Category Archives: News

S. Shade Zajac – New Music Director of the GSO

S. Shade Zajac

S. Shade Zajac

S. Shade Zajac is a freelance conductor, composer and cellist. In the Spring of 2016, after serving as a guest conductor in 2015, he was appointed as Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra in Batavia, New York. His inaugural season will begin in October of 2016.

Mr. Zajac has conducted the Nazareth College Chamber Orchestra, Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra and the OpusWerkes No.2 on numerous occasions. He was a student of Professor Nancy Strelau and was a guest conductor of her orchestra, the Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic. Mr Zajac was recently awarded the Paul Vermel 2015-2016 Apprenticeship with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra in Chicago, working with Maestro Kim Diehnelt. He was also accepted as a Fellow in the BCO December 2015 Workshop under the direction of Maestro Markand Thakar, where he conducted the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in selections such as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. In the spring of 2016, Mr. Zajac was an active participant in the 8th Ithaca International Conducting Master Class with Maestros Donald Schleicher and Dr. Jeffery Meyer. He led the Ithaca College Chamber and Symphony Orchestras in performances of Berio’s Folk Songs for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra, and Mahler’s Third Symphony.

Mr. Zajac is the founding member of the Asteria Quartet, which performs frequently in upstate New York. As an orchestra player, Shade was Principal Cellist of the Nazareth College Chamber Orchestra and the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra and has sat Principal Cellist in the Roberts Wesleyan College Community Orchestra. He was the winner of the Nazareth College Concerto/Aria Competition in 2012 and 2014, and performs solo and chamber music concerts frequently in the Rochester and Finger Lakes area.

A prolific composer, Mr. Zajac has written music for solo cello (commissioned by Prof. Mimi Hwang), a cello sonata, piano concerto, violin concerto, seven string quartets, and pieces for percussion ensemble, chamber groups and orchestra. In April, he completed his first symphony, which he dedicated to his teacher Nancy Strelau, conductor of the Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic and the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra. Professor Strelau plans to premiere the piece with the two orchestras in the coming seasons.

Mr. Zajac is founder of the Finger Lakes Summer Festival, producing events that include chamber music and orchestra performances. Emphasis is placed on raising funds for charities and offering classical music to communities in upstate New York.


Dave Porter

Dave Porter

Dave Porter, GSO musician and board member, performed recently in the Byron Bergen High School musical, Snoopy. Dave played trombone in the Pit, becoming the voice of Miss Othmar, the unseen teacher in the Peanuts comic strip. To read more about Dave  visit  Brenda Tremblay’s interview with Dave for WXXI’s Musicians of Rochester includes a video of how Dave approached the development of the “voice” for his character.


Dave Hollenbeck

Dave Hollenbeck

Congratulations to Dave Hollenbeck, Tubist with the GSO, who has recently auditioned and been selected as a Tubist with the United States Army Bands!

Dave has been Tubist with the orchestra for three seasons. He is a native of Albion, NY and was graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2012, with a degree in Music Performance. In addition to the GSO, Dave plays with several groups in the Western New York area, including the Batavia Concert Band, The Hitmen Brass Band from Rochester, and The Easy Street Big Band out of the Buffalo area.

Hollenbeck has auditioned for several musical organizations over the past several years, many of which have been military bands. Dave relates, “I’ve had the chance to catch a few of the various service bands live, and have always been blown away by the incredible performances. I’m excited and honored to be offered a chance to join them.”

Dave leaves for Basic Combat Training at the end of June. He will continue his training with nine weeks at the Army School of Music beginning in September. After  graduation, he will be placed in one of the several Army Bands.

To learn more about the United States Army Bands visit their website at

~Dave Porter

GSO Music Director Search Continues

With the performance of our April concert, all Music Director candidates have had the opportunity to showcase their talents for the GSO and the community at large. Each candidate’s development of programming, interaction with the orchestra, engagement with the audience, and collaboration with the Board of Directors will be considered as the selection process moves forward.

The Music Directorship is a multifaceted position, and the GSO Board is interested in obtaining input from a variety of sources. Audience and orchestra members have been encouraged to submit surveys after each concert with their impressions of each candidate.   Survey results are being compiled and will be shared with the Board.

