I think we can all share in my excitement and new-found appreciation for the growing arts community that surrounds us all. As the executive director of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, I have been blown away by the dedication and enthusiasm that our board, staff, volunteers, musicians, and community partners put into this effort every single day.
The CSO has been around for almost 70 years, and we are proud to be a part of the fabric of this community. I’m sure that many don’t realize that: 1) yes, we have been here for 70 years, and; 2) we employ an average of 50 musicians every concert, all of whom live, work, and shop here in our community. We provide educational opportunities for young people through our annual collaboration with BOCES and we are able to offer free tickets to all students (and their parents!) thanks to an anonymous donor.
Fenimore Chamber Orchestra produced three programs in 2022. They’ve been working hard all winter to bring the community new productions in 2023.
“Much has happened since our first concerts,” said Thomas Wolf, chair of the FCO Board of Directors. “The incredible success we have enjoyed is truly amazing, especially given the whole idea of starting a new orchestra during a worldwide pandemic.”
ONEONTA – Catskill Symphony Orchestra Music Director Maciej Żółtowski could not be more direct: “Czech composers occupy a very special place in my heart.”
Reflecting on his own graduation concert in 1997, Żółtowski elaborates.
“It opened with Smetana’s Overture from “The Bartered Bride.” I love the downright contagious optimism and inexhaustible energy. Since then, my programs frequently feature symphonies by Dvořák, including those lesser known—like the ‘Fifth’ or the ‘Sixth’—which we are going to play with the CSO.”
The recent performances by the Fenimore Chamber Orchestra on October 8 at Christ Church in Cooperstown featured the winds section of the orchestra and revealed some rarely heard and as well as some well-known works.
This balance between the rare and well-known seems already an established norm for this very stylish orchestra. The beginning of the concert brought two complete rarities. The Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, far better known for his late 37 operas than any of his orchestral pieces, composed his “Sinfonia for Winds” when he was only 17 years old and a student in Bologna.
“I am still the Music Director at Catskill Symphony Orchestra and am now the Music Director at Fenimore Chamber Orchestra!”, he said. “It’s not unusual to be music director for two or three companies. I remember my first meeting with Thomas Wolf, Executive Director, and we developed a fruitful relationship. It just all grew from there.“
“In every organization, the music director is always the conductor of the orchestras that we are talking about. This works for me because my idea is to fill the seasons to compliment our concerts so we can provide the audiences in the area with a full season of symphonic concerts, chamber concerts, of different character that don’t conflict with each other. They are completely different types of music being presented,” Mr. Żółtowski said.
Pandemic restrictions prohibited it, but this year, the Catskill Symphony Orchestra picks up where it left off and presents its annual Cabaret Concert and Guest Conductor Competition fundraiser with headliner Mandy Harvey on Saturday, March 26 at SUNY Oneonta’s Alumni Field House.
They’re doing it with flair, of course – presenting the same program they had planned for the 2020 Cabaret that was cancelled by COVID shut-downs just two days before its performance. CSO Executive Director Cassandra Miller said the event marks a new and special rebirth for the Orchestra.
“It’s the first time the entire symphony will have been together for a performance in two years,” she said. “We’ll have the full group of more than 50 musicians on the same stage, and it’s the first time the new Maestro will conduct the group as one.”
Maestro Maciej Zoltowski became the new conductor of the CSO for its 2021-22 season.
“It’s an event the community really looks forward to, not just to hear our impressive orchestra perform popular music with a headliner, but because people love the guest conductor competition,” said CSO board chair Sarah Patterson.
This year’s guest conductor candidates: Dr. Tracy Allen, a dean at SUNY Oneonta (“The Geologist”), Stagecoach Coffee co-owner Matt Grady (“The Connoisseur”), and former Director of Oneonta
By. T. Stephen Wager • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Maestro Maciej Zoltowski made a triumphant return to Oneonta on November 20, 2021 with a concert of Wind Serenades by Mozart, Dvořák and Richard Strauss. It is a completely fortunate situation that so glamorous and cosmopolite a musical personality such as Maestro Zoltowski has come to grace Catskill Symphony Orchestra and Upstate New York. In just two years’ time, his efforts of international renown at orchestra building have already been shown to great effect. The concert provided a vehicle showcasing the woodwind section of Catskill Symphony Orchestra in its second offering of the 2021-2022 concert season. Preparation for such a concert requires not only daring but knowing the capabilities of the orchestra at hand, and capabilities of its individual members, and a knowledge of the repertoire that balances one work with the other.
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.
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 occainfo.org/earth-festival/
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 email@example.com to rsvp.’
BEETHOVEN 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to rsvp.
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.
ST. PATRICKS DINNER – 4 – 7 p.m. Enjoy Corned Beef & Cabbage dinner, performance by Irish Step Dancers hosted by The Knights of Columbus. Take-out encouraged. Free, Donations accepted. St. Mary’s Parish Center, 31 Elm St., Cooperstown. 607-437-4626 or e-mail email@example.com
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.”