Conductor dies on concert podium

March 11, 2012 at 12:27 PM
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LITTLETON, Colo., March 11 (UPI) -- The conductor of the Arapahoe Philharmonic orchestra in Littleton, Colo., died in the middle of a performance -- just the way he wanted to go, his wife said.

As a conductor of the orchestra made up of mostly volunteer musicians, Vincent C. LaGuardia Jr., 68, told his wife Tracy he wanted to die doing the thing he loved. Friday night he was halfway through Bach's "Toccata and Fugue," when he collapsed from a fatal heart attack onto the floor of Littleton's Mission Hills Church.

"It happened so fast. He always said that's the way he wanted to go," Tracy LaGuardia said tearfully Saturday. "He was amazing -- amazing."

LaGuardia traveled across the United States leading all-state orchestras and exposed his music students from Denver's Lamont School of Music to luminaries such as Doc Severinsen, Pearl Bailey and Louie Bellson, The Denver Post said Sunday.

His first big heart attack was in 1997 while he was conducting a girl's clarinet solo during a youth orchestra performance. He collapsed behind a curtain where Tracy and doctors from the audience responded.

"I think this might be it. I love you," he said at the time with a peaceful look on his face, his wife said. He lived another 15 years concluding his life onstage doing what he was passionate about.

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