Initially, a selection committee consisting of board members and orchestra musicians interviewed and chose our candidates. This same committee has been tasked with reviewing and weighing each candidate’s qualifications and performance, after which the committee will make a recommendation to the Board. Upon review of the selection committee’s recommendation and careful consideration of survey results, the Board will make the final decision as to which candidate will be offered the Music Directorship of the GSO. The Board expects to have a decision by the end of May. Once our offer of the Music Directorship has been accepted, a pubic announcement will be made.

All of our candidates have brought talent and musical knowledge to the podium. It has been a pleasure working with each of them. The GSO appreciates their hard work, which has produced an exciting season of concerts for our audience. As we enter the final stages of the selection process, we look forward to working with our new maestro for years to come!

We Can’t Do This Alone…

a thank you note

It takes a bunch of musicians, a conductor, and a host of people “behind the scenes” to make a concert happen, and keep a symphony orchestra humming (or buzzing, and all the other sounds) along.

GSO officers and Board members, all volunteers, do a HUGE amount of work. Please check out who they are and what they do. And at the concert, or whenever you see them, please THANK them. They do this because they love the GSO, music, and bringing it to you!

We have great support from our concert venues: Genesee Community College, St. Mary’s RC Church, and Elba Central Schools. Their staffs are GREAT to work with! We love sharing their space and filling it with music. Thank You!

All the advertisers in our annual Program Book contribute financially to support your GSO. Please thank them with your patronage. Let ‘em know you’re there because they support the GSO, and it’s appreciated!

Thank you to our corporate and private sponsors; Go Art! and M&T Bank for grant funding; and the individual donors to the GSO Endowment and Memorial Funds. All are instrumental in enabling the GSO to fulfill its mission to provide educational outreach to our community, produce quality performances for our audience, and provide a stage for local talent.

We get great media coverage from The Batavian, The Daily News, and WBTA radio. Evelyn Jaeger and staff at Hi-Tek Printing in Oakfield do our posters, tickets, programs, season book, and the GSO newsletter – and have been doing it at cost for many years.

And of course, our GSO musicians and conductors work hard to practice, perfect, and perform their art for your enjoyment. Musicians are drawn from area residents, music educators, students, and Eastman undergraduates. We couldn’t do what we do without ALL of you! The GSO is a paid ensemble (gas money, basically), but more than a few GSO musicians donate their time and talents.

And none of this happens without our great audience. What keeps you coming, keeps us going!

Thank you, All!

Notes from the President

Look what’s happening at the GSO’s Sunday, April 17th concert! We are celebrating American Made music with Mr. Bryan Eckenrode as our conductor and fourth candidate for the position of GSO Music Director.

Add to that the excitement of performing two compositions written by native Batavians. Mr. Gary Call Hanley of Nashville Tennessee, the grandson of Phil and Leona Pastore of Batavia, will attend our concert and hear the GSO play his Plight of the Common Man.   Mr. Hanley’s symphony was debuted by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra last July.  Batavia High senior Ross Chua will hear his piece, A Spectacle in Flight, performed by the GSO.  Mr. Chua plans to attend college and major in music composition.

More to be excited about – Our spring concert will feature the twenty-eight participants of the GSO String Workshop 2016.  Workshop students will play two pieces side by side with the orchestra during the concert program.

Copland, Bernstein, Whitney and Williams!  Come out and celebrate SPRING with the GSO and American Made music on April 17th.

Musically yours,                                                                                                               Roxie Choate and Paul Saskowski, Co-Presidents

From the GSO Historian

How Do You Like Them So Far?

The 2015-2016 Season has been a transitional year for the Genesee Symphony Orchestra. Replacing a long-time conductor is never easy, but we are nearly there. We have seen the artistic exuberance of S. Shade Zajak directing music from around the world; the accomplished Yunn-Shan Ma with the glorious holiday feast; the heart pounding flutes and flourishes under the expert direction of Nicholas DelBello. Next, experience an All-American program created by the talented Bryan Eckenrode.

With the help of our audience and musician surveys, and recommendations from our selection committee, the GSO Board will choose one of these wonderful candidates to take the baton and lead the GSO into the future.                                                                                                                                                                        So sit back, relax, and enjoy our final concert of the season. Then think – Whom would you like to see as the successor to a long line of talented GSO conductors?                                                                                                                                                                                 Want to learn more about the Genesee Symphony Orchestra and its conductors?          Visit the memory books in the reference section of the Richmond Memorial Library or the permanent display at the Holland Land Office Museum where a complete list of the Symphony’s conductors is on display.                                                                                                                                                 ~Joanne Tumminello, GSO Historian

GSO Young Artist Competition 2016

The GSO’s 9th Annual Young Artist Competition was held March 14th at the First Presbyterian Church in Batavia.  Eleven exceptionally talented Junior and Senior High School musicians from Western New York were featured.  All artists received a Certificate of Achievement in recognition of their talent, discipline, and dedication.

