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Youth orchestra welcomes new director

  • Steven Bathory-Peeler, 51, of Gill, has been hired as the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra's new director. Aug. 12, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Steven Bathory-Peeler (right), Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra's new director, meets orchestra member Leo Franceschi, 13, of South Deerfield, and his mother Lisa Middents, during a meet and greet session at Artspace on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Steven Bathory-Peeler, Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra's new director, meets orchestra member Jessica Jackman, 16, of Greenfield, during a meet and greet session at Artspace on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline



Recorder Staff
Saturday, August 12, 2017

GREENFIELD — Teaching music to children certainly isn’t new to Steven Bathory-Peeler, having been Northfield Mount Hermon School’s director of orchestras for the past 20 years. But he’s about to get a new opportunity.

Bathory-Peeler, 51, of Gill, has been hired as director of the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra, a position he said he’s delighted to take on.

“It’s always encouraging to me to meet kids and families who value music,” Bathory-Peeler explained. “I’m constantly encouraged when I see a young person really focusing and concentrating on music.”

Bathory-Peeler said he was offered the position three weeks ago, replacing Luca Antonucci, who served as director for one year. Christine Johnson, a member of the search committee in charge of finding a youth orchestra director, said Bathory-Peeler’s “local connection was appealing.”

As a way of breaking the ice with his pupils, Bathory-Peeler held two half-hour meet and greet sessions at Artspace on Saturday, immediately before and after youth orchestra auditions from 10 a.m. to noon.

“I could understand a certain trepidation,” Bathory-Peeler said of being the youth orchestra’s third director in three years. “That’s a lot of change.”

Regardless, both students and parents echoed their excitement to work with Bathory-Peeler, with rehearsals starting Sept. 17.

“It’s good for ‘em to have different (directors),” said Fran Jackman, who brought her granddaughter Jessica Jackman, 16, of Greenfield, to meet Bathory-Peeler. “Each one brings something new.”

“I’m excited,” said Jessica Jackman, who plays in the youth orchestra. “He seems like a pretty cool guy. I’m hoping for the best this year … I think he’ll bring a lot of experience too.”

Bathory-Peeler said he started conducting back in 1991 when he formed the Jamaica Plain Chamber Orchestra.

“I sort of took a leap of faith,” he explained. “To stand up in front of a group of people to impose ideas on them, you have to have a certain mindset … I thought I had something to offer.”

Bathory-Peeler said he can play the piano, cello and bagpipes, as well as sing. He served as an assistant conductor for both the Boston Civic Symphony and the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra for adults, earned a doctorate in composition from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in 2008, and participated in a six-week program through the Pierre Monteux School in Maine where conductors prepare four to six scores daily.

“Taking a room that has nothing going on and adding music is just kind of electrifying,” Bathory-Peeler said of his passion for conducting.

As director of the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra, Bathory-Peeler will oversee approximately 40 musicians ages 18 and under. He said he wants to teach his students about being wonderful community members, giving back and sharing their love of music with others.

Bathory-Peeler will also continue in his role as Northfield Mount Hermon School’s director of orchestras, and hopes for “cross-pollination” of students from one group to the next. Regardless, he added he wants to promote connections between the students.

“It’s very easy to get into an orchestra and just know your stand partner,” he said. “The more you get to know people, the more you can make music fun.”

There are still openings for wind and percussion players in the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra. For more information about joining, call 413-772-6811.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257