BANNER ELK, N.C. — Lees-McRae Summer Theatre is honored to have among its cast and crew renowned conductor John Clanton as the music director for Show Boat opening today in Hayes Auditorium.
Retired from the U.S. Army as Lieutenant Colonel, Clanton conducted some of the military’s finest musical ensembles, including the U.S. Army Orchestra and U.S. Army Chorus. In his career, he has also conducted the National, Tuscaloosa, Annapolis, San Francisco, Grant Park, Naples, Detroit, Ravinia Festival, Cincinnati Pops and London Symphony Orchestras and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Clanton is a graduate of Furman University and the Eastman School of Music.
In a long and distinguished 25-year career with the U.S. Army, Clanton recalls three experiences as the greatest accomplishments of his career; Clanton conducted the state funerals of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and the White House State Dinner for Queen Elizabeth II in 2007.
“Those are the three that topped it. It’s not just the music that makes it special, but the people for whom you perform,” said Clanton. “I was there in the middle of history. It is unbelievable to look out at the crowd and see the heads of state. There I was in front of them conducting the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.”
Clanton heard about Lees-McRae Summer Theatre from longtime friend, Laura Carringer, a seven-season performer for Lees-McRae Summer Theatre (LMST). “Our fathers were both Army chaplains. We’ve been friends since junior high,” Clanton said of Carringer. “She talked to Janet [Speer] and suggested me. I did some research and asked some friends about Lees-McRae, and they all said you should do this. It all came out of the blue, but it was meant to be,” Clanton said.
After Summer Theatre concludes, Clanton will teach a semester at the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va. “I’m booked through December. After that, I don’t know. I spent the first half of my life completely structured, and the other half may be completely unstructured.”
As for returning to Lees-McRae Summer Theatre, Clanton said, “I’d love to come back. This is a very different experience from the Army, but it’s all music. The energy and enthusiasm has been wonderful.”
Show Boat begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Aug. 5. For tickets, visit www.lmst.lmc.edu or call the box office at 828-898-8709.