This year’s contestants were:                                                                                                Epongue Ekille – Violin                             Sarah Engel – Voice                                             Mason Fuller – Voice                                Jackie Hager – Cello                                        Joyce Luo – Cello                                    Michael McClure – Piano                                       Shannon Roberts – Viola                         Gabriella Smart – Voice                                  Amelia Snyder – Alto Saxophone             McKena Stickney – Flute                                       Jarod Yap – Piano

The adjudication panel consisted of Conductor Bryan Eckenrode, GSO musicians Greg Docenko and Pamela Wentworth, and music educators Roxie Choate and Jackie McLean.

The GSO is excited to announce this year’s three winners. They are:

                                     Jackie Hager (Rochester) – Cello                                                              Amelia Snyder (Rochester) – Alto Saxophone                                                                             Jarod Yap (Clarence Center) – Piano

Jackie Hager, Cello

Jackie Hager, Cello

Amelia Snyder, Alto Saxophone

Amelia Snyder, Alto Saxophone

Jarod Yap, Piano

Jarod Yap,








The Young Artist Competition winners will be featured as soloists with the GSO during       the 2016-2017 concert season.

Congratulations to our accomplished Young Artists for 2016!

Thank you to all who contributed to making this event a success!

High Notes – Q & A with Musician Danielle Perry

Danielle Perry

Danielle Perry










Name: Danielle Perry                                                                                               Residence: Batavia, NY                                                                                     Occupation: Payroll Generalist for Batavia Downs Gaming                                                Years with the GSO: 4

Q.  Which instrument/s do you play?                                                                                 A.  Percussion and some piano    

Q.  What was your first instrument?  When and why did you start playing?                       A.  I started taking piano lessons when I was 7 years old.  My entire family played                    the piano; it was the thing to do!     

Q.  What are your fondest musical memories?                                                                    A.  Marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade with the Attica High School                           Marching Band

Q.  What advice would you give to beginning instrumental students?                                  A.  Don’t give up on learning an instrument!  Stick with what you enjoy.  If                                 something becomes dull or uninteresting to you, change it up – try a new                           instrument, try a new approach, but never give it up!  It does get easier, and                        even more fun, too!

Q.  People would be surprised to know that I……                                                              A.  After graduating from high school, I took a hiatus from music and never                               intended to return to performing music… until my sister begged me to join the                   Batavia Concert Band.  Now, six years later, I play in four different groups in                        the community. I’m making up for lost time!

Q.  List 3 adjectives that best describe you.                                                                      A.  Open-minded, Optimistic, Thoughtful

Q.  What would you like to be doing in 5 years?                                                               A.  Continue to work at a job that challenges me and that I enjoy; travel as much                     as I can; continue to play percussion and grow as a musician; surround                           myself with the people I love

Q.  Which famous musician/composer would you most like to meet?                                A.  John Williams.  He has composed the scores of some of my favorite movies,                      and he always writes such full percussion parts.  But, to be honest – meeting                     Beyonce would be great, too!

Q.  If you could play another instrument, what would it be?                                              A.  Trombone or Cello

Q.  What do you enjoy most about being a musician?                                                      A.  Working with such a talented group of people.  I’ve learned a lot just from                       watching and playing with Bob Chaplin, Dave Funston, and other veteran                            musicians in the GSO.


String Workshop 2016

ViolinString Workshop 2016 was held at Go Art! on Saturday, March 19th.  Twenty-eight string students created an ensemble to practice their skills and improve their techniques with our Guest Conductor and fourth candidate for GSO Music Director, Bryan Eckenrode.

Mr. Eckenrode led the young musicians through the workshop along with GSO string players/mentors and music educators from our area.  The students practiced two pieces chosen by Mr. Eckenrode for his concert program.   Students will perform side by side with the GSO at our spring concert, American Made, on Sunday, April 17th.

Many workshop participants have not had the opportunity to perform in a larger orchestra setting. Preparing for the concert has been an exciting experience for these young musicians.  A number of this year’s students returned for a second or third year, attesting to the value of this educational outreach program.

GSO thanks The Bank of Castile for sponsoring String Workshop each year.