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Overland Park Civic Band conductor passes baton after four decades

"I can only hope to be half as good as Cletson Cox was"
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Posted at 10:57 PM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-10 23:57:43-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When Cletson Cox graduated college and began his musical career, one professor’s advice became prophetic.

"He said, 'You know, there’s a really good band there in Overland Park. You might be able to play there someday,'" Cox said.

On the eve of Sunday, July 10, a crowd gathered at the Indian Creek Reservation Center. When the Overland Park Civic Band took the stage, only a select few in attendance knew that after 40 years in the band, the last 13 as conductor, Cox was taking part in his last concert.

"I’m 75 years old," Cox said. "When I took the band over, that’s what I told my wife — I’ll conduct this until I’m 75."

A well-deserved retirement was emotional for his assistant director, Andrew Yates.

"Oh, it’s just been a privilege working for this gentleman," Yates said.

Cox joked the title of the last piece he conducted was fittingly named "23 Skidoo" as he's "the one skidooing." But as he passes the baton, he has advice for his friend.

"I know one time he (Yates) said, 'Aren’t you a little rough on the band?'," Cox said. "And I told him, 'You’re not here for popularity, you’re here to make good music.'"

And to keep the music playing, Yates knows he has expectations to uphold.

"They demand excellence from the podium, they have had it for a long time, and I can only hope to be half as good as Cletson Cox was," Yates said.