Monday, June 28, 2010

New Assistant Conductor & Youth Symphony Music Director

The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra announces the appointment of Tara Simoncic as the new Assistant Conductor and Harrisburg Youth Symphony Music Director.

(UPDATE: you can read David Dunkle's article about her that appeared in the Patriot-News on-line.)

“During my time as Music Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony, I have built the program from four orchestras to six, adding a very successful mid-level orchestral winds training ensemble as well as a top level chamber orchestra that performs free concerts in the surrounding communities” says Simoncic.

Tara Simoncic joins the HSO from her current appointment as Music Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony in Norwalk , Connecticut .  She had previously been the conductor of their Principal Orchestra prior to her Music Director appointment. While with the NYS she founded and conducted the Chamber Orchestra which performed free and benefit concerts and collaborated with the Greenwich Ballet Academy. Ms. Simoncic will assist Maestro Stuart Malina as his Assistant Conductor and become the new Harrisburg Youth Symphony Music Director, filling the position of the recently retired Dr. Ronald Schafer.

In addition to her NYS position, she was also the Music Director and Conductor for the Histoire Chamber Orchestra, Conductor of the Flexible Orchestra (in NYC), Cover Conductor for the Manhattan School of Music (NYC), and Pre-Concert Lecturer and Assistant Conductor for the Greenwich  (CT) Symphony Orchestra.

Her previous appointments include Guest Conductor for the Connecticut Music Educators Association High School Orchestra, Music Director for the Adelphi Chamber Orchestra (Paramus, NJ), Guest Conductor for the Omaha Youth Symphony (Omaha, NE), Assistant Conductor for the Martha Graham Dance Company (NYC), Guest Conductor of the Ballet School of Stamford (Stamford, CT), Guest Conductor for the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra (NYC), Guest Conductor for the Kinhaven Music School (Kinhaven, VT), Guest Conductor for the Kingsborough Symphony Orchestra (NYC), Guest Conductor for the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra (NYC), Conductor for the Seminar Orchestra at C.W. Post Music Festival (Long Island, NY), Director of Orchestras for the Wachusette Regional School Distric grades 4-12 (Holden, MA), Choir Director for the First Congregational Church (Holden, MA) and Apprentice Conductor for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (Knoxville, TN).

Originally from Stockton , California , Ms. Simoncic grew up in a musical family. Her father a composer and her mother a flautist, Tara was encouraged to study several instruments at an early age, but chose to focus on the trumpet at the age of six. Tara was bitten by the conducting bug while she was pursuing her Bachelor of Music degree in trumpet performance at the New England Conservatory of music. There, she founded the Stravinsky Septet, an ensemble which toured New England with a staged production of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat and other works with similar instrumentation that were commissioned by the ensemble. Deciding to further her studies in conducting, Ms. Simoncic received her Masters of Music degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University . Soon after, she won the position of assistant conductor with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, a one-year position during which time she covered subscription concerts and conducted the orchestras pops, run-out and chamber orchestra concerts and was the conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

In 2000, Ms. Simoncic was accepted into the doctoral program in conducting at the University of Kansas City, Missouri and appointed assistant conductor of the Kansas City Ballet but declined the position to be one of two students accepted into the first conducting class at the Manhattan School of Music. Since then, she became one of the most active conductors of her generation in the New York area, working with the Brooklyn, Kingsborough, New Amsterdam and Greenwich Symphony Orchestras and the Bergen Philharmonic. Ms. Simoncic served on the conducting faculty at the C.W. Post Music Festival ( Long Island , NY ) for three years, and has been a guest conductor at the Kinhaven Summer School of Music in Vermont. An advocate of contemporary music, Ms. Simoncic has worked with the Manhattan School of Music Composers Orchestra and was appointed conductor of the Flexible Orchestra in 2004.

Her conducting training extended to Europe, where she has studied extensively in master classes at the Canford Summer School of Music (England) and with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic), the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra (Czech Republic), the Adygeya Republic National Symphony Orchestra and the Astrakhan Symphony Orchestra (Russian Republic), where she had recently been invited back as a guest conductor. She studied with Zdenec Macal, David Gilbert, Iloh Yang, Victor Yampolsky, George Manahan, George Hurst and Kirk Trevor.

Ms. Simoncic will join the HSO and HYSO staff following a trip to Italy with her current Norwalk Youth Symphony during the last week of June. 

- Kim Isenhour, Marketing Director, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010-2011 - The Season Preview

Stuart and I had a chance to sit down in his living room and look ahead to the Harrisburg Symphony's new season, "Music in Real Time" for 2010-2011.

You can hear the PodCast here.

We talked about which concerts he's most looking forward to (all of them, of course, but two especially stand out) and the different programs, the repertoire and soloists throughout the year. Not to mention one new role for this conductor, pianist, chamber musician, arranger and raconteur (as well, on occasion, chanteur) -- composer!

The first concert - October 2nd & 3rd - indeed "Pulls Out All the Stops," featuring the Forum Pipe Organ in a performance of Camille Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3, the "Organ Symphony" with organist Eric Riley joining the orchestra. Jeffrey Biegel, who last played the Billy Joel Piano Concerto a few seasons ago, returns with a performance of Keith Emerson's Piano Concerto No. 1 -- and that's Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, though this is an original work, not an arrangement of "greatest hits." Biegel will also play Chopin's "Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise." The concert opens with a great organ warhorse - even though there's some scholarly argument that the work was originally for violin and maybe not even by Bach, initially: Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, transcribed for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski and familiar through its use in the original Walt Disney film, Fantasia.

