A young conductor is now at the forefront of the Island Symphony Orchestra, which has been performing across Long Island since the 1970s.
The acclaimed orchestra’s next show happens this Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts under the theme “musical momentum.”
The Island Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor and musical director, 33-year-old Eric R. Stewart, was excited to share his story with GreaterPatchogue.com.
He also dished some details about the upcoming event.
meet the conductor
“I came to New York City about 10 years ago and I was primarily focusing on being a composer, just writing music,” Stewart said.
His studies were in musical composition at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees over the course of four years.
“I was very excited about the opportunity [with Island Symphony Orchestra], because as much as I love choral music it wasn’t my original background,” he said. “My love of classical music started with orchestral music and symphonic music. So it was really thrilling to get an opportunity to be the conductor of a symphonic orchestra.”
At 17 years old, he broke away from the electric guitar and fell in love with classical music – “almost accidentally after purchasing a CD of Mozart’s piano concertos,” he briefly explained.
“From then on, I began studying piano at 17 and 18 years old,” he said.
Island Symphony Orchestra President Lisa Brieff describes Stewart as “energetic and enthusiastic,” bringing with him a new dynamic to the diverse group of about 60 musicians.
“Some of us are retired music teachers, others are professionals in business and healthcare, and others are psychiatrists and, engineers,” Brieff said. “There are age differences, and some people have stopped playing while others haven’t. Even I stopped playing viola for 20 years.”
Stewart says the intergenerational group is an asset that brings with it many benefits.
“We all feed off of each other’s energy, and we use it to get ourselves motivated and inspired,” he said.
On Sunday in Patchogue, audience members can look forward to three main pieces.
The first is the Prelude to Die Meistersinger by Wagner; a shorter piece with sing-able melodies.
The second is the Sinfonia Concertante by Mozart, starring guest soloists Luri Lee on violin and Hez Leung on viola.
“These are world-class musicians who’ve performed as a part of the Rolston String Quartet at Yale University, as well as great concert halls around the world,” he said of the husband-and-wife duo, Luri Lee and Hez Leung.
The third is the Symphony No. 5 (in E minor) by Tchaikovsky; a piece that is “dark and frightening, yet triumphant and heroic” Stewart said.
The theme “musical momentum” comes from the idea that each musical piece propels the orchestra and the audience forward, creating a sense of drama and momentum.
“We’re also hoping that we have a new momentum as an ensemble, and that we’re able to achieve new standards of excellence in our performances,” Stewart said. “We want to collaborate regularly with top notch musicians and offer high level artistry to Patchogue and other communities moving forward.”
Tickets range from $13.50 to $25.00. For tickets call Patchogue Theatre Box Office at 631-207-1313, or visit patchoguetheatre.org. For details on their next performance, visit islandsymphony.org.
photos courtesy of the Island Symphony Orchestra