News of Otsego County

Catskill Symphony Orchestra

3rd CSO Candidate Slips On Ice, Dislocates Elbow

Żółtowski To Conduct With Left Hand

3rd CSO Candidate Slips

On Ice, Dislocates Elbow

Maciej Żółtowski leads the Catskill Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal earlier this week. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – The show must go on.

Walking back from his interview with the Catskill Symphony Orchestra board, Maciej Żółtowski, the final of the three contenders for the music director of the CSO, slipped on the ice on the SUNY Oneonta campus and dislocated his right elbow, according to Laurie Zimniewicz, chair of the search committee.

An EMT assisted Żółtowski back to the Red Dragon Building, and an ambulance was called.

Trying to assist Żółtowski, CSO Executive Director  Thomas Wolfe fell on the stairs and dislocated his right shoulder, Zimniewicz said. A second ambulance was called and both were treated at the Fox Hospital emergency room.

CSO Prospect To Focus On Tchaikovsky Works


CSO Prospect To Focus

On Tchaikovsky Works

Maciej Zółtowski rehearses with the Catskill Symphony Orchestra. (Ian Austin/

Editor’s Note:  Maciej Żółtowski, the third candidate to become the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s next conductor, will perform at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 16, at SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom.  Tickets at door or via  This article appears in this week’s Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands now.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – For Maciej Żółtowski, conducting is a kind of enchantment.

“It is similar to magic,” he said. “You get up there, you wave your stick and music comes out!”

Appropriate, then, that Żółtowski, the former managing and artistic director of the Radom Chamber Orchestra in Poland, will be conducting Stanisław Moniuszko’s “Concert Overture: The Fairy Tale,” as part of the third and final entry in the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor Search concert on Saturday, Nov. 16.

The piece, he said, is close to his heart.

With Percussion Heavy ‘Fanfare’, Conductor Watson Leads CSO


Standing Ovation Salutes

2nd Candidate’s Concert

Dr. Carolyn Watson, the second guest conductor hopeful for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, took to the stage tonight in the Hunt Union Ballroom. Here she conducts Jennifer Higdon’s “Fanfare Ritmico.”  The first candidate, Silas Huff, performed in September; the third conductor, Maciej Żółtowski, will conduct the third concert at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16.   The next conductor will direct the CSO’s Cabaret concert next March.   (Ian Austin/
2nd Conductor’s Concert Uses Spinoffs From Bach


2nd Conductor’s Concert

Uses Spinoffs From Bach

Australian-born Carolyn Watson, now at the University of Kansas, directs the Catskill Symphony Orchestra through a rehearsal earlier this week in anticipation of Saturday’s concert. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Carolyn Watson during an interview.

ONEONTA – Carolyn Watson knows that among conductors, it’s a small world.

“My conducting professor at the University of Sydney was Imre Palló,” she said. “He was the music director of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, so when I saw the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, I wondered if it was near where he used to be. And it was!”

Watson, the second of the three finalists seeking appointment as Catskill Symphony Orchestra conductor, is planning a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in SUNY’s Hunt Union Ballroom that includes spinoffs from J.S.  Bach’s “Ciacona for Solo Violin, BVW 1004, no. 5,” with Michael Emery, CSO concertmaster, playing the violin solo.

Xavier Montsalvatge’s “Desintegracion Morfologica de la Chacona de J.S. Bach”, for example, is a breakdown of the Bach piece, while Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98,” utilizes elements of Bach’s “Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich BWV 150.”

“The elements of a piece are rhythm, melody and form,” she explained. “Each of these pieces highlight that, and the form puts everything together.”

The concert is entitled “The Elements,” and includes Jennifer Higdon’s “Fanfare Ritmico” and Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane for Orchestra.”

“I hope this appeals to the orchestra and the audience,” Watson said in an interview. “I’m guessing the Fanfare and the Montsalvatge will be much less familiar – it’s easy to trot out the same works that audiences like hearing, but I wanted to bring in some variety. It shows the kind of conductor I would be.”

She also chose the Higdon piece to highlight female composers. “I looked through the last several years of programs and they were all male composers,” she said.

Growing up just outside of Sydney, Australia, both Watson and her brother, Matthew, played violin from a very young age. “My mother played a little piano, but she always wanted to play the violin and wasn’t able,” she said. “So she would play us all these records, like Tchaikovsky.”

Matthew now plays for the BBC orchestra. “I came into conducting by accident,” she said. “I was teaching in Sydney, and more often than not, I found myself in front of groups of students.”

Interested to learn more about conducting, she enrolled at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen, Colo., in 2007. “It really opened my eyes,” she said. “I quit teaching, and freelanced around Europe for a few years.”

She conducted the Brandenburg Symphony, the BBC Concert Orchestra, The St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic and others before moving to the United States in 2013 to teach at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. She has also conducted the Lyric Opera in Kansas City, the Austin Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony and the Detroit symphony Civic Orchestra.

“I like being the center of attention!” she joked. “But really, I enjoy the artistic responsibility. I love the rehearsal process, and I like working with people.”

