By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Call it Oneonta’s “Next Top Conductor.”
Silus Nathanial Huff, Carolyn Watson and Maciej Żółtowski will each conduct one of three concerts in the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s search for their new conductor, following the retirement of Maestro Charles Schneider last year.
“Our search for the new conductor started last September,” Laurie Zimniewicz, search committee chair. “We had 73 local, national and international candidates apply. We narrowed it down to 12, then nine, then five and then three.”
Now, the Symphony is asking for audience help in choosing the next conductor.
This fall, the three finalists will each spend a week in Oneonta, meeting with the board, Symphony patrons, the SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College presidents, and the musicians, conducting four rehearsals ahead of each performance.
Then, each will conduct a concert, and, at the end, the audience will fill out an evaluation of each candidate.
Additionally, season ticket holders will be invited to a special pre-show cocktail hour and talk, where they will be able to speak to each conductor.
“The board will use feedback from the musicians and the audience in making our final decisions,” said Zimniewicz.
On Sept. 7, Huff, the musical director of the Astoria Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Pops Orchestra, among others, will conduct “The Firebird,” including Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Overture to Die Fledermaus,” Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in D Major, Op. 101,” Verdi’s “Overture to La Forza del Destino” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite, 1919”
On Saturday, Oct. 12, Watson, the director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Kansas, will conduct “The Elements,” featuring Jennifer Higdon’s “Fanfare Ritmico,” Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane for Orchestra,” Bach’s “Ciacona for Solo Violin, BVW 1004, no. 5,” Xavier Montsalvatge’s “Desintegracion Morfologica de la Chacona de J.S. Bach” and Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98”
And on Saturday, Nov. 16, Żółtowski will conduct “The Fairy Tale,” including Moniuszko’s “Concert Overture The Fairy Tale,” and Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 23” and “Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.”
Among the biggest assets the search committee is seeking is a dedication to outreach.
“All three of them were really impressed by the fact that we have this anonymous donor who gave money so that families with children can come to the symphony for free,” she said. “It’s so important that kids, especially in a rural area, have access to live performance, and the candidates see that they have a real opportunity to reach out to children.”
In addition to the college presidents, the candidates will meet with music faculty at both colleges to discuss outreach opportunities in the community and tour the other performance venues.
“We want them to get to know the region, including the Glimmerglass Festival and Foothills, so they can understand what the region is,” she said. “We see this as an opportunity to build something larger, and all of these candidates have had creative experiences with outreach, working with other organizations for fundraising and events.”
Following the three performances, the Catskill Symphony Orchestra will review all of the feedback and decide who will be the orchestra’s new conductor. “We hope to have a decision made by the end of November.”