were approached by such a man, I would give him a hug, because standing in front of me would be Kory Katseanes, and as every alumnus of the BYU Philharmonic knows, he happens to be one of the coolest guys any of us will ever meet. Unlike most conductors, there is not even a hint of megalomania in Kory. You call him “Kory,” not “Maestro.” He knows everyone in his orchestra by name—not only those in the first two stands, which is most often the case. He encourages us to be better, and we get the sense that it’s because otherwise, we’d be doing a disservice to the composer, and it would hurt Kory’s feelings. His quotes were legendary:
“Seconds violins, you’re acting like the world’s best lettuce. Be the meat!”
“If you’re going to sin, sin in tempo.”
“There’s a difference between passion and commitment. You guys have been on enough first dates to know that.”
And voted the favorite quote (during our run of Shostakovich No. 5, to Nate Watson, our timpanist), “Back to your battle station, Nate! Darth Vader's comin', baby!”
Yes, Kory was a lot of fun. True, he fed us with coconut macaroons, mint brownies, and BYU Sparkle (the Mormon-approved champagne alternative) at the end of the semester. Yes, I did fall a little more in love with him each day when the point came in every rehearsal for him to get serious, taking off his golf sweater and mussing his fluffs of hair in the process (He would smooth the sides, but there was always an unruly tuft in the back). Those aren’t the real reasons we loved Kory, though.
To know Kory was to love him because to know Kory was to be loved by him. He cared about us as a group, but also as individuals. I think for any of us, he was more than a teacher: a mentor, a father-figure, an inspiration, and a friend.