“There’s so much more to conducting than just gestures,” she continued. “It’s about feeling the vibe in the room, the subtle, non-verbal communication. The orchestra is able to read things from me.”

Now University of Kansas’ director of Orchestral Studies, she has returned to her educational background, coordinating interdisciplinary programs across campus.

“I just did a production with the campus counseling and psychiatric services to promote mental health,” she said. “The program included pieces by Robert Schumann and Bohuslav Jan Martinů, who both famously struggled with mental health issues.”

She hopes that, if chosen as the CSO’s musical director, she can continue similar programs in Oneonta. “I want to connect the orchestra more broadly with aspects of the community,” she said.

And since starting at Kansas, she realized that she is also in the same town as Silas Huff, who is also in the running for the conductor position. “He came to see the most recent performance I had,” she said. “We were going to meet for lunch this week, but I had to come here!”

Standing Ovation For Huff At End Of ‘Firebird Suit’


Standing Ovation For Huff

At End Of ‘Firebird Suite’

Silas Huff, right, one of three conductors auditioning to succeed founding conductor Charles Schneider in directing Oneonta’s Catskill Symphony Orchestra, took to the stage tonight at SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom.  Here, he directs cello soloist Andrew Janss in Franz Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Op 101.”  Huff, the first of three candidates who will be guest conductors this fall, received standing ovations for Strauss’ “Overture to Die Fledermaus” and, the finale, Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”  The next conductor candidate will be Carolyn Watson, who will perform on Oct. 12.  Tickets available at (Ian Austin/

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CSO Conductor Candidate #1 Is Here

CSO Conductor Candidate #1 Is Here

Silas Huff Rehearsing With CSO;

‘Firebird’ Planned This Weekend

Silas Huff conducts the CSO in a performance of “The Firebird” Tuesday,
Sept. 3, in SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.COM)


ONEONTA – From the time he was seven, Silas Nathaniel Huff knew he was going to be in music.

“I was a guitarist, so I thought I was going to be a rock star,” he said. “Then I got into college and discovered classical music. I thought I’d be the next John Williams.”

But fate – or rather, his classmates – intervened.

“We had to take a conducting class to get my master’s degree, and my classmates said, ‘Silas, you’re not that good of a composer, but you’re a great conductor!’”

Huff is the first of three finalists for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s music director position and will conduct Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite, 1919” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom.

“It’s like a first date,” he said. “It’s exciting and intimidating. I get to meet them and hope they like me, and hope that I like working with them. The decision about which conductor, like dating, will be all about chemistry.”

His first task was to work with the symphony to design the program. “It took a little negotiating,” he said. “But once we decided on ‘Firebird,’ we were able to work backwards from there.”

He chose his program based around the number of solos – 10 in all – to showcase the orchestra’s individual talent. “It’s like testing out the orchestra,” he said. “But it’s also about giving them that spotlight. It makes them feel good too.”

Huff is also dedicated to expanding what people think of as an orchestra performance. “If someone asks you, ‘Do you want to go to an intimidating venue where you have to dress up and stay silent?’ You’re going to say, ‘No, I’d rather go get a beer,’” he said. “So why don’t we bring the orchestra to a brewery?”

He also wants to highlight the work of contemporary composers, including Kenneth Fuchs, Alan Shultz, Scott McKenzie and Rachel Whelan. “Who’s today’s Beethoven?” he said. “I want to find that person.”“For me, putting together a program is about the orchestra asking itself, what are some great pieces we know our audience loves, and what music is our audience going to love,” he said. “That’s how I program. You’re going to like it, so let’s listen, shall we?”

Huff is married to “Hello Gorgeous!” author Taylor Morris. The couple live in Lawrence, Kansas, a recent move for Huff when he became Washburn University’s director of orchestras. He also organizes workshops for young conductors to practice with a live orchestra.

“Unless you are a millionaire and can hire an orchestra to play for you, you don’t get a chance to practice much,” he said. “With these workshops, I hire an orchestra and bring in an older maestro to critique the young conductors. You’d be amazed how much better you get, just by doing it for a week.”

Throughout the week, he will meet with community leaders and symphony patrons, as well as rehearse with the orchestra ahead of Saturday’s performance.

First CSO Conductor Finalist Takes The Baton

First CSO Conductor Finalist

Takes The Baton At Hunt Union

Silas Nathaniel Huff, one of the three finalists for the Music Director of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, conducts his first rehearsal of “The Firebird” program evening. The concert, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Hunt Union Ballroom, will invite audience members to record their comments on Huff’s conducting at the end of the performance. (Ian Austin/


Concertgoers To Get Chance To Pick Next CSO Conductor

Concertgoers To Get Chance

To Pick Next CSO Conductor

Silas Nathaniel Huff, Carolyn Watson and Maciej Zoltowski are the three finalists chosen from 73 candidates seeking to succeed Maestro Chuck Schneider as CSO conductor.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – As an audience member at the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, it will be, in part, up to you to help the Symphony select the new conductor.

