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A Letter to the Board

Dear Roxie and GSO Board,
It doesn’t seem possible it has been 70 years since we started the orchestra!  I received the GSO pamphlet yesterday and read every word. The season concerts sound wonderful! I do so wish I could be there to hear them. When you are at a rehearsal please say “Hi!” for me to the orchestra, especially members who still remember me.
I remember playing Scheherazade many, many years ago in the 1st violin section, long before taking up the viola. Carl Frank played the solo violin part at the time. It is such a great number and the audience will love it.
I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am with the GSO’s leadership and devotion. After having 48 wonderful years of joy playing in the orchestra, I feel blessed, as there is no other experience like it.                                                                                            Sincerely,
Helen Grapka                                                                                                                 GSO Charter Member

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“Maestro and Mozart”

Members of the Asteria Quartet. From left - Kiram Rajamani, Leah McCarthy, Shade Zajac, and Evie Boughton Photo by Howard Owens

Members of the Asteria Quartet. From left – Kiram Rajamani, Leah McCarthy, Shade Zajac, and Evie Boughton
Photo by Howard Owens

About 20 lucky listeners were treated to string quartet offerings by Mozart, Shostakovich and the GSO’s new conductor with the Asteria Quartet – three of whom are now playing with the GSO!

The Saturday Sept. 10 event was hosted by Richard Mistretta at his Vinyl Record Revival store (220 East Main St., Batavia). Wine tastings were provided by Christine Crocker of YNGoddess, and light snacks by GSO Board members.

Before and between numbers, the appreciative audience got to ask questions about the music, about the quartet, and got an “insiders’ glimpse” of how a string quartet actually works. All four musicians had no trouble enlightening and amusing us, as well as showcasing great talent and some very interesting music! Shade’s composition “Willard” represents a nocturnal visit to an abandoned mental hospital, and sounded like you might imagine! OK, so maybe we’ll have to stage a future performance at Rolling Hills Asylum….

~ Bob Knipe

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From the GSO Historian

It began in 1947. A small group of dedicated individuals had the idea of starting a small community-oriented orchestra. They named it The Batavia Civic Orchestra. It was a success, growing and changing over the years, all the while maintaining its core mission: to bring excellent music and entertainment to the Genesee Region. In 1958, it became the Genesee Symphony Orchestra and as the old saying goes, “the rest is history.”

Now in our 70th season, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra takes another step forward and is proud to welcome to the podium our newest conductor, S. Shade Zajac. The tradition of playing beautiful music with talented musicians and guest artists continues. And who knows, maybe something new thrown in as well to delight and entertain and maybe even educate audiences in the upcoming season.

So come one, come all! It’s a new season and a new era. Let the music begin.

Want to learn more about the Genesee Symphony Orchestra and its history? Visit the memory books in the reference section of the Richmond Memorial Library or the permanent display at the Holland Land Office Museum.

~Joanne Tumminello, GSO Historian

S. Shade Zajac Named New Music Director

S. Shade Zajac named Music Director of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra

S. Shade Zajac Photo by Howard Owens

S. Shade Zajac                Photo by Howard Owens

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce that conductor S. Shade Zajac will become the next Music Director of the GSO, beginning with the 2016-17 season.

As the Genesee Symphony Orchestra’s fourteenth Music Director, Mr. Zajac, currently a freelance conductor, composer and cellist, will succeed Raeffele Ponti, whose tenure began in 1997 and ended with the 2014-15 season.

Find interviews with Mr. Zajac at The Batavian,, and the Daily 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