News of Otsego County

CSO conductor candidate

Conductor Contest Raises CSO Turnout


Conductor Contest

Raises CSO Turnout

Bill and Cynthia Goertemoeller applaud Maciej Zółtowski at the end of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 Saturday, Nov. 16, as the Catskill Symphony Orchestra performed in SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom. At right is Laurie Zimniewicz, who led the search committee to recruit a new CSO conductor. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Though the new music director of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra won’t be named until after the New Year, the board of directors already has plenty to celebrate.

Maciej Zółtowski guides the Catskill Symphony Orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert #1.

“We had nearly a full house for all three shows,” said Diane Williams, board chair. “We saw an uptick in season subscriptions too, because season ticket-holders were invited to all of the pre-show talks the conductors gave.”

On Saturday, Nov. 16, Maciej Żółtowski, the third finalist for the conductor position, conducted Stanisław Moniuszko’s “Concert Overture: The Fairy Tale” and two pieces by Tchaikovsky. Though he had fallen on ice on the SUNY Oneonta campus and dislocated his elbow just days before, he still managed to conduct with both hands.

But with all conductors finished with their concert auditions, the difficult task of deciding who will take the CSO’s baton begins.

“Each of the conductors brought something different to the podium,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, search committee chair. “But in all cases, we saw the musicians stepping up to the plate and putting out incredible music.”

On Saturday, Sept. 7, Silas Huff conducted “The Firebird,” and on Saturday, Oct. 12, Carolyn Watson conducted “The Elements: Rhythm, Melody and Form.”

“People really liked Silas’ congeniality; Carolyn had a very different kind of program, and a lot of people said that really stretched the audience,” said Zimniewicz. “And with Żółtowski, how do you not like Tchaikovsky? Plus, he and Silas’ soloists, that they had the contacts to bring that kind of talent here.”

Zimniewicz and the search committee will meet and look over the surveys handed out at the end of each performance to rank and rate the conductors in the areas of pre-show talk, program selection, and whether the conductor engaged the musicians.

“We’ll analyze their strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “We’ll compare to how each of those to the other candidates, and we’ll put the results of each of those onto a graph.”

From there, they will also look at the surveys completed by the musicians, which, Zimniewicz said, will carry more weight than the audience surveys.

“All three were great candidates,” said Ana Laura Gonzalez, piccolo. “We all have our favorites, but no matter which one gets picked, we’ll have a strong conductor.”

She praised Huff’s “personable” nature and detail-oriented conducting, Watson’s “bravery” in her selections and Żółtowski attentiveness to the orchestra.

“He did very little with his hands,” she said. “He used a lot of facial expressions to the orchestra. It was very subtle, but very clear to the musicians.”

The results will be compiled and delivered to the Board of Directors at their December meeting, where they will be tasked with choosing the new conductor.

The conductor will make his or her official CSO debut at the Cabaret Concert on Saturday, March 14. The concert will also feature special guest Mandy Harvey, an “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer winner, as well as the annual conductor competition.

“For a small, regional symphony to bring in such a broad range of choice was so important,” said Zimniewicz. “These conductors came from such a broad range.”

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