By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Within four days of his arrival, Maciej Zoltowski, the musical director designee for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, had already made himself at home in Oneonta.
“I take a walk every morning,” he said. “I love the area already, it’s very beautiful and relaxing. I attended the wind concert at Hartwick College the first night I was here; I didn’t want to miss any opportunity to see local music and meet with people.”
Maciej, the former managing and artistic director of the Radom Chamber Orchestra in Poland, arrived in Oneonta on Thursday, March 5, a week ahead of his official debut at the CSO’s annual Cabaret Concert.
“We’re opening the concert with an overture by Johann Strauss, then three of the ‘Slavonic Dances’ by Antonin Dvorak,” he said. “Everyone knows these tunes, but they’re very challenging for the orchestra.”
The cabaret will also feature America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer winner Mandy Harvey, who will perform jazz standards, as well as her own songs. “It is music from the 30s through the 50s,” he said. “Back when songs had lyrics and a melody! I watched her appearance on America’s Got Talent and she is really something.”
The concert will also include the annual Guest Conductor Competition, where are June Sheehan, retired OHS music teacher and organist at St. James Episcopal Church, Jimmy Hamm, Soxedo general manager at SUNY Oneonta, and Michael Walling, Community Bank senior district manager & vice president, Oneonta, will vie to conduct “Stars And Stripes Forever” at the show’s conclusion.
Maciej, a native of Warsaw, studied violin as a young man, and began directing the choir at the F. Chopin Academy of Music, where he graduated in 1997 with degrees in violin, composing and conducting.
While conducting on a Hungarian TV competition, he caught the eye of judge Yuri Simonov, who invited him to attend master classes. He has conducted the National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio and was the artistic director of the Cyprus State Orchestra.
Arriving from Warsaw for two weeks in Oneonta, Maciej is staying for now at SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris’ guest house. “I plan to be here for six weeks in the spring and six weeks in the fall,” he said.
And even in a week, he has already begun to put together the 2020-21 season. On Oct. 10, the symphony will join the world in celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a concert featuring pianist Sara Daneshpour, who took third place in the 2017 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, playing his “Piano Concerto No. 1.”
In November, the CSO will present the one-act chamber opera, “Mozart and Salieri,” with singers from the Yale School of Music. “I’ve never conducted it before,” he said. “And in the second half, the audience will have a chance to compare, as we’ll play a piece by Salieri and one by Mozart.”
A Cabaret in April 2021 will close out the season and Polish-American pianist Adam Wodnicki as the special guest.
In addition to the symphony’s four concerts, he has begun planning a fifth concert, specifically geared for families. “It’s another way of extending the orchestra,” he said. “We want to do a matinee of the music of fairy tales. Right now, we’re just looking for sponsors!”
He has also begun working with the colleges to increase the turnout of students and young people at the symphony.
“One of the ideas we have is to have a competition among the music departments and the winner would get to play a concerto with the symphony,” he said. “But we don’t just want to see music majors at our concerts. Some of the people who are most interested in musical arts are the ones majoring in math, physics, not necessarily the humanities. They like going to concerts!”
And he wants to get the word out about the pre-concert talks by speaking on the campus. “The concerts are accessible, but sometimes, people need an introduction,” he said. “We take it for granted that people know who Mozart is.”