ONEONTA – The funeral services for Maestro Charles Schneider, the longtime music director of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, will be streamed online from the New Hartford Presbyterian Church at 1 p.m. this afternoon, according to an email sent out by the CSO.
Schneider died Friday, Oct. 9, at age 84, at his Frankfort home.
Tom Morgan, Janet Nepkie, Carlton Clay and Rayna Schneider will be among those who give words of tribute, and The Rev. Dr. Sue Wriggle will give the homily.
ONEONTA – In 1973, as the first performance of the newly dubbed Catskill Symphony Orchestra
under conductor Charles Schneider ended, the room was silent.
“The audience was so stunned they didn’t applaud for about 20 seconds,” said Schneider’s friend Carlton Clay, SUNY Oneonta music professor and trumpet player with the CSO and other orchestras. “Then they jumped to their feet and clapped. It was quite a moment.”
Schneider, went on to conduct the CSO for 45 years.
He died Friday, Oct. 9, at age 84, at his Frankfort home.
A Minnesota native, Schneider was a graduate of Cornell College of Iowa, then studied piano at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
Initially, he made a name for himself on Broadway as a musicals man, conducting two tours of “West Side Story,” including one with a then-unknown Christopher Walken, and a six-month engagement of the show at Lincoln Center.
“He was one of Leonard Bernstein’s favorite conductors,” said Tom Morgan, Franklin, a longtime CSO board member and president.
Schneider went on to conduct “Mame” and “Your Own Thing” on Broadway, plus Jimmy Durante’s Christmas Special. And he had a stint with the Ice Capades.
In 1972, Clay and his wife, Julia, a French horn player, were at the Aspen Music Festival, and in addition to playing, had been tasked with looking for a conductor.
“It took about five minutes to realize that Chuck was at the top of the list,” he said. “We made him the offer, but he had just signed on for an eight-month tour of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ with Chita Rivera.”
The symphony hired another conductor, but 10 months later, Schneider called back and asked if
the job was still available. It was.
For the 1973 inaugural season’s debut, Schneider invited his old roommate, Dustin Hoffman, to narrate “The Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra.”
“Dustin brought his family up to stay with us, but they got lost in the Catskills driving up,” said Clay. “He made it just in time for their one rehearsal!”
Of the 600 tickets – $5 each – available to that first show, 200 were sold. “A lot of people didn’t think Dustin Hoffman would show,” said Clay. “But attendance was better than it usually was.”
Even with a small audience, the show was a smash hit, and critic Robert Moynihan, Town of Middlefield, the retired SUNY English professor, wrote a review of the show, calling it, “An Orchestra to Be Proud Of.”
Schneider and Clay went on to co-found the Catskill Conservatory, bringing young performers to the area to play and teach, and was the founding musical director of the Glimmerglass Festival.
In addition to the CSO, Schneider was the conductor for the Schenectady, Utica and Clinton symphonies.
He was a four-time recipient of the ASCAP Award for Creative Programming & Performance Excellence and received the Governor’s Award for Musical Excellence, as well as a Congressional Citation of Musical Excellence.
“Musicians and soloists loved him, but on the board, he was very practical,” said Morgan. “If our budgets were tight, he would put himself in as a soloist to save money. He was willing to drive the van, help set up chairs, he would do anything required to make sure the symphony could perform.”
Turning 80, Schneider retired from the symphony in 2018, but continued to attend the concerts,
including the conductor search series.
He is survived by his wife, Rayna, son Dana Schneider (partner Sarah Feliu), daughter Megan Schneider (Ahmad Ajakh), and stepson Paul Baker (Kristie); seven grandchildren; sister Marian Knutson (Ronald)
and many nieces and nephews.
“Chuck was the most hard-working, kind, loving, generous person I have ever known,” wrote his stepson, Paul Baker, in a tribute. “To have been shaped by his love and example is the single biggest privilege I have experienced.”
“Chuck was a wonderful man in so many ways. His humility in accepting accolades, his pride in his orchestra’s musicians, his caring about their families,” wrote his wife, Rayna. “But above all, his joy in his family was paramount. He was a loving, giving husband, father, brother, and grandfather. He was simply one of the best people who ever walked this earth.”
The Clays continued to see Schneider socially, including a few weeks before he died. “He was cracking jokes, he played piano for us,” he said. “He was his full, ebullient self.”
“He’s the best friend I ever had,” he continued. “Or expect to have in this life.”
ONEONTA – Charles Schneider, the music director for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra for more than four decades, has died, according to a statement issued by the CSO.
“The Governing Board of Catskill Symphony Orchestra acknowledges with deep sadness the passing of beloved Maestro Charles Schneider, who was, for forty-five years, Music Director of Catskill Symphony Orchestra,” they wrote in an email sent to subscribers this morning. “His gentlemanly ways, beautiful sense of humor and ability to make everyone feel completely at ease will always live in our hearts. And never to be forgotten are the beautiful concerts that illuminated not only his beloved Catskill Mountains, but our personal lives as well. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and all those who knew him.”
