ONEONTA – The Catskill Symphony’s new conductor, Maestro Maciej Zoltowski, has been stranded in Upstate New York due to coronavirus strictures, but is using his time here productively.
Here’s the text of a letter to CSO members, received today:
“I hope this note finds you all in good health. My elbow (he fell on ice last November while here for his audition concert) has healed remarkably well, and I had been looking forward to greeting many of you at the Cabaret Concert. As you are all aware, the government forced our hand to cancel this years’ Cabaret because of the coronavirus. We at Catskill Symphony Orchestra, however, are looking to the future.
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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)
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.
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.
“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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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.
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 https://catskillsymphony.net/ This article appears in this week’s Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands now.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
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.