After rehearsing a few weeks, Mr. Claxton asked if we were willing to donate our services to the Hospital for the insane, by playing a concert for the inmates on a certain Friday night and as the concerts at the Island were finished for the season we unanimously agreed to do this. I was asked to play a cornet solo, which I thought would give me a glorious chance to "spring" the first solo l had ever composed, arranging it for the orchestra during spare moments at the store, unbeknown to anyone. It had gone fairly well at the rehearsal, and being highly complimented for my efforts I began to feel a bit swelled up, the same as all young beginners when someone tells them they are "good."
I was greatly elated over my first venture and looked forward to the night of the concert as the time when I would show people that besides being a good player I was a composer as well. Well, the great night came. I felt in pretty good form, remembering that I had won the cup in a cornet contest at the band tournament in the previous May, and this thought gave me more courage to try again and not give way to foolish nerves and feel frightened to death. But all that changed when standing before those poor imbeciles at the Hospital.
The concert hall of the Institution was crowded with thousands of inmates, and I became almost paralyzed with fear. I could not collect my thoughts or myself, and fervently wished that the stage might sink or open to swallow me up. However, I managed to produce a few tones, and worried through my new solo with great suffering. When I had finished the applause was wonderfully vociferous, the demented ones in the audience making all sorts of demonstrations when allowed to. They did not know any better and evidently were having a good time with me. Anyway, it braced me up to play an encore, which was received in the same boisterous manner.
Naturally, I felt humiliated by such a performance and went home broken hearted. I sat up all that night wondering if it ever would be possible for me to play a solo the same as all the great soloists I had heard, without any apparent showing of that terrible nervousness. It was then I realized that to become a good soloist I must conquer self, never be self conscious, keeping my mind on what I was playing instead of what the audience might say or think if I missed a note or two.