Music Director & Conductor


S. Shade Zajac is a freelance conductor, composer and cellist. He is the Principal Conductor and Music Director of both the Genesee Symphony Orchestra and the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra. He was appointed to these positions in the Spring of 2016 and 2017, respectively. After appearing as a guest conductor in 2019 and 2020, Mr. Zajac was chosen to be the next Conductor and Music Director for the Orchard Park Symphony Orchestra.

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 has been a guest conductor of her orchestra, the Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic. Mr Zajac was 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 Fourth Symphony.

Mr. Zajac is founder of the Seneca Summer Music Festival and Orchestra, providing events that include chamber music and orchestra performances. Emphasis is placed on raising funds for charities and offering classical music to surrounding communities in upstate New York. In 2018, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra performed a special concert as part of the festival.

As a cellist, Mr. Zajac performs solo and chamber music concerts frequently around the Rochester and Finger Lakes Area. He was the winner of the Nazareth College Concerto/Aria Competition both in 2012 and 2014 under the tutelage of Professor Mimi Hwang performing works by Haydn and Elgar. Shade is also an accomplished drummer, recording and performing in a rock band called “The Third Half”.

A prolific composer, Mr. Zajac has written music for solo cello (commissioned by Pro. Mimi Hwang), a cello sonata, piano concerto, violin concerto, seven string quartets, and pieces for percussion ensemble, chamber groups and orchestra. In April 2016, he completed his first symphony in which he dedicated to his teacher Nancy Strelau, the Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic and the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra. In October 2018, the Genesee Symphony premiered “Electric Dream for Acoustic Orchestra” which he wrote for the Orchestra.