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Summerville Orchestra’s new conductor says ‘arts are ready to explode’

From the Charleston Post and Courier Article by Alison Graham

With the flick of his baton, he can control the winds, the brass, the drums. Wojciech Milewski holds the thin piece of wood with his thumb, middle and pointer fingers, keeping the rhythm of the music and translating the composer’s intentions through subtle movements and gestures as he cues the instruments. Conducting is physical, requiring the conductor to dip, bend his knees and thrust his arms in a dance that can be quiet or dramatic depending on the score. The flow of the composition is dependent on his leadership. Milewski has a talent for conducting, says Naomi Nimmo, executive director of the Summerville Community Orchestra. The orchestra’s board of directors offered Milewski a three-year position as their full-time conductor at the end of May. He officially started July 1. And it’s an exciting time for an orchestra in a town like Summerville. “It’s a place where the arts are ready to explode,” Milewski says. “I can sense this kind of feeling that the community is ready to be taken over by art.” Milewski is looking forward to helping guide that artistic explosion through expansions and outreach programs as conductor of the orchestra. He said he likes to push the envelope and bring in music that challenges the ears of listeners. Milewski didn’t grow up in a family of musicians, so the music that resonates with him can resonate with audiences who may not be familiar with classical music, he says. Growing audience The Summerville Community Orchestra was founded in 2003. At that time, musicians would look out to an audience of about 60 people. Now, they see close to 1,000. The orchestra’s core membership is volunteer-based, ranging from middle school musicians to their oldest player, who is 80. “When you’re a musician and you love music and you get to play it with all these other people who love it, it’s a pure joy,” Nimmo says. “And that’s what we offer them.” One of the orchestra’s missions is to help adults continue playing orchestral instruments, which they often stop pursuing once they enter college or start careers. “It’s one of my reasons for being involved in the orchestra,” says SCO board chair and singer Diane Rodwell. “I think it’s so important for adults to have the opportunity to continue their passion.” The volunteer aspect is something that attracted Milewski to apply for the conductor position a few months ago. Sharing music with people who don’t perform for a living provides him with a different perspective as a conductor, he says. Sixty-three people from around the world applied for the position, and the board selected the best four applicants to lead one concert in a series. Afterward, the musicians and audience filled out a detailed survey about the conductor. When Milewski conducted, the audience said they could feel his energy with the musicians from the beginning. ‘A great future’ Milewski, 27, graduated with a master’s in orchestral conducting from the University of New Mexico, and has been conducting for five years. He started as a piano and clarinet performance major, but when he conducted a musical during his senior year of college, he was hooked. Everything Milewski loves about music is wrapped up in conducting, he says. He can experience musical theory, history and each instrument when he conducts a singular piece. Nimmo says Milewski’s talent is beyond his years. What has taken him five years to achieve, usually takes conductors 20 years of experience. He has an energy and connection with the audience they haven’t seen before. “He’s really a great future for the Summerville Orchestra,” she says. “He’s very special.” Milewski’s first concert with the Summerville Orchestra will be the annual 9/11 memorial concert Sept. 9. After that, he will be in charge of conducting the regular four-concert season starting in early November. Nimmo says the board will be announcing the shows of the new season in a few weeks. The goal is to make the orchestra relevant in the lives of Summerville residents and the greater tri-county area. And not just the orchestra, but music in general. “Music literally gets into your body,” Milewski says. “It enters your mind and your ears and affects you in a certain way if you let it. When we use music to sort of tell that story, whether it’s personal or not, I think that’s a really beautiful experience.”

Conductors Institute of South Carolina targeted to aspiring and experienced conductors

Application deadline extended to May 20 The Conductors Institute of South Carolina, in its 31st year, is on the must-do list for both aspiring and experienced conductors. Students of the summer institute come to the University of South Carolina from around the U.S. and abroad to receive instruction from eminent conductors and composers with vast experience in the commercial, academic and professional worlds of music. The annual institute, directed by Dr. Donald Portnoy, takes place from June 5 through 18, 2016, at the Koger Center for the Arts on the University of South Carolina campus. Participants can opt for the 10-day Discovery Program, designed for conductors with limited conducting experience who want to improve their conducting skills, or the 15-day Institute for Fellows and Associates, designed for conductors with moderate to advanced conducting skills. Participants have an exceptional opportunity to work directly with composers whose works have been commissioned and performed by many of the major American and European orchestras and international ensembles. Among this summer’s distinguished guest faculty are Maurice Peress, former assistant conductor to the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein; and Paul Vermel, the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Koussevitsky Memorial Award for the outstanding conductor at Tanglewood. Also on the faculty are esteemed conductors and composers including Victoria Bond (composer/conductor), Samuel Jones (composer), Avner Dorman (composer), Peter Jaffe (conductor) Diane Wittry (conductor) and Neil Casey (conductor). Students of the institute have individual daily podium time conducting professional musicians and focus on enhancing skills to achieve a greater command of their orchestral forces. Veteran conductors share their knowledge of the competitive field of conducting and offer constructive feedback. An evening lecture series delivers sessions in score study and other topics necessary in today’s job market. Find complete details and registration information online. Observe conductor training The community can get a first-hand view of the skills and complexities of effective conducting. Monday through Saturday during the Institute, the public is invited to observe conductor training from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. in the Koger Center for the Arts. Via: University of South Carolina School of Music

Conductors Institute offers public behind-the-scenes look at the art of conducting

If you’ve ever wondered what conducting is all about, you can observe conductor training at the University of South Carolina during the Conductors Institute of South Carolina June 3 through 15. Sessions are free and open to the public and provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at the art of conducting. Visitors can watch conductors working with string ensembles, chamber groups and full orchestra Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts. Dozens of conductors from around the world converge on campus for the Conductors Institute. More than 1,000 conductors, both novices and veterans of the podium, have participated in the world-renowned Institute since Maestro Donald Portnoy founded it 30 years ago. Portnoy, music director of the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra and director of orchestral studies at the university, has conducted major orchestras throughout the globe. Students of the Institute receive training from guest conductors and composers with vast experience in the commercial, academic and professional worlds of music. Veteran conductors offer constructive criticism and encouragement, and each student has daily podium time focusing on the details of conducting-enhancing skills to achieve a greater command with their orchestral forces. The Institute offers a 15-day program for conductors with a moderate to advanced level of conducting experience and a 10-day program for those with more limited conducting experience. In conjunction with the Southeastern Piano Festival, the community can also observe the Conductors Institute Apprenticeship Program on June 12 and 13 from 10 a.m. – noon and 1:30 –4:30 p.m. This program allows the festival’s past participants to gain valuable experience collaborating with different conductors in a rehearsal setting. For more information, visit the Conductors Institute of South Carolina's website, call (803) 777-7500 or email The Conductors Institute. About the University of South Carolina School of Music The USC School of Music has established a national reputation for artistic and scholarly excellence and enriches the musical life of the university and the city by offering more than 300 concerts a year and music classes for all ages in the community. An acclaimed faculty teach approximately 500 undergraduate and graduate music majors, including students specializing in virtually every orchestra and band instrument, voice, piano, organ and guitar, and preparing musicians for professional careers and leadership in music teaching, performance, composition and research. The school generates research and other creative activities in music that have local, national and international impact. The excellence of the school is a direct result of the resident faculty members who combine distinguished backgrounds as performers and scholars with a dedication to teaching. USC music faculty perform regularly on campus, nationally and internationally in recitals and concerts; contribute to publications and professional organizations; and make presentations at regional, national and international conferences. Via: USC School of Music