The November concert - Nov. 13th & 14th - features one of the leading guitarists on the international scene, Grammy-winning Sharon Isbin who'll perform what is generally considered the most popular concerto for the instrument, if not of the entire 20th Century, the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. The program also features two 5th Symphonies but not by the usual suspects, when you think of "Fifths" - one, by the teen-aged Franz Schubert and the other, the one Jean Sibelius composed to celebrate his own 50th Birthday.

In January - Jan. 15th & 16th - you'll get a chance to "Catch a Rising Star" with the winner of the symphony's latest "Rising Stars" competition, pianist Yen Yu Chen, who'll play the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major. The program opens with the little known "Theme, variations & Finale" by Miklos Rosza, a Hungarian composer whose concert works were overshadowed by his great film scores. The concert concludes with the well-known 6th Symphony by Tchaikovsky, the "Pathetique."

Following the recent success of the concert performance of the complete opera, Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini, Stuart Malina will be bringing two of those same singers back along with a few more for another Puccini favorite, La Boheme, complete with "supertitles" to provide the translation.This is an opera that has long been one of the staples of opera houses around the world and both Stuart and I fell in love with its music when we were high school (though I have quite a few years' drop on him, there). Those performances will be on February 26th & 27th.

The March concert - March 26th & 27th - features the orchestra's principal violist, Julius Wirth, as the soloist. You can hear the podcast where Stuart describes how they decided to program the Viola Concerto by Hungarian composer Zdenek Lukás - if it's a work I've never heard of before, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a discovery for 99% of our audience! ;-)

But the other works may be discoveries (or "revelations" as the concert is called) because, even though everyone will probably recognize Bach's famous "Air on the G String" (as it's unfortunately often called), you don't hear the whole Suite it's taken from that often. While Beethoven Symphonies are staples of any orchestra's repertoire, his 8th is perhaps one of those less frequently heard. Actually, Beethoven himself considered it a favorite and preferred it as a better work than the wildly popular 7th! Don't look for Charles Ives to "explain it all for you" - his enigmatic "The Unanswered Question" is like many philosophical discussions: more questions than answers but you always grow from thinking about them.

If you've heard recent performances of Mahler Symphonies here in Harrisburg - the 9th most recently as well as the 1st and 2nd ( the Resurrection) - you'll want to make sure either April 16th or 17th is on your calendar when Stuart Malina conducts Mahler's 3rd Symphony, a work that is not that frequently programmed even in places like New York City. It is, to put it mildly, an epic symphony. Mahler originally gave picturesque titles to its six different movements, including "Pan Awakens: Summer Marches In," "What the Flowers of the Field Tell Me," "What the Angels Tell Me," and the great finale, itself as long as many classical symphonies, "What Love Tells Me."

From Mahler to Brahms for the final concert of the Masterworks Season on May 14th & 15th. Concertmaster Odin Rathnam will be the soloist for the Violin Concerto, usually regarded as one of the two greatest violin concertos ever, and another epic symphony - shorter than Mahler's, perhaps, but almost 25 years in the making: Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. But the program opens with a "Brahms Fan-Fare" by a big fan of Brahms, conductor Stuart Malina, himself. Listen to the podcast to hear him talk about the whole process of how this work will come about! (No pressure, there...)

Check the website for more details about the season - and about ordering subscription tickets. Or call 717-545-5527.

- Dick Strawser

Summertime & the Music Continues

It's officially Summer even if it's felt like it for weeks – and with summer comes summer concerts.

The Harrisburg Symphony will be playing free concerts during the 4th of July Holiday all around the mid-state with great music for a family-friendly (and hopefully weather-friendly) experience.

Stuart Malina will be conducting the orchestra in a program that will include Franz von Suppé's “Poet & Peasant” Overture, dances by Dvorak and Brahms, selections from Richard Rodgers' Broadway classic “South Pacific,” Leroy Anderson's “Fiddle Faddle,” music from “Harry Potter's Wonderful World” along with a patriotic sing-along, an Armed Forces Salute – and of course, the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky.

The Concerts begin on Thursday July 1st at 8pm in Negley Park, Lemoyne, a performance sponsored by the “Concert at Negley Committee.” (In case of rain, the concert will be held indoors at Washington Heights Elementary School.)

On Friday, July 2nd at 8pm, the orchestra will perform on the Quad of Lebanon Valley College, a performance sponsored by the college. (In case of rain, the concert will be held indoors at Lutz Auditorium.)

The orchestra plays along the Harrisburg Riverfront on Saturday July 3rd, beginning at 8:30pm, and that performance, sponsored by the Dauphin County Commissioners, will move indoors to the Forum in case of rain.

Sunday is July 4th – and at 7:30pm the concert in Carlisle is part of Carlisle Summerfair which, along with Citizens of Carlisle, has made the concert possible. (In case of rain, this performance will move indoors to the Carlisle Theatre.)

And then Monday's performance, on the 5th of July, will be held rain or shine at 7:30pm at the Juniata High School in Mifflintown, a performance sponsored by First National Bank of Mifflintown and the Lawrence L. & Julia Z. Hoverter Foundation.

So I hope you'll be able to make one (or more) of these performances in your area and have a great time with family and friends!

- Dr. Dick