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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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For Barbara Kane, conducting pops orchestra is fulfillment of a dream

Barbara Kane

Last year when Barbara Kane told her colleagues at Mary Washington Hospital that she would be retiring as chief nursing officer, they asked about her plans.

“The first thing on my bucket list is I’d like to lead an orchestra,” she replied.

Kane, 72, took piano lessons in the sixth grade and sang in her high school chorus in Cleveland. She can read music and enjoys it as much as anyone. But for the last 52 years, her life and work has been nursing. She’s not a musician.

Even so, the program for next week’s Memorial Day concert by the Rappahannock Pops Orchestra contains this listing: “Guest conductor-Barbara Kane.”

As soon as Kane’s colleagues learned of her wish, they got word to Kirk Wilke, orchestra director. Wilke liked the idea, so Kane will conduct the orchestra for one song, “God Bless America,” the Irving Berlin classic. But Wilke also insisted, “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right. Let’s give her some lessons.”

So Kane has worked with Wilke since January to learn the basics of conducting. They practiced the proper way to stand, how to hold one’s arms, what to do with the hands and the best grip for the baton.

“The first time I felt like a statue with a mallet,” she said.

Kane also bought books on conducting and watched an instructional tape of the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein. At home, she listened over and over to Berlin’s song, leading an imaginary orchestra arrayed in her living room.

Kirk Wilke will lead the Pops orchestra for its Memorial Day concert. Photo by Mike Morones.

So on Monday night, about midway through the program, Wilke will step aside and Kane will climb the podium. She’ll look to the 60 musicians and 40 chorus members, raise her arms to cue them, and lower the baton to start.

Kane’s husband, Lee, and her daughters, Laura and Marribeth, will be in the audience. Her nursing colleagues, the ones who asked about her dreams, will be there as well.

Said Kane, “They made a lifetime memory.”

(The Rappahannock Pops’ annual Memorial Day concert will be held on Monday, May 28, at 6 p.m. The concert will be held outdoors at the Ambulatory Services Center building at Mary Washington Hospital. The concert is free. Bring a lawn chair. The Pops’ website is here. For more on Kane and the Pops, see the story soon in the paper.)