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ONEONTA – Citing the fears about Coronavirus and taking a lead from other organizations around the state, the Catskill Symphony Orchestra just announced that they are canceling their annual Cabaret, scheduled for Saturday, March 14.
“We need to pause and see what happens in our area with the virus,” said Diane Williams, CSO chair, in an email. “At this time, we have no plans to reschedule it.”
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.”
Above, members of Eight is Eneuf sing “Prayer for Peace”, written by Robin Eletsky, Milford, in it’s first public performance at Temple Beth El in Oneonta this afternoon during the Music From Around The World concert to celebrate our shared humanity. Musical guests included Rabbi George Hirschfeld, Ana Laura Gonzalez, Stan Fox and Andy Puritz. Among the audience was Maciej Żółtowski, newly chosen conductor of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, seen at right, applauding alongside Laurie Zimniewicz, Oneonta. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HEART WALK – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Support American Heart Association at 4th annual indoor Heat Walk & Health Fair featuring vendors, fitness classes, fun for the whole family. Cost, $30/person. FoxCare Center, 1 FoxCare Dr., Oneonta. 607-431-5009 or visit www.facebook.com/FoxCareCenter/
ONEONTA – The Catskill Symphony Orchestra today announced three prominent Oneonta community members will compete in the annual Guest Conductor Contest at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena.
ONEONTA – In the end, The Catskill Symphony Orchestra chose Maciej Zoltowski.
“In advance of the first rehearsal, Maciej asked for a roster and he studied it,” said Diane Williams, CSO board chair. “One musician told me that pleased him so much that Maciej knew his name when he called on him.”
The selection of Maciej, the former managing and artistic director of the Radom Chamber Orchestra in Poland, as the orchestra’s music director designee comes at the end of a two-year conductor search, following the retirement of maestro Charles Schneider.
“Chuck conducted for 45 years,” said Williams. “It’s been very different for the orchestra, having three conductors this season, but we felt that Maciej was the best fit. We believe he will transition beautifully and bring his own essence to the symphony.”
In November, Maciej conducted “The Fairy Tale,” the third and final in the conductor search series. Finalists Silas Huff conducting “The Firebird” in September and Carolyn Watson, “The Elements” in October.
The three finalists were whittled down from 73 applicants and six semi-finalists, then the search committee took surveys from both the musicians and the audience.
“The audience liked all of the conductors,” said Williams. “And what we really wanted to know is if they enjoyed the concert and if they would be interested in attending the next season. But the audience did not have one negative thing to say about any of the candidates.”
But weighing more heavily was the survey of the musicians. “Maciej was a very strong candidate not just musically, but the way he was able to work with the orchestra in such a short period of time,” said Williams. “He has a broad experience, and really was the best fit.”
“We think Maciej has a great vision for growing the orchestra in style and skill,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, chair of the search committee. “The musicians had great things to say about all three conductor finalists, but they strongly supported Maciej.”
Four musicians sat on the search committee, who was tasked with compiling both sets of surveys and delivering a list of strengths and weaknesses to the board, who made the final decision.
In addition to the surveys, the candidates were introduced to members of the community, including presidents Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta and the Glimmerglass Festival, as well as asked to put together a budget for their concert season. “The symphony has to remain strong financially or there won’t be a symphony,” said Williams. “Maciej came in at or under budget.”
Maciej will still need to get a visa before he can officially get the job; until then, he is the designee. He will make his first formal appearance at the CSO’s annual Cabaret Concert on Saturday, March 14, which will also feature the annual Guest Conductor Competition and a performance by Mandy Harvey, a deaf jazz singer who finished fourth on “America’s Got Talent” in 2017.
“He is already excited and has started working with Thomas Wolfe to put things in place for that concert,” said Williams. “He hasn’t selected his pieces yet, but he’ll also be working with Mandy to help pick her pieces.”
“I’m happy we’ve come to the conclusion,” said Williams. “We’re so fortunate that things worked out so well.”
ONEONTA – Maciej Żółtowski, the former managing and artistic director of the Radom Chamber Orchestra in Poland, has been named the Music Director designee of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, search committee chair Laurie Zimniewicz announced.
“We think Maciej has a great vision for growing the orchestra in style and skill,” said Zimniewicz. “The musicians had great things to say about all three conductor finalists, but they strongly supported Maciej.”
In addition to Żółtowski, finalists Silas Huff and Carolyn Watson each conducted a concert; Huff conducted “The Firebird” in September and Watson conducted “The Elements” in October.
Żółtowski will make his debut as the music director at the annual Cabaret Concert on Saturday, March 14.