News of Otsego County

Catskill Symphony Orchestra

CSO season to focus spotlight on different orchestra sections
The Catskill Symphony Orchestra will stage its first concert since before the coronavirus pandemic, with a show Saturday, Oct 23, at Foothills in Oneonta. (contributed)

CSO season to focus spotlight on different orchestra sections

By PATRICK DEWEY • Special to

The Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s new season will begin Saturday, Oct. 23, with a performance at the Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta.

In addition to being the CSO’s first performance since before the coronavirus pandemic began, the October date will also mark the first CSO performance with new Music Director Maciej Zoltowski.

The October concert will feature the string section performing works by Mozart, Bartok and Grieg.
The second CSO concert will take place Saturday, Nov. 20, at Foothills. The concert will feature the wind section performing a variety of works by Mozart, Strauss, and Dvorak.

Miller’s homecoming takes surprising turn with CSO
Cassandra Miller does publicity with the cast of ‘One Night in Miami’ at the Baltimore Center Stage, where she was the public relations manager of the professional theater and managed publicity for the East Coast premiere of the play, which is now a 2021 Golden Globe-winning film. (contributed)

Miller’s homecoming takes surprising turn with CSO

By PHOEBE SMITH • Special to

Oneonta native Cassandra Miller said she never imagined leading the Catskill Symphony Orchestra when she returned home two years ago, but now that she has officially been upgraded from interim to full-time executive director, she is excited about upcoming plans.

Miller, who had been in an interim role since March, spoke with AllOtsego not long after she shed the tag in July.

“(I hope to) bring my background and be able to open up the organization to new audiences,” she said.

Miller graduated from Boston University in 2006 with a degree in journalism.

Cooperstown & Around: August 5, 2021

Cooperstown & Around

August 5, 2021

State grants include Coop Concert Series

The Cooperstown Concert Series was awarded $10,000 through a state grant to support live music or theater performances. Other groups that got $10,000 include the Glimmerglass Festival, Chenango River Theatre, Franklin Stage Company and the Catskill Symphony Orchestra.

CAA invites artists to submit for ‘Fine Arts on the Lawn’

Artists are invited to participate in the Cooperstown Art Associations’ Fine Arts on the Lawn event Labor Day weekend in Cooperstown. Artists are allowed to display up to five works or apply for and maintain a 10′ x 10′ tent. Go to for more information.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Discuss Conservation With Audubon Society 04-24-21

Discuss Conservation

With Audubon Society


AUDUBON SOCIETY – 10 a.m. – Noon. Get your questions in Q&A session with the Delaware-Otsego Audubon society board members. Topics on everything from the society in general to birding to effects of lead ammunition. Presented as part of OCCA’s online Earth Festival. 607-547-4488 or visit

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Learn About ‘Beethoven In Love’ With Catskill Symphony Orchestra 02-27-21

Learn About ‘Beethoven In Love’

With Catskill Symphony Orchestra


BEETHOVEN CONVERSATIONS – 7 p.m. Tune in for musical soiree ‘Beethoven in Love – Songs and the Only Opera’ featuring pre-recorded presentation on Beethoven followed by live Q&A session with Maciej Żółtowski, Music Director, and Thomas Wolf, Executive Director. Q&A limited to 10 patrons. Please RSVP. Next conversation to be held 3/27 on ‘Beethoven Conspiracy – the Illuminati’. Presented by The Catskill Symphony Orchestra. E-mail to rsvp.’

First “Conversations With Beethoven” Episode Presented By The CSO


CSO Conductor Zooms 

First Of 9 Beethoven Talks

To continue serving classical music fans in time of COVID, The Catskill Symphony Orchestra took to Zoom Saturday night with a program featuring  Conductor Maciej Żółtowski in the first of a series of “Conversations with Beethoven.”  You can hear it at the “Catskill Symphony Orchestra CSO” YouTube channel.  In the first episode, Żółtowski discussed all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies – some with cited performances.  He presented anecdotes, including an alleged “tantrum” after Napoleon rose to power and the conspiracy around the unlucky ninth symphony that proved to be the last for many composers, Beethoven included. In the next episode, Żółtowski will delve deeper into the man behind the music, exploring the love-life of an unmarried Beethoven. The episode date and time to air is yet to be announced, however, the event will be followed by a Q&A zoom. For access to the zoom, email CSO Executive Director Thomas Wolf at Also, donations are welcome at or by mailing checks  to the Catskill Symphony Orchestra to P.O. Box 14, Oneonta, NY 13820.  (Chrystal Savage/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Presentation On Beethoven With Catskill Symphony Orchestra 01-23-21

Catskill Symphony Orchestra

Presents Q&A On Beethoven

14-19eventspageBEETHOVEN CONVERSATIONS – 7 p.m. Tune in for musical soiree ‘The Curse of Number Nine – Master of Symphony’ featuring pre-recorded presentation on Beethoven followed by live Q&A session with Maciej Żółtowski, Music Director, and Thomas Wolf, Executive Director. Q&A limited to 10 patrons. Please RSVP by 1/14. Next conversation to be held 2/27 on ‘Beethoven in Love – Songs and the Only Opera.’ Presented by The Catskill Symphony Orchestra. E-mail to rsvp.

Funeral For Maestro Charles Schneider To Be Streamed Online

CSO Conductor’s Funeral

Will Be Streamed Online

Maestro Charles Schneider

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.

Music Man: Remembering Chuck Schneider

Oneonta’s Music Man:

Remembering Chuck Schneider

Laughter characterized Chuck Schneider, even at his retirement interview in 2018 after 45 years with the CSO. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

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.”

IN MEMORIAM: Maestro Charles Schneider, Catskill Symphony Music Director


Maestro Charles Schneider,

CSO’s Founding Conductor

Charles Schneider

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.”

Catskill Symphony Orchestra Plans Online Concert

Catskill Symphony’s Sounds

To Be Heard Online Sept. 12


ONEONTA – Maciej Żółtowski, the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor, will pick up the baton in a live Internet concert on Sept. 12, the CSO announced this morning.

The concert will feature a string ensemble from the CSO, playing the music of Pachelbel, Mozart, Grieg and Bartòk. Subscribers will receive information on how to join the event over email.

CSO Gets $19K To Pay Musicians For Missed Concert

CSO Gets $19K

To Pay Musicians

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Thomas Wolf, executive director, Catskill Symphony Orchestra, was not going to let his musicians lose out on a paycheck.

“Two days before the Cabaret Concert, the musicians had the rug pulled out from under us,” he said. “Many of our musicians are freelance, and they rely on this.”

The annual Cabaret Concert, the orchestra’s largest fundraiser, was scheduled for Saturday March 14, but cancelled when SUNY announced that they would be closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Symphony Cabaret, Basketball Playoffs Cancelled


Symphony Cabaret,

Playoffs Cancelled

Send Cancellation Notices To

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

CDC images of coronavirus

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.”

Soon, Sounds Of Beethoven, Mozart, More Zoltowski Here For Cabaret, But Looking Toward Future

Soon, Sounds

Of Beethoven,

Mozart, More

Zoltowski Here For Cabaret,

But Looking Toward Future

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

CSO conductor Maciej Zoltowski explores Oneonta. He is in town for his first Cabaret Concert this weekend at the Dewar Arena. (Ian Austin/

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.”

Maciej Zoltowski conducts the CSO during his tryout in December.

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.”

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