“We’re encouraging people to buy subscriptions so they can attend all three concerts,” said executive director Thomas Wolf. “Afterwards, audience members can fill out forms and rate each conductor.”

On Monday, May 6, the Symphony announced that, of 73 applicants, three finalists had been chosen to vie for a chance to succeed Chuck Schneider as music director/conductor: Silas Nathaniel Huff, Carolyn Watson, and Maciej Żóɫtowski.

“They all bring different strengths,” said Wolf. “But all of them are very interested in helping build the orchestra and helping the organization grow.”

Laurie Zimniewicz is chairing the search committee, which formed in the wake of Schneider’s announcement last spring. “It’s was a long, exhausting process,” said Wolf. “We reviewed resumes and watched videos for every candidate. And here we are.”

Huff is the musical director of the Astoria Symphony Orchestra, the Colorado Pops Orchestra and the Boulder Concert Band, as well as the conductor of the 44th Army Band (New Mexico’s National Guard Band). He holds degrees from Texas State University and UCLA, and in 1999, won First prize in the Los Angeles Valley Composition Competition for “Begging The Question,” an homage to modernist composer Charles Ives.

Watson, the director of Orchestral Studies at The University of Kansas took home a top prize at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest. She has conducted orchestras throughout Europe including the Brandenburg Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kodály Philharmonic, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Operetta Theatre, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas and in Russia, the St and holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sidney.

Żóɫtowski collaborates with many Polish symphony orchestras including the National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio (Katowice), the Polish Radio Orchestra (Warsaw), the Polish Orchestra Jeunesses Musicales, Beethoven Academy Orchestra and Poznan Philharmonic. He studied violin at the F. Chopin and J. Elsner Music Schools in Warsaw, where he also received M.As in conducting and composition.

The three were each in town last week tour the facility and interview for the position. “It was very thorough,” said Wolf.

They will not, however, be required to relocate to the area. “We only do four concerts a year,” said Wolf. “They will fly into town when we need them to. The week of the show, there are four two-and-a-half hour rehersals, so they’ll have 10 hours of time with the orchestra.”

Each conductor will have a chance to perform for an audience; Huff will conduct on Saturday, Sept. 7, Watson on Saturday, Oct. 12 and Żóɫtowski on Saturday, Nov. 16.

And once the committee has had a chance to review the audience remarks, as well as input from the orchestra and the board of directors. Wolf hopes a decision will be made by December.


CSO Announces 3 Conductor Finalists

Candidates Will Compete In Fall

CSO Announces 3

Conductor Finalists

The Catskill Symphony Orchestra a few minutes ago announced the three finalists to succeed Chuck Schneider as music director/conductor: Silas Nathaniel Huff, Carolyn Watson, and Maciej Żóɫtowski. The three finalists were selected from an international pool of 73 applicants. Each of the candidates will conduct one of three concerts this autumn on Sept. 7, Oct. 12 and Nov. 16. Season subscriptions are available that would include these concerts, where attendees will be encouraged to provide feedback to help guide the final choice. Details at
New CSO Exec Seasoned On Europe’s Opera Stage


New CSO Exec Seasoned

On Europe’s Opera Stage

By JIM KEVLIN • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal

Thomas Wolf, the new Catskill Symphony Orchestra executive director, with board President Diane Williams. (Jim Kevlin/

ONEONTA – A lyric tenor, Thomas Wolf’s operatic career was on the rise.

Southwest Germany’s largest daily, Munchner Merkur, celebrated his “particularly beautiful and warm tenor” voice, “wonderfully controlled.” In 1992, when a headliner dropped out of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” at Munich’s opera house, it seemed like his big break had arrived.

As the date approached, however, he felt a growing pain in his chest.  Rehearsing the week of the premier, he passed out.  “It came on me like a ton of bricks” – heart trouble, and his performance career was over.

It was a tragedy for the aspiring tenor from Cleveland, who by this time had been on the European opera circuit for almost a decade – but today it’s an opportunity for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra: Thomas Wolf, living in Bloomville, has been appointed CSO executive director, effective earlier this month.

The appointment comes at a critical time, said Diane Williams, CSO board president: The Oneonta-based orchestra is in the midst of selecting its first conductor in 45 years, after last year’s retirement of maestro Charles Schneider.

Hometown People Locals March 14 15 2019

Hometown People – March 14 -15, 2019

CSO Conductor Contest Raises Record $46,321

Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA  –  Though Al Rubin, owner, A&D Transport Services, ultimately took the baton to conduct “Stars & Stripes Forever,” he was helped by Cindy Donaldson, OMS choral music director, left, and Libby Cudmore, managing editor, Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and, in raising a record-setting $46,321 for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra during the annual Cabaret Concert on Saturday, March 9, at SUNY Oneonta.


Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA – Maddie Hurley, Cherry Valley, and Chloe Bellcourt, Cooperstown, were on Main Street, Oneonta, Saturday, March 9, to sample a few of the dozens of craft beers available at Brewery Ommegang’s Snommegang.

Mancuso, Avolio, Named To Dean’s List

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